Annual Report 2005-2006
 

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 3 > Output 3.1 > 3.1.2 Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

OUTPUT 3.1: Public information services and public diplomacy

3.1.2 Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

On this page: Overview :: International public diplomacy :: Public affairs material :: Special visits program :: International media visits program :: Cultural awards scheme visitors :: Promotion of Australia through our cultural assets :: Bilateral engagement: creating people-to-people links :: Direct Aid Program :: Asia–Pacific regional television service :: Australian participation in the 2005 World Expo—Aichi, Japan :: Outlook

Overview

Effective public diplomacy is about projecting a positive image of Australia internationally as well as promoting a clearer understanding of Australia's foreign and trade policies and strategies. The department's public diplomacy programs promote an accurate and contemporary view of Australia, managing or rebutting negative or inaccurate perceptions and building goodwill.

Australia had a high-profile year in the international media, with reporting for the most part factual but on occasion requiring concerted effort by our posts overseas to rectify misperceptions or to underscore key messages. The department's public affairs programs contributed to positive commentary on Australia's strong economic and business performance. Significant coverage of Australia's position on the WTO Doha Round throughout the year confirmed Australia's commitment to multinational trade negotiations while the Government's commitment to the Asia–Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate received mixed reactions internationally but served to counter many of the critics of Australia's stance on the Kyoto Protocol. The Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games showcased Australia's sporting credentials and our capacity for world-class international event management.

The Government's introduction of new anti-terrorism legislation generated mixed coverage worldwide. On the whole, however, reporting of Australia's counter-terrorism initiatives and contribution to regional security—including through the commitment of troops to East Timor, for example—were presented in factual and positive terms.

Monitoring of international reporting on Australia, combined with close cooperation with other agencies and posts, enabled the department to respond promptly to some inaccurate reporting on issues such as the Cronulla riots, the Vivian Alvarez Solon deportation case, high-profile consular cases in Bali and Singapore and the introduction of industrial reform legislation. We used targeted public affairs material to counter inaccurate reporting on these and other issues.

Our visits programs—bringing international media representatives, opinion makers and cultural visitors to Australia—generated significant positive international coverage about Australia through influential media outlets and promoted our cultural assets in the global market.

Australia's participation in the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan, successfully showcased Australia as technologically sophisticated and culturally diverse. The award-winning Australian Pavilion, combined with the business and arts events we hosted in Aichi, provided positive spin-offs for our business, tourism and education services.

International public diplomacy

Our posts overseas conducted more than 3002 public diplomacy briefings, events and initiatives designed to promote an accurate and contemporary image of Australia and to support Australia's foreign and trade policy objectives.

Posts' robust and proactive approach to media management had a positive impact on our visibility and image. For example, posts successfully placed a range of articles and ministerial op-ed pieces in influential newspapers around the world including on issues such as our efforts to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, our relations with the EU and environmental initiatives.

Examples of other targeted public advocacy activities managed by posts included:

The department took advantage of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games (M2006) and the preceding Queen's Baton Relay (QBR), which travelled through all Commonwealth member states, to promote Australia and the Games. Our posts made concerted efforts in support of QBR logistics and publicity resulting in high-level support by host governments, attendance by enthusiastic crowds and positive public commentary on Australia and Melbourne. The department worked closely with the M2006 Organising Committee and the Commonwealth Games Australian Government Taskforce to assist dignitaries visiting Australia for the Games. We provided staff to the Australian Government Commonwealth Games Media Centre, which allowed us to minimise the risk of the international media misreporting contentious issues and facilitated prompt distribution of M2006 public affairs material to our posts.

Melbourne 2006—behind the scenes

As one of the most significant sporting events Australia has hosted in recent years, the Commonwealth Games involved the department's Victoria State Office (VSO) in planning activities for well over a year before the Games took place from 15 to 26 March 2006.

In the months leading up to the Games, the VSO set up consultations with relevant agencies and the Melbourne-based consular corps to ensure the smooth handling of visits by foreign dignitaries and to maximise opportunities to strengthen Australia's relationships with its Commonwealth partners.

