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


We promoted a positive image of contemporary Australia internationally and shaped perceptions among both international and domestic audiences to foster a deeper understanding of Australia’s foreign and trade priorities. We assisted the media in Australia and overseas to provide informed and balanced coverage of Australia’s foreign, trade and international security policies and achievements.

Our public diplomacy programs strengthened people-to-people links and trade and economic ties with partner countries. The Australian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo was the largest ever single public diplomacy project abroad in 2010–11.

We managed a strong website presence, providing enhanced public access to a range of information about the department, including travel advice, while introducing the social media platforms of YouTube and Twitter.

As a result of reforms to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Amendment (Reform) Act 2010, the department revised internal procedures to comply. The department takes a broad approach to requests for information by providing information outside the formal processes of the FOI Act when appropriate, for example offering media briefings. There was nearly a 100 per cent increase in FOI applications following the November 2010 reforms. The number of applicants requesting predominantly personal information fell slightly compared to 2009–10, while other applications more than tripled.

The department published a volume in the Documents on Australian Foreign Policy series and advised the National Archives of Australia on the public release of departmental records in accordance with the Archives Act 1983. We also examined departmental records for the fifth RG Neale lecture on Australian policy towards Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in 1979–1980.

We made significant progress in the implementation of an Electronic Document and Records Management System, which remains on track for the entire department by the end of 2011.

Media services

The department’s work again attracted substantial public and media attention with 7418 enquiries from domestic and foreign media organisations reflecting the department’s global presence and consular crisis responsibilities.

Consular assistance to Australians overseas attracted strong media interest in response to individual cases and during unrest in the Middle East, the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

We provided strategic media advice and support to the Prime Minister, the Governor-General and ministers in connection with major international events. These included the Pacific Islands Forum in Vanuatu in August 2010; the G20 Summit in ROK, AUSMIN Consultations in Melbourne, the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Japan and the NATO–ISAF Summit in Portugal, all in November 2010; AUKMIN Consultations in Sydney in January 2011; Anzac commemorations at Gallipoli, Turkey in April 2011; and Guest-of-Government visits to Australia.

The department issued 291 media releases and public statements for portfolio ministers, parliamentary secretaries and the department itself. We also issued 38 notes to the media to provide advance notice of overseas events and media opportunities and distributed 380 transcripts of interviews, press conferences and speeches for ministers.

The department also facilitated 43 background briefings and interviews on issues ranging from developments in the Middle East, Pacific and Asia to counter-terrorism, APEC and passport services.

The capacity for media services was strengthened by conducting in-house training for new recruits, consular officers and staff posted overseas to positions that involve dealing with media inquiries.

Website services and social media

The website continued to be an important source of information, with average access to the website at 775 096 page-views per week in 2010–11. The smartraveller website recorded an average of 579 775 page-views per week. We launched a new website,, to inform the public about Australian efforts to assist Japan in the wake of its natural disasters.

We commenced a review of the department’s website presence, with a specific focus on content, to ensure that we meet Australian Government and international requirements for the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy, established by the Australian Government Information Management Office. This work will continue in 2011–12.

We continued work on technical issues to enable us to implement a new website content management system for the department’s websites.

Following a trial of social media for consular events, a DFAT Twitter account was established in April 2011 to further expand the reach of the department’s public communications. The department tweets on consular travel advisories, media releases, significant speeches, trade figures, public diplomacy events, recruitment notices, publications and general consular and passport information. We also established a DFAT YouTube channel for publishing videos related to the department’s work.

Trade advocacy and outreach

The department explained and promoted the benefits of trade around Australia and internationally. In addition to the annual trade advocacy publication and student resource, Trade at a Glance, we produced brochures including trade by state and territory, Australia in the G20, services trade, and the Bogor Goals, as well as material and advice for media releases, speeches and other trade-related publications.

Online trade advocacy was intensified through our website, Skype and social media, including Twitter and YouTube.

Eight regular statistical publications were available free of charge on the website, with around 140 000 downloads in 2010–11. The department’s statistical consultancy service responded promptly to some 4000 individual enquiries by providing tailored statistics to the department, business and other stakeholders.


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 The Australian Treaties Library also makes available the texts of all treaties Australia has signed, and those that have entered into force for Australia.

