2. Heads of Mission
Requests for agrément for new Heads of Mission are submitted to the Chief of Protocol. Such requests may be made in the form of a note or letter from the mission concerned in Canberra, or from the Foreign Ministry of the sending State or, in the case of non-resident missions, by communication through the Australian mission in the capital where the Head of Mission resides. A detailed curriculum vitae should be provided with the request. A formal response to a request for agrément can usually be expected within four to six weeks.
Australia has a strict practice of maintaining confidentiality of Head of Mission nominations until agrément has been formalised.
2.2 Australian citizens and permanent residents of Australia
A person who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident will not be accepted as a Head of Mission by the Australian Government unless there are exceptional circumstances. If agrément is given for such an appointment, the privileges and immunities of the Head of Mission concerned will be those provided for in Article 38(1) of the VCDR (i.e. solely in respect of "official acts performed in the exercise of his functions"). Privileges relating to tax concessions and customs duties are not available to heads of mission who are citizens or permanent residents of Australia.
2.3 Multiple accreditation
In accordance with Article 5(1) of the VCDR, the Department should be notified formally of any proposal by a sending State to accredit a Head of Mission concurrently to another State.
The Department expects a Head of Mission normally resident in Australia to present credentials in Australia before presenting in other countries of accreditation.
2.4 First arrival in Australia
Heads of Mission-designate normally make their first arrival in Australia at either Sydney or Melbourne airport. If Protocol Branch is given advance notice of the flight details, airport facilitation can be arranged. This means an Australian Customs officer will greet the Head of Mission-designate planeside and accompany him/her throughout arrivals procedures (immigration and luggage clearance). Such facilitation is available to the Head of Mission only on first arrival in Australia.
Missions may have one official meet the Head of Mission-designate planeside. Prior advice to the relevant DFAT State office is required to ensure the officer's name is passed to Customs.
Only passengers can catch the transfer bus between the international and domestic terminals. If the Head of Mission-designate catches the shuttle bus after clearing immigration and customs, any officials who have come to meet him must travel separately to the domestic terminal. Alternately, the mission can arrange for a car to drive the whole party to the domestic terminal.
On arrival at Canberra Airport, if this is during normal working hours, the Head of Mission-designate will be formally met by the Chief of Protocol or a representative. Missions are responsible for practical arrangements such as baggage collection and transport.
Protocol Branch does not book VIP rooms in Canberra or other cities. If missions wish to have access to VIP rooms, they should contact the airport directly. Charges will apply.
2.5 Order of precedence
Heads of Mission who present Letters of Credence officially take up their functions on presentation of their Letters to the Governor-General. Credentials are presented strictly in the order of Heads of Missions' arrival in Canberra (not from the date of arrival in Australia).
Those High Commissioners who represent countries where HM the Queen is the Head of State present letters of introduction to the Prime Minister rather than letters of credence to the Governor-General. They assume precedence from the date of their arrival in Canberra and may immediately perform official functions.
A Head of Mission-designate may perform limited official acts before presenting credentials. These may include calls on senior officials of the Department, the Dean of the Corps and other Heads of Mission. Generally, it is not appropriate for a Head of Mission-designate to host official functions or to call on Ministers until credentials have been presented.
2.6 Presentation of credentials
The Department will arrange for High Commissioners who present letters of introduction to call on the Prime Minister for this purpose. There is no ceremonial element, but the Chief of Protocol will accompany the High Commissioner on the call, and photographs are taken.
The following sections deal with the formal procedures for the presentation to the Governor-General of letters of credence signed by Heads of State.
2.6.1 Form of address for letters of credence and recall
Letters of credence and recall should be addressed to:
"Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO
Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia"
2.6.2 Presentation of working copies
Working copies of letters of credence and recall (in the original language with English translations) should be presented to the Chief of Protocol during the Head of Mission-designate's initial call within a day or two of arrival in Canberra. During that meeting, which the Chargé d'Affaires a.i. or Acting High Commissioner may also attend, a briefing will be provided on the ceremonial procedures for the presentation of credentials.
The call on the Chief of Protocol will be followed by calls on relevant senior staff of the Department.
2.6.3 Presentation of credentials ceremony
Every effort will be made to give the Head of Mission-designate an advance indication of when credentials may be presented. Since credentials ceremonies take place strictly in the order in which Heads of Mission-designate arrive in Canberra no firm commitment on a date and time of participation can be given before the Head of Mission-designate confirms arrival date in Canberra.