The large number of VIPs visiting Australia for the event and the rigours of the security environment presented particular challenges. In more than 40 consultations, the VSO covered security, intelligence and VIP and airport facilitation planning. It also developed a detailed guide for the diplomatic and consular corps outlining the facilities available and procedures in place to manage high-level international visitors during the course of the Games. The VSO stationed an officer at M2006 headquarters to help coordinate arrivals and managed airport facilitation for 73 of the dignitaries over a three-week period, working closely with partner agencies.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, and Parliamentary Secretaries Mrs Kelly and Ms Gambaro used the Games program to promote Australia's interests to its bilateral partners, hosting foreign ministers and other guests during various sporting events. The VSO provided strong support for these occasions, including substantial on-the-ground assistance for both Australian and visiting Government officials during events.

By holding regional public diplomacy workshops in Shanghai, Hanoi and Brisbane attended by 91 officers from 31 posts, we helped posts integrate their public diplomacy activities more closely with key foreign and trade policy objectives. We used the workshops to update Australian and locally engaged staff responsible for public diplomacy on best practice and to develop regional strategic public diplomacy frameworks. Feedback from participants was uniformly positive. In Australia, we conducted three public advocacy workshops to help officers promote key policy objectives to domestic audiences. The workshops focused on Australia's hosting of APEC 2007, bilateral free trade agreements and advocacy in the Australian states.

Small posts: making big things happen

Projecting a positive image of modern Australia is a key element of the public diplomacy programs of all our posts. But that can be more challenging in smaller posts where human and financial resources are fewer. Innovative approaches are called for to ensure maximum impact from what may be relatively modest input. Our embassy in Copenhagen—which has three Australia-based staff—achieved positive public diplomacy results by focusing sharply on core interests and using its strategic partnerships with local contacts in the tourism, arts and media sectors.

By providing modest support through embassy branding and donating some Australian wine (one of our top exports to Denmark), the embassy secured agreement for Australia to be the featured country at Denmark's Night Film Festival, which was shown in 21 cinemas in five major cities over three weeks. The festival led to the sale of three Australian feature films. The embassy also initiated and managed a partnership with Tourism Australia and Thai International Airways resulting in a month-long promotion of Australia on Denmark's most popular youth radio station. The promotion highlighted Australia as a tourist destination for young Danes, who can take advantage of the bilateral Working Holiday Maker program during their stays.

The embassy used its links with the senior editors of major local newspapers to facilitate the placement of op-ed pieces communicating the Government's foreign policy initiatives to a wide audience. Articles were published by the Prime Minister on the Proliferation Security Initiative, by Mr Downer on the Asia–Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate and by Environment Minister Ian Campbell in support of Australia's anti-whaling views.

The embassy also worked with Austrade to host several Indigenous art exhibitions promoting greater understanding of cultural and contemporary Indigenous issues and leading to significant sales.

We coordinated a regular inter-departmental committee meeting of public diplomacy teams across government, bringing together key federal agencies to project more effectively an accurate image of Australia internationally and to ensure a consistent whole of government approach to key advocacy issues.

Public affairs material

In addition to using the internet as a core tool to disseminate public affairs material, the department continued to meet a substantial demand for hard copy publications for direct distribution to target audiences overseas. These included:

With other agencies we updated our series of 66 online Australia now fact sheets and expanded the range of topics to help posts respond to media inquiries. New topics included Islam in Australia and the Australian wool industry.

Special visits program

Photo - See caption below for description
Under the department’s Special Visits Program Professor Nasaruddin Umar (second from left), Indonesia’s Secretary- General of the Consultative Council of Nahdlatul Ulama (the country’s largest Muslim organisation), visited Australia for a diverse program of meetings with officials and community leaders. Professor Umar is pictured with students from Malek Fahd School, Chullora, New South Wales.
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The Special Visits Program (SVP) is the department's premier visits program. It is a carefully targeted program that brings to Australia influential or potentially influential people for meetings and engagements with Australian government, business and community interests. On their return home, SVP visitors contribute to a better understanding of Australian society and policy. Through the program we build a network of international contacts relevant to our foreign and trade policy interests. During the year we organised 26 visits, including:

International media visits program

The International Media Visits Program (IMV) helps generate informed international media coverage on Australia, our economic strength and our key foreign and trade policy objectives. The department brings senior international journalists and commentators to Australia as IMV visitors, providing targeted programs according to their interests.