International public diplomacy

Promoting a positive image of Australia in India remained a focus of our public diplomacy work, including through our coordination of whole-of-government efforts. We strengthened links and promoted positive messages with the Indian media and the Indian public through our international media visits and cultural diplomacy programs. To enhance understanding, we promoted champions of the Australia–India bilateral relationship, including within the Indian diaspora in Australia, alumni and key opinion leaders.

The department also promoted the Gold Coast’s bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Australia’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project, which would bring economic and scientific opportunities to Australia and the region.

Australian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo

Photo - See caption below for description
An Australia Day Silver Achievement Medallion was presented to the Shanghai World Expo 2010 Team and the Shanghai Consulate-General for excellence in advancing Australia’s strategic goals, managing Australia’s largest ever single-site promotion overseas, enhancing Australia’s business and trade interests in China and contributing to the overall strength of the relationship. Pictured are representatives of the Shanghai World Expo 2010 Team (L-R): Mr David Glass, Executive Director Ms Lyndall Sachs, Ms Penny Perez, Ms Alexandra Warnock.
Photo: Andrew Taylor

The department led Australia’s participation at the Shanghai World Expo, under the theme ‘Better City, Better Life’. This was Australia’s largest ever single public diplomacy project abroad. We joined 242 countries and international organisations at the Expo which ran from May to October 2010. During that time, 8.18 million visitors toured the Australian pavilion, exceeding our target of 7 million. The pavilion won four awards and was rated among the top five pavilions by visitors. It was a key attraction for visiting heads of government and senior Chinese politburo members, including the President of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao.

The business program was developed in cooperation with pavilion sponsors (ANZ Bank, BlueScope Steel, Rio Tinto, Lend Lease, Qantas, Telstra, the University of Sydney and the Australian National University), state and territory partners, Austrade, other Commonwealth government agencies, AustCham Shanghai, the Australia–China Business Council and the Australia–China Council. We hosted 219 targeted business events covering a full range of industry sectors ranging from mining, construction and agriculture to financial and legal services. The program promoted creativity, innovation and commercial capability to Chinese policy makers and entrepreneurs and promoted trade and investment links. The business program enhanced understanding of the breadth and depth of the Australian economy.

Through a visually impressive pavilion, sophisticated exhibits and an extensive program of contemporary culture and the arts, we projected an informed contemporary image of Australia and strengthened perceptions of Australia as innovative, creative and dynamic.

The cultural program, developed with the Australia International Cultural Council, Australia–China Council and Australia Council for the Arts, featured 767 visual and performing artists giving 2533 cultural performances. The communications and public relations program used print, electronic and new media to promote key messages of Australian diversity, innovation and capability to China and internationally.

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 department organised 41 visits to Australia in 2010–11 (see North Asia 1.1.1 through to Security, Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation 1.1.10 for highlights).

International media visits

The department calibrated the International Media Visits (IMV) program to ensure it aligned closely with policy objectives. We arranged ten fully-funded visits and supported two partially-funded visits involving 43 media representatives from 27 countries. Programs were developed for senior international journalists from francophone Africa and India to broaden understanding of Australia.

A major IMV program to accompany the Diplomatic Corps’ visit to Queensland in April 2011 brought together 14 international journalists to showcase Queensland’s trade and investment after the devastating floods. Two IMV programs from the US and Europe were arranged in support of Australia’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

We arranged an internship with Australia Network through the John Doherty Asia Pacific Journalism Internship for an Indonesian journalist. Another internship with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was provided for a journalist from Solomon Islands through the Douglas Gabb Australia Pacific Journalist Internship. An Indonesian journalist and an Australian journalist participated in the annual Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award.

International cultural visits

We invited high-level cultural leaders from India, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands and Egypt under the International Cultural Visits (ICV) program. This program brings influential figures to Australia to increase their understanding and awareness of the diversity and quality of contemporary Australia’s arts and culture. In the longer term, the networks and relationships lead to international collaborations, invitations and opportunities for Australian companies and performers in countries of strategic significance.

As part of our ICV program, Director of the prestigious Seoul Museum of Art, Mr Ryu Hee-Young, visited Melbourne and Sydney in July–August 2010. Following his visit, the Museum hosted a joint exhibition of digital art and architecture by the Australian Institute of Architects and Asialink with d/Lux/MediaArts. In April 2011, the Prime Minister opened the exhibition, which ran for three months and exposed 70 000 Korean visitors to the innovative and groundbreaking work of Australia’s leading architects and multimedia artists.

