Skip to content
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



1.1.13 Public information services and public diplomacy

Overview

The department worked to ensure our public diplomacy efforts were well-targeted, undertaking outreach to diverse audiences to promote positive international perceptions of Australia.

We continued to assist the media to provide informed and balanced coverage of Australia’s foreign, trade and international security policies, responses and achievements.

We liaised extensively, internally and with stakeholders, within and outside government, to further public diplomacy objectives and opportunities. Posts’ public diplomacy resources were allocated and assessed on the basis of foreign and trade policy objectives.

Demand for our online information, including media releases and travel advice, remained high. We also continued to experience significant demand for our trade advocacy materials, including specialist trade-related publications and statistics.

The department took a broad-based approach to handling requests for information, providing information outside the formal processes of the FOI Act where appropriate, including by offering media briefings. We focused on continuously improving our FOI processes and supporting decision-makers to ensure quality decision-making. We continued to support archival research under the Archives Act 1983 and are revising our procedures to implement significant reforms to the FOI and Archives Acts under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Amendment (Reform) Act 2010.

Our historical research and publications program published two narrative and biographical histories, covering key periods in the history of Australia’s foreign and trade policy.

We commenced the rollout of a new Electronic Document and Records Management System across the department, continuing our strategic approach to the improvement of the department’s recordkeeping systems and practices and marking a formal shift to a predominantly electronic filing system.

Media services

The department’s work attracted significant public and media attention. We responded to 8745 inquiries from domestic and foreign media outlets, of which over 30 per cent were handled out-of-hours.

There was significant interest in consular cases, including high profile consular cases and tragedies in China, the Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Israel, Papua New Guinea and Yemen. We provided 63 background briefings and interviews on issues ranging from developments in Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East, to nuclear disarmament and free trade agreements.

We provided strategic media advice and support to ministers, including in connection with the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Singapore, the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, the Anzac commemorations at Gallipoli and the Asia Pacific community Conference in Sydney.

We monitored domestic and international media, as well as key foreign policy blogs, to ensure portfolio ministers, parliamentary secretaries and the senior executive were fully informed about media interest in, and reporting on, key and emerging portfolio issues. This also enabled us to correct inaccurate media coverage of portfolio issues.

Over the year, we issued 402 press releases and public statements for portfolio ministers, parliamentary secretaries and the department itself. We also issued 50 notes to the media to provide advance notice of overseas events and media opportunities and distributed 392 transcripts of interviews and speeches for ministers.

For new graduate trainees, consular officers and selected officers going on overseas postings, we provided in-house training on dealing successfully with the media on portfolio issues.

Website services and public affairs material

The DFAT website recorded high usage, confirming its importance in our overall public advocacy strategy. Average weekly access to the website increased to around 980 703 page-views per week (compared with 755 000 in 2008–09). The smartraveller website recorded an average of 526 981 page-views per week compared with 512 000 in 2008–09. Our redesign of ministerial and corporate websites enhanced their appearance and made them easier to use. As part of our efforts to review web-based services, we began developing an enhanced website content management system.

To make the website more engaging and dynamic, we outsourced production of a number of short videos based on our flagship publication Australia in brief, covering issues such as Innovative Australia, Trading with the World and A Diverse People. These will be launched in 2010–11. We utilised social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter to support our work, including a test exercise for consular purposes in Pretoria during the 2010 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. We also established a bilingual website for the Year of Australian Culture in China (Imagine Australia, see: https://imagineaustralia.net/en/).

We commissioned a review of our public diplomacy materials with a view to establishing a consolidated online resource for our overseas posts.

We continued to strive for full compliance with current guidelines aimed at ensuring websites are accessible to people with a disability, as required by the Australian Government Information Management Office.

Advocating the benefits of trade

The department made a substantive effort to inform the community of Australia’s trading achievements and of the importance of trade for creating jobs and prosperity for all Australians. We produced a number of publications, including Trade at a Glance and Trade Matters, and produced trade advocacy materials for media releases, speeches and publications on our website, many of which achieved wider circulation through the media. Trade at a Glance was distributed to every high school in Australia. Our trade statistical publications continued to provide a valuable source of information on Australia’s trade performance and were widely quoted in the media. These publications enhanced public understanding of the important contribution of trade to the economy. One such article analysed Australia’s trade performance over the past 20 years, showing the growing importance of trade with Asia, while another analysed the benefits of our increased exports of coal and iron ore. Both were widely reported by the media.