We arranged 13 visits involving 36 media representatives. With strong competition for inclusion in the program, visitors were assessed and selected on the basis of their ability to influence and contribute to improved international understanding of Australia's foreign and trade policy. Visitors appreciated the opportunity to interview ministers, officials and members of the business and academic communities, leading to strong coverage of Australia in influential media outlets.

Highlights included visits by: two groups of trade and economic editors from China with specific interest in the Australia–China FTA process; a media contingent from Iraq for the first time under the IMV program; a senior editor from Papua New Guinea timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of PNG's independence; and four senior defence journalists from Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia to observe the 'Pacific Protector 06' counter-proliferation exercise, which the Department of Defence managed. Subsequent reporting by the defence journalists provided informed coverage of Australia's contribution to regional security.

IMV visits generated significant print and television media reporting on issues directly relevant to our foreign and trade policy priorities. For example, the visit by a group of East Asian media in advance of the first East Asia Summit was a valuable opportunity to promote Australia's interests in regional cooperation, security, trade, counter-terrorism and disaster management. IMV-generated reporting in India in advance of Prime Minister Howard's visit highlighted the expanding trade relationship and growth in education and investment ties. Extensive and positive reporting generated by central European journalists underscored the opportunities for closer cooperation with new EU members on trade issues.

In addition to the formal IMV program, the department's International Media Centre (IMC) in Sydney arranged internships for cadet journalists from Saudi Arabia and the annual John Doherty internship with the ABC for two senior foreign journalists. It facilitated programs for foreign correspondents from the Philippines, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, India and Malta. Favourable feedback on the arrangements and positive media commentary highlighted the value of the IMC in the department's overall advocacy efforts.

The IMC also arranged media briefings by ministers and senior officials to foreign media based in Australia, including the Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA), and organised group visits to Canberra and Adelaide for FCA members. The Canberra program included calls on ministers, a meeting with the Senate Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence Committee, round tables with senior officials and a briefing with Geoscience Australia on the Australian Tsunami Warning System.

Cultural awards scheme visitors

The Cultural Awards Scheme (CAS), the department's longest-running incoming visit program, continued to be a successful and important public diplomacy tool. During 2005–06, the department brought 15 CAS visitors from 13 countries to Australia. Several visits were undertaken in cooperation with key partners including the Australian Film Commission and Biennale of Sydney. The department also provided substantial funding to the Australia Council for the Arts to support the participation of international delegates at the 7th Australian Performing Arts Market held in Adelaide in February–March 2006.

CAS visitors included performing arts directors and presenters, film festival directors, film producers, and art gallery directors/curators. The department organised tailored programs including meetings with leaders in the Australian cultural community, previews of touring productions and participation in Australia's major arts and film festivals. Feedback from CAS participants was highly positive.

CAS visits are long-term investments, creating contacts and a platform from which to develop future collaborative projects and opportunities for the Australian arts industry abroad (see box below). We also achieved more immediate spin-offs from the 2005–06 CAS program. For example, as a result of CAS contacts the Australian film Three Dollars was featured at international film festivals in Hawaii and Dhaka (where Australian actor David Wenham received the 'Best Actor' award). Following their CAS visit to the Australian Performing Arts Market, organisers of the Festival Paris Quartier d'Éte began negotiating with several Australian performing arts companies to feature in their 2007 Festival to which Australia has been invited as a focus country. Organisers of the Bangkok International Jazz Festival are also currently negotiating with two Australian groups to participate in the October 2006 festival.

CAS alumnus takes Indigenous art to Washington DC

One of the most significant exhibitions of Australian Indigenous art to be held in the United States, Dreaming their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women Painters opened at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC on 28 June 2006. Turning this exhibition from an idea to reality was the direct result of a visit to Australia in 2004 by Ms Britta Konau, associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the NMWA. During her visit—made possible by the Cultural Awards Scheme—Ms Konau visited Alice Springs, Indigenous art centres on the Tiwi Islands and Ntaria, as well Australia's major cities.

Ms Konau said: 'The trip posed a great opportunity to see Aboriginal art in person and in very different environments, including museums, galleries, art centres, and private homes. Being exposed to such a number of art works trained my eye better and taught me to pick up on subtle differences in style.'

The exhibition, featuring the work of 33 Indigenous artists from across Australia, was the first ever of its kind in the United States and presented 80 works ranging from intricate bark paintings to intensely colourful canvasses. Following its display at the NMWA, the exhibition is scheduled to be shown at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire from 7 October until 10 December 2006.