Cultural diplomacy

Cultural diplomacy activities contributed to advancing the Government’s foreign and trade policy priorities by portraying positive and contemporary images of Australia to decision-makers and other demographic groups in the region and beyond.

Australia International Cultural Council

The Government’s peak body for international cultural diplomacy, the Australia International Cultural Council (AICC), presented major cultural programs to two of Australia’s key strategic and trade partners, China and the ROK.

The AICC contributed to a whole-of-government Australian promotion in the ROK in 2011 to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations and commemorate the service of Australians on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Highlights of the program in 2010–11 included:

  • an Anzac Day ceremony attended by the Prime Minister, her ROK counterpart, veterans and their families
  • launch of an exhibition of Australian and Korean art curated by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and the ROK National Museum of Contemporary Art
  • ‘Meet Australia at Ewha’, a week-long focus on Australian visual arts, research and technology, music and education at one of Seoul’s preeminent university campuses.

Australia International Cultural Council grants program

The AICC grants program supported 21 cultural projects in 2010–11 that included Indonesia, India, Latin America and the Pacific. The program funded 10 projects to China as part of Imagine Australia, the Year of Australian Culture in China; and five projects to the ROK for the Australia–Korea Year of Friendship. Projects included the New Age: New Media project, showcasing work by established Australian and Chinese new media artists at the Central Academy of Fine Art, Xiamen International Airport, Hangzhou Art Fair, Songzhuang Art Museum, Jinan International Exhibition Centre, The Back Space Lhasa and Xi’an Art Museum. The project was a collaborative venture between China Art Projects, Digital Art China and International Digital Art/Queensland University of Technology.

Working with Australians overseas to promote Australia’s interests

The department continued to work with Advance Global Professionals, a network of leading Australian expatriates and alumni. The Prime Minister is the Patron and the department has supported Advance since 2007, providing administered funding for its operations and specific projects, including summits in Shanghai and New Delhi.

The department also worked with Advance to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day through the ‘50 for the Future – Advance Women’s Leadership Summit’ in Sydney on 8 March 2011. The Summit brought together senior women leaders in government, business and academia from across the Asia Pacific region to celebrate the achievements of 50 established and emerging female leaders including at an opening function hosted by the Governor-General. Eleven female staff members attended the Summit, along with senior representatives, reflecting the diversity of the contributions women officers make to the department.

Indigenous Australian arts and culture

The department increased awareness and appreciation of contemporary Indigenous Australia and the contributions of Indigenous Australians to all facets of Australian life through active Indigenous-focused public diplomacy. The DFAT/Artbank exhibition, Balgo: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills, was viewed by audiences across the Pacific, South-East Asia, South Asia and North Asia; and commenced a regional tour of Latin America and Central America. During 2010–11, again in partnership with Artbank, we developed and curated a new exhibition, Message Stick: Indigenous Identity in Urban Australia, and planned the exhibition launch during National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week in July 2011 and tours to the Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and India in 2011–12 and 2012–13.

We celebrated NAIDOC Week 2010 in Australia and overseas and marked Reconciliation Week at the end of May 2011 with the launch of the department’s Reconciliation Action Plan and a presentation on reconciliation to the diplomatic corps.

Presenting Australian visual arts and music overseas

The department’s Australian Fine Music Touring Program, with Musica Viva Australia, and Visual Arts Touring Program with Asialink continued to present internationally acclaimed Australian performances and exhibitions to target audiences in Asian countries. Highlights included a series of performances and master classes in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam in February and March 2011 by musicians Leonard Grigoryan and Joseph Tawadros.

Australian Sports Outreach Program

Overseas posts continued supporting the Australian Sports Outreach Program, jointly managed with the Australian Sports Commission and funded through AusAID. In 2010–11 the program focused on community projects in developing countries to improve health outcomes and social inclusion, and promote healthy lifestyles through sport.

Fostering people-to-people links

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

Council for Australian–Arab Relations

Through the Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR), links between Australia and the Arab world were promoted. CAAR approved 10 grants in areas that included agriculture, cultural exchange, education, health, legal development and scientific research. The department and CAAR supported the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry in its launch of the first-ever Australia–Arab Business Forum and Expo in Melbourne in May 2011.