Our eight regular statistical publications were available free of charge on our website, with some 860 000 downloads recorded in 2009–10. The department’s statistical consultancy service responded promptly to some 5000 individual enquiries, often providing tailored statistical material and analysis to business and other stakeholders. We received positive feedback on this from exporters and other clients.

Treaties

The Australian Treaties Database is an online public resource maintained by the department for researching treaties to which Australia is a signatory, or where Australia has taken other treaty action. It can be accessed at www.info.dfat.gov.au/treaties. The Australian Treaties Library also makes available the texts of all treaties Australia has signed, and also of those that have entered into force for Australia.

International public diplomacy

Photo - See caption below for description
Beijing’s artistic, cultural and diplomatic community gathering at the National Art Museum of China as Australian Governor-General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, launches the “Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts” exhibition in June 2010. The Exhibition formed part of Imagine Australia: The Year of Australian Culture in China.
Photo: Courtesy of Olli Geibel/Australian Embassy Beijing

Rebuilding Australia’s image in India following attacks on Indian students in Australia was our single greatest public diplomacy challenge for the year. We led an Interdepartmental Committee (IDC) to coordinate a whole of government public diplomacy strategy for India, aimed at countering misleading media reporting and refocusing attention on the broader bilateral relationship. IDC participants included government agencies, education providers, the media, state governments and officials from the high commission in New Delhi. The IDC developed activities designed to present Australia as a modern, dynamic, innovative and multicultural nation, including programming on Australia Network; support for the A R Rahman concert in Sydney; and visits by Indian journalists to Australia through our International Media Visits (IMV) program.

Through our network of overseas posts, we supported Football Federation Australia (FFA)’s bid for the 2022 World Cup (following FFA’s decision to withdraw the bid for 2018). We also assisted, through our posts, with advocacy of Australia’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project.

We worked to ensure staff were equipped to conduct effective public diplomacy activities, through public diplomacy training courses.

Using the results of independent international brand surveys and those commissioned by overseas posts and Australian government agencies as a baseline, we employed various mechanisms to assess the effectiveness of our international public diplomacy programs, to ensure they were aligned with current policy priorities, appropriately funded and well coordinated across target countries.

Activities and events overseas

Our overseas posts conducted a wide range of innovative and effective public diplomacy activities and events to promote a contemporary and positive image of Australia and to support broader foreign and trade policies objectives. For example:

  • New Delhi implemented a comprehensive media and public diplomacy strategy to address the fallout from the attacks on Indian students in Australia, involving interviews, press conferences and media engagement; regular media visits to Australia; and a wide range of cultural activities focused on multicultural diversity in Australia.
  • Through carefully targeted public diplomacy activities, Apia highlighted the assistance which Australia provided to Samoa in response to the 2009 tsunami.
  • Dhaka organised a visit to Bangladesh by Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner to highlight Australia–Bangladesh development cooperation.
  • London supported a range of high-profile events to celebrate the centenary year of Australian diplomatic representation in the United Kingdom, including a centenary exhibition for the general public and a book launch at Australia House.
  • Phnom Penh promoted Australian expertise in heritage management and educational services through the Greater Angkor Project 10th anniversary.
  • Pretoria supported Australia’s engagement with Africa through a program of cultural visits and events. This included the South Africa tour of a major Australian theatre production, The Football Diaries, during the FIFA World Cup.

Special Visits Program

Our Special Visits Program brings emerging leaders and opinion-shapers to Australia for meetings in their areas of interest with government, business and community figures. It gives participants an understanding of Australia’s culture and policy environment and has increased our network of international foreign and trade contacts. The 48 visits to Australia we organised in 2009–10 included:

  • a delegation of European Parliament members, to demonstrate Australia’s enduring interest in further reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy
  • Mayor of China’s Foshan Municipality, Dr Chen Yunxian, to demonstrate Australian capabilities in the financial and clean energy sectors
  • Member of Japan’s Lower House of Parliament, Mr Keiru Kitagami, to promote the case for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement
  • Indian Congress Party National Spokesperson, Mr Manish Tewari MP, to discuss Indian student safety in Australia and to strengthen dialogue on strategic and defence issues
  • Indian Parliamentarian, Mr Manicka Tagore MP, to discuss closer education, trade, investment and sporting linkages with Australia
  • India’s youngest Parliamentarian, Mr Muhammed Hamdullah Sayeed MP, to discuss maritime security and border protection, as well as cooperation on ecotourism and sustainable development
  • African Union Commission Deputy Chair, Mr Erastus Mwencha, to discuss peace and security issues
  • Panamanian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Meliton Arrocha, to strengthen bilateral relations in light of our increased engagement with Latin America
  • Executive Director of the Advisory Centre on WTO Law (ACWL), Mr Frieder Roessler, to raise awareness of ACWL’s services, including in Pacific countries
  • Governor of the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands, Mr Denton Rarawa, to facilitate dialogue with Australian policy makers on economic and financial management reform
  • Permanent Secretary of Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, Haji Madhi Rahman, to discuss interfaith dialogue and Islam in Australia
  • Chief of Cabinet to the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mr Hesham Youssef to strengthen Australia’s engagement with the Arab League and its member states.