Promotion of Australia through our cultural assets

Cultural diplomacy plays a significant role in shaping international perceptions of Australia as a diverse, multicultural and tolerant nation with a long history of peaceful settlement from around the world. Through our cultural programs, we make a sustained effort to present what is special about our Indigenous cultures and also the way Australia's inherited cultures have added to the richness and diversity of Australian life.

Australia International Cultural Council

The department continued to support the Australia International Cultural Council (AICC) as the peak consultative group for the promotion of Australian culture overseas. The AICC has developed a strong record of achievement through major presentations of multi-faceted Australian arts programs internationally. Chaired by Mr Downer, the AICC includes senior figures from the arts community, business and government agencies. It aims to project a positive image of Australia to advance our foreign and trade policy goals and promote exports of Australian cultural products.

AICC priorities for 2005–06 included Undergrowth—Australian Arts UK and AusArts India, both two-year multi-faceted arts programs designed to raise the profile of Australian arts in these key markets, heighten appreciation of Australia's cultural sophistication and diversity and consolidate institution-to-institution links with a view to longer-term cooperation and cultural exchange. Through the AICC, Australia secured 'Guest of Honour' status at the 2006 Kolkata Book Fair in India where, with a series of forums, panels and meet-the-author sessions, we attracted capacity audiences. Australian presentations at five film festivals in India in 2005 also drew capacity crowds. Australia will return to be the focus country at both the International Film Festival of India and the Kolkata International Film Festival in 2006.

Celebrating the 400th anniversary of Dutch exploration of Australia, the AICC funded an exhibition of Indigenous art to tour the Netherlands as one of the series of commemorative events.

Embassy Film Roadshow

The Embassy Film Roadshow again proved a popular and effective public diplomacy tool allowing posts to arrange film events in support of key foreign and trade policy goals. In 2005–06 the roadshow attracted a total audience of about 22 000.

We co-manage the Roadshow—an initiative funded by the AICC since 1999—with the Australian Film Commission (AFC). The AFC maintains two sets of 50 contemporary feature films, a selection of shorts, and one set of ten Spanish subtitled features, which our posts share. With the aim of attracting more Middle Eastern audiences, we developed a set of six Arabic-subtitled films. The Arabic Embassy Roadshow will be available to tour in the second half of 2006.

Since its inception, the Embassy Film Roadshow has facilitated over 100 film festivals in countries all around the world, reaching audiences of over 135 000 people.

Supporting Australian artists overseas

Photo - See caption below for description
Ambassador to France Penny Wensley AO with Indigenous artist Mr John Mawurndjul, one of eight Indigenous artists commissioned to contribute to the new Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. At the museum’s opening in June 2006 French President Chirac described Mr Mawurndjul’s work as ‘one of the masterpieces of the museum.’ Photo: Alastair Miller.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

Through the department's Australian Touring Visual Arts and Fine Music Touring Programs we projected a positive image of contemporary Australian cultural diversity with the presentation of high-quality Australian visual art and music in South and South-East Asia.

Program highlights in 2005–06 included:

The department's Cultural Relations Discretionary Grant Program (CRDG) continued to help high-quality Australian artists and companies take their work overseas. The program projects an image of Australia as creative, diverse and technologically advanced. CRDG events provided posts with public diplomacy platforms to target key government and business decision-makers who can influence Australian interests. They also facilitated direct links between Australia's arts and culture industries and overseas markets to promote Australia's cultural exports.

In 2005–06 the program provided funding for 22 arts projects in China, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malta, the Netherlands, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Indigenous artists and artists of diverse backgrounds were well represented, reinforcing Australia's reputation as a tolerant and multicultural society.

The department's support for an Indigenous music tour to Egypt and Cyprus, a jazz tour to Lebanon, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, a multi-media exhibition in Syria and Lebanon and Australian participation at the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies in Jordan promoted a positive profile for Australia in the Middle East.

We supported the Australian Council for the Arts in establishing a significant commission of Australian Indigenous art at the newly opened Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, as well as a complementary reception and Indigenous art exhibition at the Australian embassy there. These events attracted high-level government and business attendance and generated widespread positive media coverage in France and Australia (see box below). Other CRDG-funded activities enhanced Australia's contribution to events celebrating the 400th anniversary of Australia–Netherlands contact, the 2006 Australia–Japan Year of Exchange and Australia's presence at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta.