Australia–China Council

The Australia–China Council (ACC), established in 1978, fosters institutional and people-to-people links between Australia and China. Priority areas for support through the grant program include culture and society, economics and trade, and education and science.

A key achievement was establishment of the BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University in collaboration with the ACC Australian Studies in China program. This will encourage greater understanding of Australian culture and society through a network of Australian Studies Centres in Chinese universities.

A further 26 projects received support through the ACC grant program, several for the Year of Australian Culture in China and the Australian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo. Highlights included an Australia–China youth dialogue, a conference on corporate social responsibility in Shanghai, a symposium on sports-rehabilitation science in Beijing and a children’s publishing project.

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 foundation’s mission is to strengthen relations and mutual understanding by building long-term relationships between institutions and people across a range of fields.

Highlights in 2010–11 included funding a scholarship for a young Australian historian to develop an exhibition on Australians on the Western Front; supporting an ambitious project to re-germinate Banksia seeds taken by the early French explorer La Perouse from Botany Bay in 1788; contributing to two successful Indigenous art exhibitions (Grand Nord, Grand Sud and a Dennis Nona retrospective), and ongoing provision of the Sadlier-Stokes scholarship for students from the north of France awarded on Anzac Day 2011 in Villers-Bretonneux by Mr Rudd.

Australia–India Council

The Australia–India Council (AIC) focused on education, science, technology, environment, social initiatives, public policy and the arts in 2010–11.

Among its activities was continued support for the annual KR Narayanan Orations in 2010 and 2011 at the Australian National University. The orations were delivered by the Deputy Chair of India’s State Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Reserve Bank Governor Dr D Subbarao.

Hockey Australia hosted the inaugural AIC Hockey Scholarship program in March 2011 for two athletes and a coach at the Hockey Australia High Performance Unit in Perth. The council also supported a visit to India to discuss urban mobility by Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University, Professor Peter Newman.

Australia–Indonesia Institute

The Australia–Indonesia Institute promoted people-to-people links between Australia and Indonesia through support for a diverse range of projects. A total of 35 grants were provided for priority areas including arts, education, faith, media, science and technology and youth.

A significant achievement for the institute was its BRIDGE (Building Relations through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement) Project which to date has linked over 120 000 Australian and Indonesian students through an e-twinning program. BRIDGE receives significant supplementary funding from the Myer Foundation and AusAID. Two of the flagship programs continued, the Australia Indonesia Youth Exchange Program and Muslim Exchange Program, which build links between young Australians and Indonesians.

Australia–Japan Foundation

The Australia–Japan Foundation (AJF) seeks to advance Australia’s engagement with Japan by supporting cultural, academic, business and community exchange, as well as facilitating discussion on bilateral foreign and trade policy issues. In 2010–11, it supported more than 60 projects to enhance personal, professional and institutional links.

The foundation promoted Australian excellence in the arts through the tour by the Australian Ballet to Tokyo, support for an Australian presence at the Australia House artist-in-resident program in Echigo-Tsumari, and participation in Australia Jazz Nights at the Tokyo Jazz Festival. In the academic arena, the AJF enabled leading scholars from both countries to undertake joint projects on Australia’s foreign and trade policy objectives with Japan.

A highlight of the science program and media advocacy was the launch of the Japan Science Media Centre and the participation in Nano Tech 2011 by a leading Australian academic. Community grants were awarded to conservation projects, junior parliamentary debating, and the participation of an Australian delegation in the Japanese-run Ship for World Youth Program. Professional networks were expanded in the arts, environmental education and health services with a focus on ageing. The AJF also provided significant support for the rebuilding of Australia House in Echigo-Tsumari which was destroyed by the March 2011 earthquake.

Australia–Korea Foundation

The Australia–Korea Foundation (AKF) supports projects that encourage engagement between Australian and Korean society. In 2010–11 assistance targeted projects and activities that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations under the banner ‘Australia–Korea Year of Friendship 2011’. The foundation was a platinum sponsor of the Australian embassy’s year-long promotion of greater understanding of Australia in Korea.

In 2010–11 more than 30 projects were assisted through its grants program and four flagship programs were funded. Projects included youth and capacity-building exchanges at school and university level, collaborative arts and research linkages projects. The foundation provided 19 scholarships for young Australians to experience Korea
first-hand. Major events co-funded by AKF during 2010–11 included the joint ATSE–NAEK Australia Korea Green Growth Workshop in Melbourne in March 2011 and the Korea–Australia–New Zealand Broadband Summit hosted by Australia in Hobart in April 2011.