International media visits

Our International Media Visits (IMV) program helps generate informed international media coverage on Australia. We invite senior international journalists to Australia as IMV participants, providing them with targeted programs. We also arrange programs for Australia-based foreign journalists and their international media organisations.

Under the 2009–10 IMV program, we arranged 16 fully-funded visits and supported four partially-funded visits involving 77 media representatives from 26 countries. Visits included a program for Mexico, Argentina and Peru focused on Australia’s enhanced relationship with Latin America; a program for Indonesia on the observance of Islam in Australia; and a program for Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand on regional interfaith dialogue.

The IMV program for India supported our broader country strategy through five programs on bilateral relations, multicultural Australia, science and technology, culture, the 2010 Commonwealth Games and resources and energy.

We provided two internships with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu through the Douglas Gabb Australia Pacific Journalist Internship. An Indonesian journalist and an Australian journalist participated in the annual Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award. The IMV program also arranged an internship with Australia Network through the John Doherty Asia Pacific Journalism Internship for an Indian journalist.

International cultural visits

The International Cultural Visits (ICV) program provides an opportunity for cultural leaders to visit Australia and increase their knowledge of the diversity of Australian culture, with a view to exporting Australian arts. The ICV has underpinned many collaborative international relationships, including the partnership between the National Museum of Australia and the National Art Museum of China for the presentation of Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts in Beijing.

The ICV program supported eight visits to Australia by significant cultural figures, including Mr Ismail Mahomed, Director of the National Arts Festival (South Africa), who presented Sydney-based company Urban Theatre Project’s play The Football Diaries at the 2010 festival as a result of his visit. Another visitor, Ms Prathibha Prahlad, Executive Director of the Delhi International Arts Festival, will present Australian arts projects at the next festival.

Cultural diplomacy

We pursued an active cultural diplomacy program designed to shape international views of Australia. Its pitch and direction were guided by the foreign and trade priorities of the Government.

Australia International Cultural Council

The Australia International Cultural Council (AICC) met in February 2010 to consider its forward program of cultural diplomacy programs in China in 2010–11, Korea in 2011 and India in 2012.

From September to December 2009 the AICC presented its first major cultural initiative in Washington DC, Australia Presents, which included the Indigenous art exhibition Culture Warriors, Sydney Theatre Company’s season of A Streetcar Named Desire and performances by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and The Wiggles. Australia Presents provided an effective platform for high-level engagement with the Obama Administration during its first year. It also helped create new relationships and enhance established ones with Congress, leaders in the media, business and cultural sectors.

The AICC’s most significant cultural presentation in China, Imagine Australia—the Year of Australian Culture in China—was launched in Beijing in June. Launch events included the major exhibition Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts at the National Art Museum of China and a gala concert at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, featuring some of Australia’s leading performers. Imagine Australia will continue through to June 2011, celebrating people-to-people connections in an effort to deepen understanding of Australia in China.

Australia International Cultural Council grants program

The AICC grants program supported 17 cultural projects in 2009 10, including projects in Latin America, the Asia-Pacific, India, Canada and the United Kingdom and 11 projects in China to support Imagine Australia. The grants program’s focus is on specific cultural relations objectives that contribute to advancing Australia’s foreign and trade policy priorities and enhancing understanding of Australia overseas. One highlight was the performances by Indigenous music ensemble The Black Arm Band as part of the Aboriginal Pavilion for the 2010 Winter Olympics Cultural Program in Vancouver, Canada—delivering positive social messages from contemporary Australia to the international community.

Working with Australians overseas to promote Australia’s interests

We continued to support the work of Advance Global Australian Professionals (Advance) to engage with the network of Australians and alumni of Australian universities overseas, with a particular focus on the Asian region. We worked closely with Advance on their Emerging Leaders Summit in New Delhi, in May 2010, to support the development of stronger relationships between India and Australia.

