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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade :: 2001-2002 Annual Report
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Output 3.1:

Public information services and public diplomacy

3.1.2 Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

Page Contents

Overview

The department coordinates a wide-ranging public diplomacy program to project internationally a positive and contemporary image of Australia. Key elements include:

  • conducting international media and other visitor programs to generate informed and accurate coverage of Australia
  • monitoring international media coverage of Australia and providing targeted material to respond to emerging issues
  • strategically linking cultural and other events at posts with key messages about Australia
  • developing an effective cultural diplomacy agenda through a range of projects, including under the auspices of the Australia International Cultural Council
  • managing the Government's contract with ABC Asia Pacific, a satellite television service targeted at the Asia-Pacific region, to ensure that it provides an accurate view of Australia and gives Australia an enhanced profile in the region.

The international and regional media reported extensively on a broad range of issues about Australia and Australian foreign and trade policy (see sub-output 3.1.1 at page 155 for further detail on the main subjects of media interest). The development and distribution of targeted public affairs material enabled our posts to respond quickly and effectively to media inquiries, either directly or through departmental websites, and to counter misconceptions. The result was better informed reporting.

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Public affairs material

In addition to using the Internet as a major distribution platform for international public affairs material, we produce a limited number of hard-copy publications for direct distribution to target audiences overseas. This dual approach is cost-effective-we produce print copies when we can reasonably expect a longer 'shelf-life' and online versions in cases where material needs to be updated frequently or produced quickly.

This material, which includes fact sheets (www.dfat.gov.au/geo/australia/index.html) and the department's reference booklet Australia in Brief together with talking points and background material on specific issues, is made available to international media representatives and other target groups to increase knowledge about Australia and contribute to accurate and positive international coverage.

The department produced a new version of Australia in Brief Click to view related information - opens in new window, which included an extended section on Australia's new economy credentials and other innovative achievements. We sent 90 000 copies of the publication to our overseas posts for distribution to media, academics, government representatives and other target groups. We also provided 3300 copies to the Government's CHOGM Task Force for distribution to accredited journalists and visiting dignitaries attending CHOGM in March 2002. We produced versions of the booklet in Arabic, Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, Indonesian, Japanese, Spanish and Vietnamese and, in electronic form only, Italian.

A new initiative was the production of a fold-out publication, Australia Fast Facts, for use by our overseas posts as a ready reference resource. The publication contains key facts on Australia on a range of subjects including economy and business, e-commerce, trade and tourism and multiculturalism.

In consultation with other relevant government agencies, we wrote the text for a public affairs information kit, Australia-Trading with the World. The kit contains a series of fact sheets highlighting Australia's international competitiveness as a world trader and our commitment to more open world markets.

See sub-output 3.1.1 for further detail on the department's public information materials and services on Australia's foreign and trade policy and related issues.

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International media

The department's International Media Visits program generated accurate and positive media coverage in support of Australian foreign and trade policy objectives through targeted working visits by international media representatives. The program is an effective way of shaping key media coverage of Australia.

A total of 68 foreign media representatives, half of whom we fully funded, visited Australia under this program in 2001-02. About half the media representatives came in six separate groups, with each group focusing on specific issues such as Australia's trade performance and policies, regional and bilateral relations, Australia's cultural diversity, contemporary Australian society and Australia's record as an exporter.

The journalists came from Brunei, China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, the Netherlands and the United States. Visits under the program included one by a group of four senior US trade commodity writers who reported extensively and accurately on Australian views on the US Farm Bill, the proposal for a bilateral free trade agreement, trade liberalisation, Australia's agricultural sector and the strong performance of the Australian economy.

The department's International Media Centre in Sydney continued to provide resident and foreign media with background information, briefings, advice and logistics support.

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Cultural visitors

During 2001-02, 15 visitors from 11 countries visited Australia under the department's Cultural Awards Scheme. Participants included arts media representatives, festival organisers, gallery and museum directors, chief curators, opinion makers and an arts documentary film-maker. Participants were generally highly impressed with their experiences of contemporary Australia. As a direct result, a number of Australian contemporary dance companies and art exhibitions have been booked for overseas tours in the next few years. The department also provided funding support for the Australian Performing Arts Market in February 2002, as a contribution to the well-attended international visits program at the Adelaide Festival.