Australian Indigenous art prominent at the Musée du Quai Branly

The opening of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris in June 2006 showcased Indigenous Australian art in one of Europe's most fertile cultural landscapes. French President Jacques Chirac personally approached the Government to request the inclusion of Indigenous Australian art in the museum, which commissioned work by eight Indigenous Australian artists. These works have been incorporated into the museum's architecture, translating into more than 2500 square metres of permanent display. The museum's Australian collection houses a further 40 paintings, 230 barks and over 1400 objects. More than five million international visitors per year will see this selection of Indigenous art.

At the museum's opening, attended by Mr Downer for the Government, President Chirac reserved special praise for the Australian collection. In his speech he hailed the work of Indigenous Australian artists as 'truly extraordinary' and singled out Australians for their generous contribution to the Musée du Quai Branly. President Chirac said the vitality of Indigenous cultures was 'reflected in the superb Australian Indigenous ceiling paintings' which 'transport us to the core of Australian aboriginal art.' Later, President Chirac offered Australian Indigenous Art Commission painter John Mawurndjul his special congratulations, adding that Mr Mawurndjul had created 'one of the masterpieces of the museum.'

The Government contributed substantial funding—through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the former Department of Immigration, Multiculturalism and Indigenous Affairs and the Australia Council for the Arts—and in-kind support to help meet President Chirac's request. Staff at the Australian embassy in Paris made a significant commitment of time and expertise to facilitate the inclusion of the Australian Indigenous collection.

To coincide with the opening of the new museum, the embassy hosted an exhibition of Indigenous art works from the collection of the Melbourne-based Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi.

Indigenous Australian culture

Promoting an accurate and positive image of contemporary Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures through touring visual arts exhibitions remained an important program for the department.

While reinforcing messages of tolerance and diversity, posts used the exhibitions as public diplomacy platforms to support broad foreign and trade policy goals. In 2005–06, three exhibitions were displayed in 15 cities across the South Pacific, Europe, central and South America, the Middle East and Asia. The Kickin up Dust exhibition was integrated into Anzac Day commemorative events in Turkey and provided the cultural backdrop for the opening of the new consulate-general office in Istanbul. Seasons of the Kunwinjku launched the AICC-funded AusArts India program and Kiripuranji: Contemporary art from the Tiwi Islands formed part of activities marking the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Mexico. Posts used the touring exhibitions to raise Australia's media profile, build relationships and showcase high-quality Australian art and culture.

Sports diplomacy

The department promoted sports development and participation at all levels in the South Pacific through the highly successful Australia–South Pacific Sports Development Program. Working with the Australian Sports Commission, we approved 20 grants to support programs in Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji and Niue. Projects focused on junior sports development programs, coaching clinics, equipment and infrastructure construction.

Bilateral engagement: creating people-to-people links

The department provided secretariats for and works closely with nine bilateral foundations, councils and institutes to promote people-to-people links and accurate, contemporary images of Australia in support of the Government's foreign and trade policy goals.

Australia–China Council

The Australia–China Council (ACC) funded a range of educational and cultural programs that contributed to expanding people-to-people contacts and to the development of bilateral relations. During the year, the Council provided three scholarship programs for young Australians to study in China and continued its support of Australian Studies in China, including by funding a national conference and 22 research projects. The Council also offered 22 residencies in China, as well as reciprocal visits to Australia for two artists from the Taipei Artist Village.

In addition to its regular programs, the Council provided 30 grants for projects including: training for officials from the Australian Kung Fu Federation in the latest training software; promotion of Australian children's literature in Taiwan; and development of Chinese-language tests for Australian high schools.

Australia–India Council

The Australia–India Council (AIC) continued to initiate and support a range of projects to enhance long-term collaboration with India and help showcase Australia's capabilities. The AIC paid particular attention to the emerging scope for cooperation between Australia and India in the management of major sporting events—with a focus on the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi in 2010, following Melbourne's hosting of the games in 2006. A key outcome was the Australia–India Forum and Workshop on Sports Excellence, Sport Management and Planning for the Games, organised by the AIC, held in New Delhi in November 2005. The event reinforced Australia's credentials as a leading sports administrator, manager and organiser of major sporting events.