The Head of Mission may be accompanied by his/her spouse at the ceremony and will be invited to nominate a maximum of three colleagues who are accredited staff to attend. They will also be asked to complete a questionnaire covering important practical details such as dietary restrictions, the need for interpreters etc, and to provide a CV for their spouse.
Credentials ceremonies, which take place at Government House, Yarralumla, are tentatively scheduled every two months provided there are at least three and no more than five Heads of Mission available to participate. A detailed program for each ceremony is issued by Government House the day before the ceremony.
Non-resident HOMs-designate will no longer take part in the scheduled calendar of ceremonies and instead will be offered an individual time. Non-resident HOMs-designate will be invited to present their credentials in a private call on the Governor-General at a time when the Governor-General is in Canberra. This will give non-resident HOMs greater flexibility in finding a convenient time to travel to Australia. Ceremonies for non-resident HOMs-designate will no longer involve the full ceremony with honour guard and band.
Dress for the occasion may be national costume, dark business suit, day dress (hat and gloves are not worn), or military uniform with full decorations (no sword).
On the day of the ceremony, the Head of Mission-designate and suite will be escorted to Government House by the Deputy Chief of Protocol, using Australian Government vehicles.
On arrival at the State Entrance to Government House, the Head of Mission-designate is met by the Chief of Protocol and an Aide to the Governor-General. The spouse of the Head of Mission-designate is met by an Aide to the Governor-General's spouse. The Head of Mission-designate and suite stand at the State Entrance to receive a General Salute, with musical honours, from a Guard of Honour.
After the general salute, the Head of Mission-designate and suite are conducted to the drawing room. The Chief of Protocol presents the Head of Mission-designate to the Governor-General. With a few suitable words, the Head of Mission-designate then hands the letters of credence and recall as appropriate, to the Governor-General. The Governor-General shakes hands with the Head of Mission, says some brief words of congratulation and then presents him/her to her spouse and then to the Foreign Minister's representative (usually a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and to the Official Secretary to the Governor-General.
The Head of Mission in turn presents his /her spouse to the Governor-General and her spouse; the Governor-General presents the spouse to the Foreign Minister's representative and the Official Secretary; and the Head of Mission presents the members of the suite to the Governor-General and her spouse, the Minister's representative and the Official Secretary.
The Governor-General, attended by the Minister's representative and the Official Secretary, then invites the Head of Mission (and interpreter if required) to her study for a private discussion of approximately 10 minutes' duration. The Governor-General's spouse invites the Head of Mission's spouse to accompany him to the morning room. Members of the suite remain in the drawing room with the personal staff and Protocol Branch officers.
Photographs are taken outside (weather permitting). After re-entering Government House, the Head of Mission and spouse take leave of the Governor-General and her spouse, and exit via the State Entrance.
The Head of Mission is conducted onto the lawn to a Saluting Point in front of the Guard of Honour, where a Royal Salute is given and the national anthem of the Head of Mission's country is played. The Head of Mission is invited to inspect the Guard of Honour and the Band. On completion of the inspection of the Guard of Honour, the Commander of the Guard will take leave of the Head of Mission - by coming to attention, saluting and raising his/her ceremonial sword. Having inspected the Guard of Honour and the Band, the Head of Mission acknowledges (with a simple nod of the head) the Band Master and the Guard Commander respectively. The national anthem is played again as the official vehicles leave Government House.
In the event of rain, aspects of the ceremony involving the Guard of Honour and the Band are modified.
Gifts are not exchanged.
The Chief of Protocol briefs all Heads of Missions-designate on the credentials ceremony during the introductory call. Protocol Branch has also commissioned a DVD showing the main features of the credentials ceremony which Heads of Mission are encouraged to view to assist with their preparations for the occasion.
The Governor-General hosts a reception for newly arrived Heads of Mission every few months.
2.7 Introductory calls
2.7.1 Portfolio Ministers and Secretary
After the Head of Mission has presented credentials, requests may be made to Protocol Branch for introductory calls on the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and for Trade, and the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Please note that while the Ministers and the Secretary may receive introductory calls, they do not do so as a matter of course. If a Head of Mission has instructions to raise substantive issues with either of the Ministers or the Secretary, a request for an appointment should be made through Protocol Branch.