Presenting Australian visual arts and music overseas

The department continued to support the presentation of Australian visual arts and fine music in Asia under the Australian Visual Arts Touring Program and Australian Fine Music Touring Program.

Musica Viva Australia coordinated the touring of five music groups to countries in Asia including Laos, Singapore, the Philippines, Nepal, India and Brunei. A particularly successful tour included performances and workshops by Indigenous musician, composer and vocalist William Barton, who performed his didgeridoo to audiences in Vientiane, many of whom had never previously experienced Australian Indigenous culture.

Indigenous Australian culture

Through our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program we worked to increase awareness of contemporary Indigenous Australia. Our touring Indigenous visual arts exhibition, Balgo: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills, visited eight cities in the Pacific, South-East Asia and North Asia, receiving strong media and public interest. In June 2010 Balgo featured at the launch of the Year of Australian Culture in China: Imagine Australia.

The program also supported the international release of Indigenous film Bran Nue Dae with screenings in London, Rome and New York, where it was shown before the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples. We also celebrated Reconciliation Week (27 May–3 June) with a seminar series Indigenous Australia—Closing the Gap, exploring developments in the reconciliation movement since the National Apology in 2008 and the importance of repatriating Indigenous remains.

We supported events celebrating NAIDOC Week, both in Australia and overseas.

Australian Sports Outreach Program

We supported the Australian Sports Outreach Program (ASOP), jointly managed with the Australian Sports Commission. In 2009–10, the program focused on community development projects to improve health outcomes, social inclusion and promote active lifestyles through sport.

Fostering people-to-people links

The International Relations Grant Program (IRGP) is the largest grants program the department administers. Nine foundations, councils and institutes (FCIs) manage the majority of the grant programs funded under the IRGP. We provide secretariats for, and work closely with, the FCIs to promote people-to-people links and positive images of Australia in support of the Government’s foreign and trade policy goals.

Council for Australian–Arab Relations

The Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR) continued to promote mutual understanding and people-to-people links between Australia and the countries of the Arab region. Following the appointment of four new external members (and one new ex officio member) in December 2009, CAAR approved 14 applications for grants to support activities in the areas of health, education, the arts, business promotion, agriculture, scientific research, media visits and cultural exchange. It also continued to support the development of a multimedia teachers’ resource kit about the Arab world for use in Australian secondary schools as its major non-grant activity in 2009–10.

Australia–China Council

The Australia–China Council (ACC) aims to foster institutional and people-to-people links between Australia and China. The 2008–11 Strategic Plan priority areas are education and science, economics and trade, and society and culture.

The Australian Studies in China program, the ACC’s flagship, continued to encourage greater understanding of Australian culture and society in China through support for a network of Australian Studies Centres located within Chinese universities. Of a further 44 projects supported across the three priority areas, highlights included: the Sydney Symphony’s first-ever tour to China, a series of high-level briefings on Australia’s financial services sector in Beijing and Shanghai, and an exchange between Australian and Chinese science researchers to develop joint research projects.

Australia France Foundation

The Australia France Foundation (AFF) was created in 1989 as the major element of Australia’s official contribution to the celebration of the bicentenary of the French Revolution. The AFF’s mission is to strengthen France–Australia relations and mutual understanding by building long-term relationships between institutions and people across a range of fields.

Highlights in 2009–10 included: support for the inaugural 1.5-track Australia–France strategic dialogue; a major exhibition of Australian Indigenous art and culture in the Gorges du Verdon Museum; Australian participation in the biennale of contemporary non-European photography organised by the Quai Branly Museum, and ongoing provision of the Sadlier-Stokes scholarship for students from the north of France awarded on Anzac Day this year in Villers-Bretonneux by Mr Smith.

Australia–India Council

The Australia–India Council (AIC) continued to build institutional and people-to-people links between Australia and India, and was closely involved in a number of whole-of-government initiatives to address the damage to Australia’s image in India following attacks on Indian students.

A major new initiative was the establishment of the AIC Young Media Fellowships, which gives promising Indian journalists an opportunity to visit Australia to undertake extended research. This program supports the goal of establishing deeper Australian links with the burgeoning Indian media.