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Special Visits Program

The Special Visits Program (SVP) played an important role in supporting the department's core function of advocating Australia's interests overseas through establishing valuable long-term networks and personal contacts. The SVP is aimed at influential or potentially influential individuals who can contribute to a greater understanding overseas of Australia's policies and institutions, and who are likely to be in positions which deal with issues of direct relevance to Australia's foreign and trade policy interests. The department organised 37 special visits during the year, including:

  • two visits from Japan on economic reform and on security issues; three visitors from ROK on Australia's LNG capabilities and political system; a visit from Hong Kong which triggered resumption of air services talks; and a visit from China on Australia's resources exports including LNG
  • two visits from Indonesia, two from Malaysia, two from Thailand, and one each from Singapore, Philippines and East Timor aimed at furthering bilateral relations across a range of priority sectors for Australia, including trade and economics, foreign policy, public policy and legal cooperation
  • four visits from the United States covering international and regional security, multilateral trade, and economic and social policy
  • visits from Denmark, Germany, Poland and Portugal covering multilateral trade, agriculture, economics, employment, education and global security
  • a visit of a European Parliament member for exchanges on biotechnology, climate change and sustainable energy; and a visit of the Secretary-General of OPEC for discussions on oil and petroleum issues
  • visits from each of Nauru, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, involving influential political leaders, a senior bureaucrat and a senior banker, to strengthen links across a range of bilateral interests.

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Promotion of Australian culture

The department conducted an energetic program to promote a deeper and wider appreciation internationally of Australia's cultural and artistic richness and diversity.

Australia International Cultural Council Click to view related information - opens in new window
The Australia International Cultural Council (AICC)-a consultative group for which the department provides a secretariat-brings together leaders from government, the arts and business with a common interest in projecting Australian culture abroad.

The department, through the AICC, joined the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australian Film Commission in supporting Australian artists and companies to present Next Wave Down Under at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from 2 to 30 October 2001. Over 130 Australian artists participated in Next Wave Down Under. This was first time in its history that the Academy festival had concentrated on the arts of a single country. The multi-faceted program included theatre, literature, dance, new media, music and film.

The Australian opening of the festival-the first performing arts production in New York after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks-demonstrated to New Yorkers Australia's sympathy and support. Audience numbers exceeded expectations. Twelve thousand people attended the four main stage productions, 1909 the cinema program and 1281 the Word Down Under and Over Down Under.

The AICC also presented a successful Australian cultural program at a dinner hosted by Mr Downer at CHOGM in March 2002.

The department undertook a joint AICC project with the Australian Film Commission to present a package of contemporary film by indigenous film-makers as Australia's gift to France in commemoration of the bicentenary of Frenchman Nicolas Baudin's exploration of Australia. The gift will be housed in Paris and be available to institutions for cultural and educational purposes, further promoting the quality and creativity of Australian art and cultural products.

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The Embassy Roadshow

The department continued to support The Embassy Roadshow, a popular initiative funded by the Australia International Cultural Council and co-managed with the Australian Film Commission to promote Australian feature films and a contemporary image of Australia.

Successful Australian film events held at 23 posts were attended by more than 28 000 people. Following heavy demand, we added nine new feature films, two documentaries and 14 shorts to the initial selection of 19 contemporary Australian films. We also added a duplicate set of each film to meet the demand from overseas missions.

Looking for Alibrandi, the most popular film, was screened at 22 out of the 23 festivals. The other most requested features were The Sum of Us, Two Hands, Amy, The Dish, Chopper, Floating Life, Kiss or Kill, Radiance, and Yolngu Boy.

These mini film festivals created the opportunity to showcase-to audiences that might otherwise not see them-samples of Australia's vibrant film industry. They also provided glimpses of contemporary Australian life.

Indigenous Australian culture
The department continued an active program of demonstrating to international audiences the important contribution of Australia's Indigenous peoples through their involvement in the arts, business, industry and professions.

We promoted Australia's indigenous arts and cultures through the continuing tour of our two travelling exhibitions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art-Seasons of the Kunwinjku and Prints by Seven Aboriginal Australian Artists. In conjunction with Artbank (the Commonwealth art rental program) we developed an innovative exhibition Kiripuranji: Contemporary Art from the Tiwi Islands for international touring. In association with an independent record company, Skinnyfish Music, we produced a compilation CD of indigenous music for use by Australia's diplomatic missions.

The department assisted in the tour of The Native Born exhibition, a significant collection of objects and representations from Ramingining in Arnhem Land. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney organised the exhibition, which was displayed in Madrid, Hanover and São Paolo.

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Australia and Asia: people-to-people links

Australia-China Council Click to view related information - opens in new window
The Australia-China Council (ACC) funded a range of long-term education, culture and business programs. It also funded activities to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. As part of this celebration, the ACC co-funded with the department in Beijing in May 2002 a collaborative China-Australia photographic exhibition from the Powerhouse Museum, Old Peking: Photographs by Hedda Morrison 1933-46.