Council on Australia Latin America Relations

The Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) strengthened Australia’s links with Latin America by supporting 21 projects in business, economic and environmental sustainability, education, tourism and cultural promotion. COALAR’s Education Action Group (EAG) and Tourism Action Group (TAG) continued to develop transnational links. The EAG hosted its second biennial roundtable and facilitated Latin American university involvement in the 2011 International Exchange Fairs in Australia.

Australian expertise was showcased to influential Latin American audiences. The Chairman of the Productivity Commission, Mr Gary Banks AO, visited Mexico, Chile and Peru in June 2011 and made roundtable presentations on the Australian experience in public sector reform. Director of the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at the University of Queensland, Professor David Brereton, travelled to Chile, Peru and Bolivia in May 2011 to conduct seminars on community consultation for mining projects. COALAR supported promotion of Australian businesses to Brazilian companies involved in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Australia–Malaysia Institute

The Australia–Malaysia Institute continued to promote bilateral and people-to-people links by funding 27 grants in arts and culture, public sector reform, sports cooperation and education, including continued support for the sister schools program. A young leaders program was initiated, centred round the Asia-Pacific Roundtable (APR), in Kuala Lumpur at the end of May 2011. It brought together 21 emerging leaders from Australia and ASEAN countries to discuss regional challenges and engage with senior APR attendees. The institute also supported a public sector reform workshop in Kuala Lumpur at which the Australian Public Service Commissioner, Mr Stephen Sedgwick, presented.

Australia–Thailand Institute

The Australia–Thailand Institute (ATI) complemented Australia’s diplomatic objectives in Thailand by broadening and deepening links between people and institutions. The institute supported visits by Thai arts and culture journalists and young Thai community leaders to highlight Australia’s multicultural policies and social participation.

A total of 28 grants were provided in areas that included economics and trade, democratic governance and public administration, arts and culture, education, and science, technology and innovation. Cooperation on green technology and the environment was a highlight with the ATI supporting projects on research collaboration on mangroves, wildlife advocacy and environmental education.

Australia Awards

The Australia Awards Secretariat in the department worked with AusAID and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) to bring international scholarships under one brand. Mr Rudd and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Evans, established the Australia Awards Board in May 2011. The Secretariat supports the Board, which advises ministers on the Australia Awards program, including further consolidation of the awards, branding, communications and alumni matters. The Board comprises eminent representatives of the corporate sector and academia as well as the agency heads of the department, AusAID and DEEWR. It is chaired by Professor Geoff Gallop AC, Professor and Director, Graduate School of Government, University of Sydney.

In December 2010, Mr Rudd launched the Australia Awards for the Americas in Santiago, Chile. He also highlighted the increase in Australia Awards for Africa in his speech to the African Union’s Executive Council in Addis Ababa in January 2011 and addressed the inaugural Australia Awards alumni and networking event in Brisbane in May 2011.

Direct Aid Program

Photo - See caption below for description
Deputy High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Ms Alison Duncan, with school children at Kaza Community High School in Kolombangara, Solomon Islands. The Australian High Commission donated materials to build a new boys dormitory for the school under the Direct Aid Program (DAP). The high school was built by the community itself on land donated by a local family.

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

The program aims to advance Australia’s national interests by helping developing countries achieve sustainable development while creating public diplomacy benefits for Australia. Typical projects address community health, gender equality, rural development, environmental issues and youth and education. Successful projects in 2010–11 included support for a community health clinic in Nigeria and funding for a training course on legal rights for disadvantaged women and youth in Cambodia.

The DAP budget for 2010–11 was $8 million, up from $7.5 million in 2009–10. The increase was consistent with the Government’s commitment to raising Overseas Development Assistance to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income by 2015–16.

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

Regional television service: Australia Network

The department continued to work with the ABC in managing the $94.2 million Australia Network international television broadcasting contract with the ABC, to promote Australia’s engagement in the region, foster understanding of Australia as a dynamic, culturally diverse nation and raise awareness of Australia’s economic and trade capabilities.