Through AIC support, Australian doctors continued to participate in the 'train the trainer' program in India for HIV/AIDS clinical care. Since 2003, in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry, 1200 Indian doctors from 26 cities have been trained to provide clinical care to HIV/AIDS sufferers under the program.

High-profile projects the AIC supported included the Border–Gavaskar scholarship program for young Indian cricketers; visiting Australian Studies fellowships aimed at established Indian academics and postgraduate students from Indian tertiary institutions with a strong interest in Australian studies; participation by Indian artists in the Sydney Biennale; a tour to India by eminent Australian poet Les Murray; and a range of teacher exchanges and artist residencies.

To complement existing cultural activities, the AIC partnered with the Australia International Cultural Council in its activities in India. AusArts: Celebrating Australian Art and Culture showcased the diversity of Australian culture through major events focusing on art, drama, jazz, design, film and literature events across India.

The AIC's activities received wide media coverage, broadening Indian understanding of Australia and recognition of our capabilities.

Australia–Indonesia Institute

During 2005–06 the Australia–Indonesia Institute (AII) continued to fund a diverse range of programs to advance its principal objective of fostering people-to-people contacts. The AII has continued to emphasise programs designed to promote greater understanding in Australia of the moderate nature of Islam in Indonesia and to build greater awareness in Indonesia of Islamic communities and contemporary society in Australia. In its fifth year, the Muslim Exchange Program continued to attract young, emerging and highly professional Muslim leaders from both Indonesia and Australia and was positively viewed in both countries. Visits by Indonesian Muslim leaders to Australia focused on encouraging a greater understanding of government policy in the region. Other interfaith projects helped strengthen the Islamic education sector in Indonesia by providing training and professional development to Indonesian teaching staff in Australia.

The Australia–Indonesia Youth Exchange Program marked its 25th year. The Institute continued to support bilateral arts and cultural exchanges with a variety of groups from both countries helping to spread cross-cultural understanding through diverse performances and workshops. Notable among these was a visit by internationally acclaimed contemporary batik artists and co-founders of Brahma Tirta Sari Yogyakarta, Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam, to work with the Australian Indigenous artists of Ernabella—representing the oldest continuously operating Indigenous art centre in Australia—to design and create batik cloth collaborative pieces for exhibition in Indonesia, Australia, the Netherlands and the United States.

Australia–Japan Foundation

The Australia–Japan Foundation is an Australian Government statutory authority established by the Australia–Japan Foundation Act 1976 to encourage a closer relationship between the peoples of Australia and Japan.

The Foundation supported portfolio objectives by initiating and facilitating interaction between the two countries to expand and promote the relationship. In recognition of the 2006 Year of Exchange, the Foundation, in addition to a range of other activities, launched the Community Exchange Grants to support grass roots bilateral people-to-people and IT-based exchanges in art, sport, welfare and education. The Foundation also provided funding to facilitate the exchange of young people actively involved in debating in Australia and in Japan and assisted Japanese students to improve their debating skills. The Discover Eco Australia educational CD-ROM was launched in Tokyo in December 2005. More than 15 000 copies have been distributed throughout Japan. A nationwide competition encouraging students to use 'Discover Eco Australia' has been held in conjunction with the release.

The Foundation worked with the department to implement the recommendations of the 'Review of the Corporate Governance of Statutory Authorities and Office Holders' (the Uhrig review), which will result in the AJF being re-established as a non-statutory bilateral foundation within the department.

Australia–Korea Foundation

The Australia–Korea Foundation (AKF) helped broaden and deepen relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK) through supporting and/or initiating a wide range of commerce and industry, science and technology, education and arts activities. Together with the Lowy Institute for International Policy and Macquarie Bank, the AKF hosted a conference on 'The Chinese Economy: Impact on Korea and Australia.'

The AKF supported the department's advocacy of a FTA with the ROK, including by partly sponsoring a study on the costs to Korea of delaying an FTA with Australia and the joint meeting of the Australia–Korea and Korea–Australia business councils.