The AIC supported a visit to India by leading Australian economist, Professor Ian Harper, and an Authors Tour of India featuring award-winning Australian authors for children and young adults, Ms Alison Lester and Mr Michael Panckridge. The AIC also supported visits to Australia by leading Indian aerospace scientist, Professor Roddam Narasimha, Secretary of the Indira Gandhi Trust, Mr Suman Dubey, and India’s leading commentator on foreign affairs, Mr Siddharth Varadarajan, who delivered the 2010 Australia–India Strategic Lecture with the Lowy Institute.

Australia–Indonesia Institute

The Australia–Indonesia Institute (AII) continued to support a range of activities in its six core program areas. It provided a total of 46 public grants for arts and culture, education, interfaith, civil society, and media and Australian studies, including for the Australia Indonesia Youth Exchange Program and the Muslim Exchange Program. The AII also managed a visit to Australia by six senior Indonesian editors.

Education was the AII’s largest program in 2009–10. The BRIDGE (Building Relationships through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement) project, with significant supplementary funding from the Myer Foundation and AusAID, supported school-to-school partnerships that link primary and secondary school students in both countries. Ninety-three schools and 184 teachers participated.

Australia–Japan Foundation

The Australia–Japan Foundation (AJF) seeks to advance Australia’s engagement with Japan by supporting cultural, academic, business and community exchange and facilitating informed discussion on key bilateral foreign and trade policy issues. In 2009–10, it provided support for more than 40 projects across a diverse range of sectors reflecting the breadth of the bilateral relationship.

The AJF promoted Australian excellence in the arts through the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Winter Music Festival in Niseko, the inaugural Australia House artist-in-resident program in Echigo-Tsumari, and the Australia Jazz Nights at the Tokyo Jazz Festival. The AJF also continued to support higher education programs in Japan, and it enhanced media advocacy and public information about Australia–Japan relations through a number of published reports and media visits. Community grants were awarded to help strengthen individual and institutional links through exchanges in judo, girls’ softball, surf-lifesaving, jewellery-making, youth choirs and university debating. Professional networks were expanded, particularly in health services, environmental education and urban planning.

Australia–Korea Foundation

The Australia–Korea Foundation (AKF) supports activities aimed at building stronger networks between Korea and Australia. In 2009–10, the AKF delivered more than 30 projects and six flagship programs. ‘Green Growth’ encompassing the broad areas of renewable energy, sustainability and climate change, was a major theme throughout the year. Other activities included knowledge exchange workshops, bilateral young leaders and professional exchanges and institutional and research links projects. Major events co-funded by AKF during the year included the Korea–Australia–New Zealand (KANZ) Broadband Summit hosted by New Zealand in November 2009 and a 1.5-track Australia–Korea Dialogue held in Seoul in May 2010.

Council on Australia Latin America Relations

The Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) continued to enhance Australia’s relations with Latin America in the areas of business, education, sustainability, tourism and cultural promotion. It worked closely with Austrade and the Australia Latin America Business Council to raise awareness of the potential of Latin American markets for Australian business and to enhance the profile of Australian businesses in the region.

In 2009, COALAR approved 19 projects and supported activities to mark the bicentenary of independence of five regional countries (Argentina, Chile, Colombia Mexico and Venezuela). COALAR supported the inaugural Australia–Latin America Leadership Program and Australia–Latin America Business Awards, building links between future leaders and professional networks.

We provided support to Mr Smith on appointments to the Board, with the departure of a number of long-standing members who had been with COALAR since its inception in 2001.

COALAR’s Education Action Group and Tourism Action Group worked in close collaboration with stakeholders from government, business and academia contributing to the Council’s work on the development of people-to-people links.

Australia–Malaysia Institute

The Australia–Malaysia Institute (AMI) consolidated and built on a foundation of successful activities and programs. The AMI continued to administer the Australia–Malaysia Sister School Program, announced by Mr Rudd in July 2008. The Sister School Program has now successfully linked 26 secondary schools in Malaysia and Victoria. The Institute fostered sports collaboration between Australia and Malaysia, including through funding elite coaching scholarships in cycling, swimming and hockey. A total of 30 public grants were provided by the AMI in public policy, health, education and science, media and culture and sports.

The AMI Advisory Board completed a visit to Malaysia which helped lift the Institute’s profile, including among senior Malaysian ministers and media leaders.

Australia–Thailand Institute

The Australia–Thailand Institute (ATI) complemented Australia’s diplomatic objectives in Thailand by broadening and deepening people-to-people and institutional links between our two countries. The Institute focused on developing next-generation leaders in public policy, industry and the media, including through visit programs for emerging Australian journalists and Thai Green Technology industry leaders. A Next Generation Community Leaders Visit (also known as the Interfaith Visit) saw six emerging community leaders from different backgrounds, religions and regions of Thailand come to Australia to observe practical Australian multicultural and harmonisation strategies at work in local communities.