In September 2010, Australia Network worked with our posts in the Pacific and local broadcasters to cover the implementation of Australia’s Clean Up the World Campaign in a number of Pacific countries. This was then developed into a story for Australia Network’s Pacific Pulse. The program received positive feedback, allowed the department to promote a valuable grassroots initiative and, more broadly, gave the department the opportunity to highlight Australia’s interest in responsible environmental management.

Recognising the importance of Australia Network as a public diplomacy platform, the Government decided in November 2010 to open a tender for a ten-year contract following expiry of the current contract in August 2011. We extended the current contract with the ABC for a further six months following the Government’s announcement on 25 June 2011 that it would seek additional information from tenderers.

Freedom of Information

The department finalised 143 freedom of information (FOI) applications (see table 7), 45 more than 2009–10. Requests often involved a substantial volume of information and/or covered complex and sensitive topics. When access decisions were made outside the statutory deadline, it was often due to the volume or sensitive nature of the documents requested. The department managed its FOI caseload by liaising with applicants on the content and processing of all requests.

Eight requests for internal review of access decisions were received and decisions were made on all the requests. One appeal to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner against an access decision was lodged in 2010–11.

One complaint was made to the Ombudsman. There was one appeal made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

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

A new framework for publication of information by agencies through the Information Publication Scheme took effect in May 2011. The scheme replaces and expands publication obligations under sections 8–10 of the FOI Act.


Requests for information      
Access granted in full 7 13 26
Access granted in part 39 52 57
Access refused 12 11 21
Requests transferred or withdrawn 32 22 39
Total 90 98 143
Requests subject to review or legal appeal      
Requests for internal review (s.54) 5 6 8
Appeals lodged with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (s.55) 3 1 1
Ombudsman 0 1 1
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner 0 0 1


Historical publications and information

The department continued to research and publish in the field of Australian foreign policy. This year we published Documents on Australian Foreign Policy: Australia and the United Kingdom, 1960–1975. Work continued on other commissioned volumes in the Documents on Australian Foreign Policy series and, in collaboration with independent authors, on a narrative history of Australia and the United Nations for publication in 2011–12.

In May 2011 the department and the National Archives of Australia jointly hosted the fifth RG Neale lecture. Mr Ian Hancock delivered the lecture, on ‘Australian policy towards Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in 1979–1980’. The RG Neale lecture series focuses on foreign policy issues, drawing on thirty-year old Commonwealth records released each year by the National Archives. It is named after the late Emeritus Professor Robert Neale AO, first Editor of the department’s Documents on Australian Foreign Policy series and first Director-General of the Australian Archives (now the National Archives of Australia).

Photo - See caption below for description
Former Secretaries and the current Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
L-R: Professor Michael L’Estrange AO, Mr Peter Henderson AC, Emeritus Professor Stuart Harris AO, Mr Dennis Richardson AO, Mr Phillip Flood AO, Mr Richard Woolcott AC.
Photo: Andrew Taylor

On 18 November 2010 the Secretary, Mr Dennis Richardson, hosted a reception commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Department of External Affairs and the 110th anniversary of the Department of Trade and Customs. Guests included Mr Rudd, Dr Emerson, Mr Marles, former Secretaries, members of the diplomatic corps, staff representatives from the 1930s to the present day and other guests.






Archival examination

Public researchers can access archival records under Section 40 of the Archives Act 1983 on application to the National Archives of Australia (NAA). Prior to public release records are referred to the department to assess for possible exemption in light of sensitivities relating to intelligence, security or international relations of the Commonwealth of Australia. The department is also responsible for approving applications for Special or Official access to Commonwealth records under section 56(2) of the Archives Act 1983.

Table 8 outlines requests completed by the department in 2010–11 under the Archives Act 1983. These included files or documents relating to:

  • Antarctica—Australian Interests—Wilkes Station (1958–1962)
  • Applications for passports from Croatian Terrorists (1975–1977)
  • Australian Aid to Portuguese Timor (1976–1977)
  • Australian Pacific Interests—General Policy including South Pacific Study Group (1969–1971)
  • China—Foreign Policy—Policy towards South East Asia—General (1973–1975)
  • Defence Significance of Antarctica (1966–1969)
  • India—Relations with Pakistan (except Kashmir) (1971)
  • Iraq—Relations with Australia—General (1977–1978)
  • Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) Papers and Publications (1973–1974)
  • Malaysia/Singapore Defence Policy and Administrative Arrangements (1970)
  • Malaysia—Political—General (1969)
  • Republic of South Vietnam—Vietnamese Refugees (1976)
  • Singapore—Subversion and Counter Subversion (Internal Security) (1968–1969)
  • Timor—RAAF/ICRC Operations (1975)

Of the 422 requests completed, 260 files or documents were recommended for at least one exemption on national security or international relations grounds and 162 were released in full. A total of 173 files or documents were referred for clearance to agencies (the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Department of Defence and the Office of National Assessments) and 71 requests to foreign governments (Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States). Three requests were processed from the United States, and 42 from other agencies (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Department of Defence, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Office of National Assessments).