In March, the AKF ran a digital photographic competition on the theme 'Australia through Korean eyes.' The resulting exhibition attracted over 2000 entries and received wide publicity, helping promote Australia in the fiercely competitive Korean tourist market. Together with the National Museum of Australia, the AKF organised a project involving two Australian and two Korean senior high school students investigating the theme 'Peace and the prospects for re-unification of the Korean peninsula.' It demonstrated to the ROK, at the grassroots level, Australia's positive role on North Korean issues.

Council on Australia Latin America Relations

The Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) continued to support Australia's diplomatic and economic objectives in the Latin American region across its four priority areas of business, education, tourism and culture. COALAR worked in partnership with Austrade and the Australia–Latin America Business Council to promote opportunities for Australian businesses in Latin America by providing support for business seminars, the 2005 Australia–Latin America Business Awards and the 2006 Australia Festivals.

COALAR continued to work with key stakeholders with interests in Latin America through its Education and Tourism Action Groups. COALAR funded a visit by Brazilian education officials to Australia, successfully deepening government-to-government links in the education sector, and funded several visits by Latin American journalists to raise Australia's profile in the region. In implementing stage two of its cultural strategy, COALAR funded visits by a number of Latin American film directors to appear at the Sydney and Brisbane International Film Festivals. The Council's Chairman visited the region to talk with senior decision-makers of six Latin American countries on a wide range of issues.

Council for Australian–Arab Relations

The Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR) continued its work to broaden awareness and understanding between Australia and the Arab world, to promote a greater understanding of mutual foreign policy interests, and to encourage activities that lead to mutual economic benefit and promote Australia's image in the Arab world. The membership of the Council underwent changes, with the appointment in May 2006 of a new Chair, Ms Pru Goward, as well as two new members.

CAAR launched the Explore Australia teachers' resource kit for use in schools in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait; supported a visit to Australia by two Saudi Arabian health officials through the Young Professionals Exchange Program; and provided seed funding to assist in the development of Deakin University's Arabic Online Learning program.

Australia–Malaysia Institute

In its first year, the Australia–Malaysia Institute (AMI) developed and implemented activities to advance its objective of strengthening people-to-people and institutional links with Malaysia and to promote a positive image of Australia in Malaysia. The Institute hosted two group media visits from Malaysia, one of which focused on Australia's strength as a source of sophisticated science and technology. Visiting journalists represented major Malaysian English and Malay language newspapers. The AMI also contributed to an Australian media study tour to Malaysia.

The Institute organised successful group visits both ways under its Muslim Exchange Program. The AMI made a long-term commitment to improving mutual understanding by establishing an Australia–Malaysia Fellowships scheme in three categories: Australian Studies, Malaysian Studies and Excellence in Research. The Institute co-sponsored an Australia–Malaysia Forum in June 2006. The keynote speaker at the Forum was Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Syed Hamid Alba. Providing support for Malaysia-related aspects of the 'Crescent Moon Exhibition of Islamic Art and Civilisation of South East Asia' was the highlight of AMI's cultural program. Mr Downer presided over the AMI official launch of the exhibition held at the Australian National Gallery in Canberra.

Australia–Thailand Institute

The Australia–Thailand Institute (ATI) was established on 29 June 2005 to expand institutional, cultural and people-to-people links between Australia and Thailand, focusing particularly on projects in public policy, arts, culture, health and interfaith dialogue. The ATI is also focused on promoting increased knowledge of Australia's educational, scientific and technological capabilities in Thailand.

In its first year, the Institute supported and funded a range of projects including a leadership program in Australia for young Muslims from southern Thailand, organised by the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Islam of the University of Melbourne. The ATI also supported an HIV/AIDS project establishing a partnership between the leading HIV/AIDS community organisations in Thailand and Australia and residencies for two Australian artists in Thailand.

Mr Kavi Chongkittavorn, Assistant Group Editor of the Bangkok-based The Nation Multimedia Group, was the inaugural visitor under ATI's media visits program. The institute also supported the Australian National University's Thailand Update Conference 2005 and the Thai Culture and Food Festival in Melbourne which showcased Thai culture through displays of traditional dance, food stalls and Thai handicrafts and attracted over 36 000 visitors.