A total of 32 grants were provided by the ATI in the areas of public policy, business, education, culture and the arts and community programs. A program part-funded by the ATI adapted ‘Swim and Survive Australia’ curriculums to suit Thailand’s needs and also provided two portable pools. Another program enhanced wheelchair availability in Thailand.

Australia Awards

Photo - See caption below for description
Second Secretary Mr James Yeomans and locally engaged staff member Mr Alejandro Gonzalez from the Australian Embassy in Mexico City with local community members from the indigenous village of Santa Maria Tonameca in the Mexican State of Oaxaca. The Embassy funds a Direct Aid Program (DAP) project in this village, allowing the installation of steel cisterns to store rainwater, which provides the only source of water storage to members of this community.

The establishment of the Australia Awards was announced by the Government in November 2009. The initiative aims to maximise the benefit to Australia of our extensive scholarship programs and to support enduring ties between Australia and our neighbours. The Australia Awards bring together the international scholarships managed by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and AusAID, to ensure that Australia’s scholarships are consolidated, better branded and delivered to support Australia’s long-term interests. A Secretariat to support the work of a proposed advisory board was established at DFAT in January 2010.

Direct Aid Program

The Direct Aid Program (DAP) is a flexible, small grants program funded by AusAID and delivered by DFAT at 54 overseas posts. It covers projects in over 80 developing countries. DAP focuses on small-scale projects with direct local benefits that might otherwise be overlooked by bigger aid programs.

DAP aims to advance Australia’s national interests by helping developing countries achieve sustainable development and creating public diplomacy benefits for Australia. Typical DAP projects address community health, gender equality, rural development, environmental issues and youth and education. A clean water project in Bali and an African Youth Leadership Forum in Johannesburg were examples of projects supported by DAP funds in 2009–10.

The DAP budget for 2009–10 was $7.5 million, up from $4.5 million in 2008–09. This increase reflected the Government’s objective of raising ODA to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015–16.

The bulk of the budget increase was allocated to posts in emerging priority regions, including Africa and Latin America.

Regional television service: Australia Network

The Government contracts the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to operate Australia Network to provide an independent Australian regional television service offering quality, contemporary programming across the Asia-Pacific. Australia Network broadcasts independent news and current affairs, as well as English-language learning programs, drama, children’s entertainment and sport.

Australia Network is available in 22 million homes across 44 countries, through 648 rebroadcast partners. Its audience is developing particularly rapidly in India.

Our overseas posts worked closely with Australia Network to facilitate contacts at senior levels to secure re-broadcasting opportunities.

Australian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010

Photo - See caption below for description
Staff of the Australian pavilion on 1 May 2010, the official opening day of the Shanghai World Expo.

The department led Australia’s participation at the Shanghai World Expo, joining 192 other countries and 50 international organisations represented there. The Expo opened on 1 May 2010 for six months. We expect to receive over seven million visitors to our pavilion.

Coordinated by the department’s Shanghai World Expo unit, the Australian pavilion was the first international pavilion to complete building and installation of exhibits on 31 March 2010. It was awarded the prestigious Civilised Site Award by Expo authorities for the high standards of safety, organisation and management. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, formally opened the pavilion on 18 May 2010.

The pavilion’s business program, developed in cooperation with pavilion sponsors, state and territory partners, Austrade, other Commonwealth agencies, AustCham Shanghai, the Australia–China Business Council and the Australia–China Council, provides a platform to strengthen and diversify Australia’s already strong relationship with China. Designed to promote Australia’s creativity, innovation and commercial capabilities, the pavilion is hosting over 200 targeted business events covering a full range of industry sectors. Ranging in scope from the international launch of Brand Australia, to agribusiness seminars, biotechnology roundtables and wine tastings, these well-subscribed events demonstrate Australia’s credentials as an economically advanced, technologically sophisticated, diverse, welcoming partner for trade, investment and cooperation.

Our cultural program, developed in collaboration with the Australia International Cultural Council, Australia–China Council and Australia Council for the Arts, presents up-and-coming export-ready talent to audiences at Expo and showcases the diversity of our contemporary cultural capabilities.

Our communications and public relations program, targeting print, electronic and new media, successfully projected positive images of Australia to a broad audience in China and internationally.