2.7.2 Other Government Ministers, Departments and office holders
Heads of Mission should make their own arrangements to call on other Ministers of the Australian Government with whom they expect to have dealings. They may do the same with senior officials of other Government Departments subject to the normal rule that policy matters are conducted through, or with the knowledge of, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Article 41(2) of the VCDR).
Heads of Mission may also follow up directly with the following offices, if they wish:
- The Speaker of the House of Representatives
- The President of the Senate
- The Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
- The Leader of the Opposition
2.7.3 Prime Minister
It is not customary for Heads of Mission to make introductory or farewell calls on the Prime Minister. High Commissioners who present Letters of Introduction are, of course, an exception. If a Head of Mission has instructions during his posting to raise a substantive matter with the Prime Minister, an appointment should be requested through the International Division of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
2.7.4 States and Northern Territory
It is common practice for Heads of Mission to make official visits to State and Territory capitals early in their tour of duty. They arrange such visits directly, through the respective Premier's or Chief Minister's Department.
2.8 Absences - appointment of Chargé d'Affaires a.i./Acting High Commissioner
The nomination of a Chargé d'Affaires a.i. or Acting High Commissioner should be made as provided for in Article 19 of the VCDR. Where the nomination is made by the Head of Mission, a note to the Chief of Protocol will suffice. In circumstances where the Head of Mission is already absent from Australia and a Chargé d'Affaires a.i./Acting High Commissioner has to be nominated or replaced, advice should be provided by the relevant Foreign Ministry in a direct communication to the Chief of Protocol or through the Australian mission in the sending State.
The Chief of Protocol should be formally notified of the final departure of a Head of Mission. Advice is requested at least six weeks prior to the departure date in order to give notice to the Governor-General. Protocol Branch will seek a farewell call on the Governor-General. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs and for Trade, and the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade do not receive farewell calls as a matter of course. Requests for farewell calls on the Ministers or the Secretary should be made through Protocol Branch, but there should be no expectation that these can be arranged.
Heads of Mission are free to make farewell calls on other dignitaries, Ministers and officials by direct arrangement.
Farewell visits may be made to the States and Northern Territory. Arrangements for these should be made directly, as for introductory visits.
A senior Departmental representative will host a farewell lunch for the departing Head of Mission.
Departing Heads of Mission are welcome, but not obliged, to make a farewell call on the Chief of Protocol.
Final flight details should be provided to Protocol Branch by note verbale as soon as they are known. Protocol will advise the airport authorities in Canberra and the Department's State offices in order to provide airport facilitation.
As the departure of a Head of Mission is considered a private occasion, staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are not involved in airport farewells.
Protocol Branch should be notified by note verbale or letter of Chargé/Acting High Commissioner arrangements before the departure of the Head of Mission.
"Notification of Departure" forms should be completed for the Head of Mission and spouse and submitted to Protocol Branch with their diplomatic identity cards. The Head of Mission's Parliamentary Pass should be returned directly to the Parliament House Pass Office.
The following sections supplement the information provided above for resident Heads of Mission.
The Australian mission in the city of residence of the Head of Mission-designate will liaise between the Head of Mission-designate and Protocol Branch to fix a date for presentation of credentials. The Head of Mission-designate should show the Australian mission working copies of the letters of credence and recall as early as possible.
The Head of Mission-designate is asked to arrive in Canberra at least one working day before the date scheduled for the presentation of credentials. Before arrival in Australia, the Head of Mission-designate will receive a program that will include calls on the Chief of Protocol and relevant staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and other interlocutors as appropriate.
In order for a diplomatic identity card to be made, the Head of Mission-designate is asked to bring two passport size colour photographs when making the initial call on the Chief of Protocol.
Arrangements for meeting an incoming Head of Mission-designate are as given in Section 2.4 above, except that Protocol Branch will make arrangements to transport the Head of Mission-designate to the hotel.
A non-resident Head of Mission wishing to visit State and Territory capitals may do so under the arrangements set out in Section 2.7.4.
Apart from arrangements made for arrival and for presentation of credentials, a non-resident Head of Mission is responsible for organising his/her own transport requirements. Protocol Branch can provide details of car hire and taxi services in Canberra.
Non-resident Heads of Mission are not farewelled when they leave Canberra. Airport facilitation can, however, be arranged if they request this of Protocol Branch in advance.
A non-resident Head of Mission who makes working visits to Canberra during a term of appointment is provided, on request, with a suitable program by the relevant geographical area of the Department.