  2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Requests completed 462 456 422
Number of folios assessed 69 118 82 413 94 067
Open access 287 214 162
Wholly or partly exempt 175 242 260
Subject to review 2 2 0
Subject to appeal 0 4 0


Introduction of the Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS), which commenced in January 2010, entered its final phase. The system significantly increases the department’s ability to manage its electronic records in compliance with legislative recordkeeping obligations.

During 2010–11 the EDRMS project was rolled out to posts in Africa, America and Europe and implementation commenced in Asia and the Pacific. Sixty-three departmental business units completed the change and began using the EDRMS for their day-to-day business.

A mandated Post, State and Territory Outreach Program (PSTOP) was completed under the Strategic Plan for DFAT Records Management 2008–11. The PSTOP was designed to rationalise and reduce paper files at targeted overseas posts ahead of the introduction of electronic recordkeeping. The department completed 23 visits to posts to sentence and remediate their records, provide training and prepare records databases for the implementation of the EDRMS. Staff from an additional 32 posts received records management training prior to EDRMS implementation. This training was in addition to system training during implementation.

A further 14 records management projects were completed in 2010–11, including eight sentencing and disposal projects and five records-remediation projects in Canberra divisions, and one sentencing project in a state office.

Other projects focused on enhancing records management in line with the Strategic Plan. Transfers of files to National Archives of Australia (NAA) continued with over 13.5 linear metres of ‘Retain as National Archives’ files transferred, and preparation of a further 480 boxes (86.4m) of legal records. The department also initiated a project with NAA to review and update data on historical DFAT records it holds.


The department will continue to promote a positive image of contemporary Australia, including through our public diplomacy efforts in support of Australia’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2013-14.

We will maintain a strong focus on strengthening Australia’s image in India with intensive preparations in the lead up to a major Australian arts and culture promotion in India in the second half of 2012.

The department will continue to coordinate and deliver an imaginative and diverse public diplomacy program in the ROK through to the climax of the Australia–Korea Year of Friendship and will lead Australia’s participation in the 2012 International Expo in Yeosu.

With other government agencies, academic and scientific institutions, the department will promote science diplomacy to advance Australia’s economic interests. In particular, we will support Australia’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project.

Public diplomacy activities will be developed to mark important anniversaries of Australia’s engagement and leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, including the establishment of ANZUS, and diplomatic ties with China, Germany, Laos and Thailand and the groundbreaking Colombo Plan.

We will continue to consolidate Australia’s international scholarships under the Australia Awards and support the work of the Australia Awards Board.

We will redevelop posts’ websites to enhance their appearance and make them easier to use. We will explore introducing further social media platforms into the department.

Following the commencement of a new contract, the department will engage actively with the provider of Australia Network to complement our other public diplomacy activities to project contemporary Australia and to advance core foreign and trade policy interests.

In light of the major reforms to the FOI and Archives Acts through the FOI Amendment (Reform) Act 2010, the department will continue to change its processes to ensure the reforms are fully implemented. The department will continue to work on the Information Publication Scheme in line with statutory requirements to ensure it is a useful public resource.

Procedures for the examination of archival records will be reviewed to fulfil legislative obligations under the amended Archives Act 1983 that brings forward the open access period for most Commonwealth records from 30 to 20 years (phased-in over 10 years) from 1 January 2011.

Training in recordkeeping will improve through a strengthened focus on electronic records management as the roll out of the EDRMS project is completed. Departmental records management reference materials will be consolidated into a single records management manual.

Bedding down long-term technical and user support for the EDRMS, combined with emphasis on developing a strong electronic records management culture, will continue to be priorities. Support and management of the system with other ICT and business systems will be consolidated as part of strategic leadership of the department’s recordkeeping.

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