Direct Aid Program

In 2005–06, the department disbursed $4 452 432 in Direct Aid Program (DAP) funds, through 50 posts, to projects in over 70 countries. The DAP is a flexible small grants scheme that aims to reduce humanitarian hardship while supporting the Government's international relations and public diplomacy goals. The following examples demonstrate the diversity of projects funded:

Direct Aid Program provides grassroots assistance in Dili, East Timor

The Direct Aid Program (DAP) plays an important public diplomacy role in East Timor. Through the program we promote positive messages about Australia, in particular to the remote districts where many of the most influential members of society have family or political support bases and where access to television, national radio and newspapers is limited.

In 2005–06, the Australian embassy spent $80 694 DAP funds on small, grassroots projects focusing on basic needs such as sanitation, health, education, water and agriculture. Most projects were located in isolated rural areas which, in a country still suffering high levels of poverty, face the highest levels of disadvantage due to lack of access to the goods and services available in larger centres such as Dili and Baucau.

Following the unrest of May 2005, many of these projects directly helped the tens of thousands of internally displaced people in Dili and the districts. The embassy concentrated particularly on projects helping children, a large and vulnerable sector of society. For example, we funded the creation of a human rights education curriculum for disadvantaged children, which is now being used to help children living in camps for internally displaced people. The program promotes health and hygiene, human rights, peaceful and creative conflict resolution, and non-violence. It also helps the children to move beyond the trauma and grief associated with the crisis.

Asia–Pacific regional television service

The department continued to manage the Government's contract with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to provide the Asia–Pacific television service (ABCAP). The service achieved impressive audience growth in the region. ABCAP was rebroadcast in 41 countries by 158 pay television operators, available in over 10 million homes and watched by 938 400 viewers every month. The introduction of separate signals for India and the South Pacific ensured the delivery of programming at times appropriate to local audiences across three major time zones. The service achieved strong audience growth in Seoul, Hong Kong, Bangkok and the Indian market.

The companion website abcasiapacific.com achieved strong growth also. Online accesses more than doubled to reach 250 000 per week, with education content attracting half the website traffic.

With the Government's five-year contract with the ABC expiring in August 2006, the department conducted an open tender for a further five-year period (2006–2011). The ABC was selected to continue providing the service, now known as the Australia Network.

Australian participation in the 2005 World Expo—Aichi, Japan

Australia's participation at the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Japan achieved important outcomes to advance our international image. The department managed Australia's involvement in the six month Expo, which concluded on 25 September 2005. One hundred and twenty one countries and four international organisations participated and over 22 million people visited the Expo site.

Prime Minister Howard committed Australia to participate in recognition of the importance of the Australia–Japan relationship and the Government provided a budget of $35 million over three financial years. A significant number of corporate and state government partners contributed approximately $4.5 million in sponsorship for the multi award-winning Australian Pavilion.

The department's objectives were to:

These objectives were met through comprehensive business, arts and public affairs programs. Our Expo business program, developed in consultation with Austrade, federal and state government agencies and private sponsors, achieved strong promotional and commercial outcomes through 84 separate business events in 15 priority sectors. Business missions in automotives, agribusiness, information and communications technology, environmental technology and services and biotechnology used the Expo to promote Australian expertise, products and services to a global market.

We managed a comprehensive Australian Arts and Entertainment Program that showcased Australia's creative diversity with 750 live performances, involving a permanent troupe and over 200 visiting artists.

A sustained and targeted public affairs and communications strategy, using website, print and electronic media, delivered positive media coverage about Australia in Japan, with a total of 1362 media reports. Almost 25 per cent of the 3.5 million visitors to the Australian pavilion attributed media reports as the reason for their visit.

Outlook

The department will continue to implement proactive public diplomacy strategies with our posts in support of the Government's foreign and trade policy goals.

As host country for the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 2007, the department will promote and inform Australians and the international community about the benefits of APEC and its contribution to economic growth and broader cooperation in our region.

We will work closely with the ABC to promote the newly branded Australia Network regional television service. With three separate signals to India, Asia and the South Pacific, Australia Network will offer more targeted programming and is expected to attract a growing audience.

With the Government's decision that Australia will participate at the 2010 International Exposition in Shanghai, we will begin consultations with other agencies, state governments and the private sector about the nature of our involvement. A major planning exercise will canvass the theme, scope, size and detailed resource implications for an Australian pavilion at the Expo.

The department will continue to cooperate with key partners such as the Australia Council and the Australian Film Commission to plan and implement relevant programs in India, France and Malaysia.

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