Australia’s national day celebrations on 8 June at Expo, attended by the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce, fostered deeper appreciation of Australia’s cultural achievements, and trade and investment links between Australia and China.

Freedom of Information

The department finalised 98 applications (see Table 7), eight more than during the last financial year. As in previous reporting periods, requests often involved a substantial volume of information and/or covered complex and sensitive topics. Where access decisions were made outside the statutory deadline, this was often due to the volume or sensitive nature of the documents requested. We managed our FOI caseload proactively, liaising closely with applicants on the content and processing of all requests.

Six requests for internal review of access decisions were received and decisions were made on all the requests. One appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) against an access decision was lodged in 2009–10. One request was made to the Ombudsman.

There was one application received under section 48 of the FOI Act for amendment of records.

The department met fully its obligations under sections 8 and 9 of the FOI Act, including the provision of statistical reports to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Our statement in accordance with section 8 of the FOI Act is at Appendix 5.

TABLE 7. REQUESTS PROCESSED UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION Act 1982

 
2009–10
2008–09
2007–08
Requests for information
Access granted in full
13
7
14
Access granted in part
52
39
39
Access refused
11
12
6
Requests transferred or withdrawn
22
32
19
Total
98
90
78
Requests subject to review or legal appeal
Requests for internal review (s.54)
6
5
4
Appeals lodged with the AAT (s.55)
1
3
2
Ombudsman
1
0
2

Historical publications and information

The department continued to research and publish in the field of Australian foreign and trade policy. Our publications remained a valuable resource for scholars and members of the public interested in the historical context of Australian foreign and trade policy. They also provided a valuable means of explaining the nature of the department’s work.

In August 2009, the then Secretary, Mr Michael L’Estrange, launched the biography, Trusty and Well Beloved: A Life of Keith Officer, Australia’s First Diplomat, written by departmental officer Mr Alan Fewster. The biography provides insights on the formative years of Australian diplomacy including the foundations of our most important bilateral relationships.

In February 2010, to commemorate the centenary of Australian diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom, the Minister for Foreign Affairs launched The High Commissioners: Australia’s Representatives in the United Kingdom, 1910–2010. The book was edited by Professor Carl Bridge and Dr Frank Bongiorno from the Menzies Centre, King’s College and David Lee from the department’s Historical Publications and Information Section. The launch at Australia House, London was attended by Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and the then UK Foreign Secretary, Mr David Miliband.

In November 2009, the department and the National Archives of Australia (NAA) jointly hosted the fourth R G Neale lecture. This lecture series focuses on foreign policy issues, utilising thirty-year-old Commonwealth records released each year by the NAA. Emeritus Professor Donald Denoon from the Australian National University delivered the lecture on ‘Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait Treaty’.

Archival examination

Under section 40 of the Archives Act 1983, our archival records that are more than 30 years old are available to public researchers on application to the NAA. Prior to release to the public, the NAA refers records to the department for expert assessment regarding possible exemption in light of sensitivities relating to intelligence, security or international relations of the Commonwealth of Australia. We are also responsible for approving applications for Special and Official access to Commonwealth records under section 56(2) of the Archives Act 1983.

Table 8 outlines requests we received for review under the Archives Act 1983. These included files or documents relating to:

  • ANZUS (Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America)—Council of Ministers (1963–1964)
  • Joint Intelligence Organisation—Organisation and Responsibilities (1971–1980)
  • The political situation in China (1968–1976)
  • Malaysia—Political Parties—The Malayan Chinese Association (1970–1972)
  • United States Weekly Reports on Vietnam (1973)
  • Singaporean Defence Forces (1965–1966)
  • Pakistan—Nuclear Policy (1977–1979)
  • India’s relations with Pakistan (1971–1973)
  • India—Nuclear Weapons Testing (1973–1980)
  • Australian relations with Solomon Islands—Political (1978–1980)
  • Australian policy towards Indo-China: Refugees (1977)

We also cleared records for the 2009 R G Neale Lecture on the Torres Strait Treaty and for the University of Tasmania’s research on Australia and the OECD; as well as 1980 Cabinet Records due for public release in January 2011 under the 30-year rule.