The ACC introduced two innovative programs during the year. Seven young Australians took advantage of the ACC Young Business Scholars Program to pursue university studies in Beijing and undertake internships with companies in China. The ACC also implemented the inaugural Beijing Residence Awards, which provide four to six weeks use of accommodation in central Beijing to facilitate pursuit of agreed projects. Ten residence awards were granted in 2001-02, to undertake projects that included a range of artistic, literary and film activities; ecotourism; e-business; and legal aid policy.

The ACC explored ways to expand its activities in Taiwan. The Council promoted the launch in June 2002 of a formal Taiwan Australia Alumni Association. It also undertook a comprehensive review of Australian Studies activities in Taiwan, and will extend to Taiwan the full range of its Australian Studies programs.

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Australia-India Council Click to view related information - opens in new window
The Australia-India Council (AIC) continued to promote mutual understanding through bilateral contacts and exchanges in commerce, health, social issues, environment, education, the arts, law and governance, sport, news media and film. High-profile AIC projects in disaster management, cultural heritage conservation, HIV/AIDS and volunteerism demonstrated Australia's expertise in these areas. Cricket ties continued to flourish, with the AIC funding a third year of the Border-Gavaskar scholarship program for young Indian cricketers.

The AIC-sponsored Australia-India Security Roundtable held in Sydney in May 2002 built on the success of last year's inaugural encounter in complementing the official dialogue between Australia and India on strategic and defence issues. The AIC's activities received wide media coverage, broadening Indian understanding of Australia and recognition of our capabilities.

Australia-Indonesia Institute Click to view related information - opens in new window
The Australia-Indonesia Institute (AII) supported a range of projects designed to build upon broad-based community links with Indonesia. The AII expanded its interest in promoting mutual religious understanding, initiating a series of exchanges of Muslim leaders to inform perceptions of Islam in Australia and Indonesia. It also initiated a Young Leaders Dialogue to promote people-to-people dialogue and understanding between younger generations of leaders in politics, business, academia and the media. The successful annual youth exchange and teacher exchange programs were again supported as vehicles to expand contact between young Australians and Indonesians and to improve knowledge about each other's culture and society.

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Australia-Korea Foundation Click to view related information - opens in new window
The Australia-Korea Foundation (AKF) staged a major tenth anniversary celebration in Seoul in April 2002. This covered a wide range of cultural, educational, scientific and artistic activities. The celebration was well attended, provided valuable networking opportunities, and received significant media coverage. The AKF updated the English-language content of its multi-media Investigating Australia study kit for schools. The kit has been distributed to 3000 secondary schools, and elements of it incorporated into the official Korean school curriculum. The English-language version of the kit was launched as part of the AKF's tenth anniversary celebrations. Production of a Korean-language version of this resource is now underway.

The AKF continued to support LOTE (Languages Other Than English) awards for Korean-language students and teachers in Australia, including visits to Korea. To promote literary exchanges, the AKF supported attendance by leading Korean novelist Yi Mun-yol at the Sydney Writers' Festival. The AKF also continued to promote media links between the two countries.

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Australia-Japan Foundation Click to view related information - opens in new window
The Australia-Japan Foundation (AJF) is a statutory body and FMA agency, and is therefore required to submit its own annual report to Parliament. The AJF's annual report contains a detailed account of its activities over the year.

Regional television service

Following the Government's decision to fund the ABC to establish an international television service, ABC Asia Pacific (ABCAP) commenced broadcasting to audiences throughout the Asia-Pacific region on 31 December 2001. This provided another important platform for projecting accurate images and perceptions of Australia.

The department managed the contractual arrangements between the Government and the ABC. The five-year contract sets out the Government's objectives for the ABCAP service to provide a credible, reliable and independent voice in the region. The contract upholds the editorial independence of ABCAP in accordance with the ABC Act 1983 and the ABC's editorial policies. Our posts in the region provided support for ABCAP's entry into the market.

ABCAP's 24-hour a day program schedule-targeted specifically at regional audiences-consists of news, current affairs, lifestyle shows, documentary programs, education and sport with an Australian focus. The department is continuing to work with the ABC to assess feedback, and to enable appropriate development of the ABCAP service.

An estimated six million households in the region are capable of receiving ABCAP's programs by satellite. To extend audience reach, re-broadcasting arrangements with free-to-air, cable and satellite broadcasters have been negotiated in several countries. ABCAP is continuing negotiations to gain access to other television markets, assisted by our network of posts.

More information on ABCAP's programs and schedule is available at www.abcasiapacific.com.au.

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