TABLE 8. REQUESTS ASSESSED UNDER THE ARCHIVES Act 1983

  2009–10 2008–09 2007–08
Requests received 543 913 499
Total requests assessed 456 462 445
Requests completed 456 462 441
Number of folios assessed 82 413 69 118 84 080
Open access 214 287 132
Wholly or partly exempt 242 175 309
Subject to review 2 2 5
Subject to appeal 4 0 2

Of the 543 requests received, 242 files or documents were the subject of a recommendation for at least one exemption on national security or international relations grounds and 214 were released in full. We referred for clearance 121 files or documents to other agencies (the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Australian Federal Police and the Department of Defence) and 61 requests to foreign governments (the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand and Canada). We processed five requests from foreign governments (the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand) and 67 requests from other agencies (the Department of Defence, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Office of National Assessments).

Recordkeeping

The department has continued to promote and improve its records management programs through ongoing implementation of the Strategic Plan for DFAT Records Management 2008–11. The plan provides a proactive approach to department-wide training in recordkeeping best practice and targeted outreach programs to overseas posts.

Following the successful pilot of the new Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) during 2009, the department commenced full rollout of the system in January 2010. The system is being rolled out through a phased two-year program to over 4500 users in Canberra, overseas posts and state and territory offices.

The EDRMS provides the department with an effective and efficient records management system which will significantly increase our ability to manage our electronic records in compliance with legislative recordkeeping obligations. The system is also introducing significant long-term efficiencies to departmental work processes.

We completed 15 records management projects, including 13 sentencing and disposal projects; six in Canberra divisions, six at overseas posts and one in a state office. Other projects focused on enhancing records management systems in line with action items in the Strategic Plan. We also provided specialist recordkeeping registry services requested by divisions. We transferred over 290 linear meters of ‘Retain as National Archives’ files to the National Archives of Australia following its creation of additional storage space for such records.

Outlook

We expect the media will retain a close interest in major foreign and trade policy developments and high-profile consular cases. Providing accurate information to media representatives will remain a priority for the department.

We will continue to deliver key messages to the Australian community on the benefits of trade and investment, as well as providing specific statistics to the public about our trading partners. We will continue to accord priority to the production and dissemination of information and advocacy material to the media, stakeholders and the public on issues such as WTO and FTA negotiations.

We will support major public diplomacy initiatives, including the ongoing India Strategy and AICC cultural promotions in China and the Republic of Korea in the coming year. We will refocus the International Media Visits program to a smaller number of more targeted visits. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program will work on a new touring exhibition featuring urban Indigenous art to be launched in July 2011.

In advance of the Australia Network contract expiring in August 2011, we will provide advice to the Minister on succession planning.

In the lead-up to a decision by the FIFA Executive in December 2010, we will continue to work with FFA in support of Australia’s bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

We will introduce a new web content management system and review website content and architecture. We will launch a series of web-based short videos based on themes from our flagship publication, Australia in brief and assess the outcomes of the review of public diplomacy materials.

We will continue to provide public diplomacy support for Australia’s UN Security Council candidacy, including by preparing materials clearly outlining Australia’s credentials.

We will continue to provide a high-quality experience for visitors to the Australian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, until the Expo’s conclusion at the end of October. We will take advantage of the presence in Shanghai of Australian business, academic and other leaders to enhance understanding of Australia.

In 2010–11, in preparation for the entry into force from November 2010 of the Government’s major reforms to the FOI and Archives Acts (through the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act 2010), the department will continue preparing changes to its processes to ensure the reforms are fully implemented.

In particular we will prepare new guidance, in light of the reforms to the exemption regime under the FOI Act, for departmental decision makers on FOI requests. We are also preparing for the new framework of proactive publication of information by agencies through the Information Publication Scheme for the department, which will be prepared by the deadline of May 2011, as required by the reforms to the FOI Act.

We will continue reviewing our procedures for the examination of archival records, with a view to continuing to fulfil our legislative obligations following amendments to the Archives Act 1983 that will bring forward the open access period for most Commonwealth records from 30 to 20 years, to be phased-in from January 2011.

We will continue to publish books of historical interest and significance, including a documentary history of Australia and the United Kingdom, 1960–75, to be published in September 2010. We will take forward work on a history of Australia’s involvement in the United Nations, due for publication in late 2011.

Implementation of the Strategic Plan for DFAT Records Management 2008–11 and ongoing improvement to records management practice across the department will be continuing priorities, laying the basis for effective uptake and operation of the EDRMS. We will continue the rollout of the EDRMS across the department, aiming to deliver the system to 75 per cent of users by June 2011. We will continue planning for the long-term management of the system after the rollout.

Next page: Program 1.2
Previous page: 1.1.12 Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia