Through targeted public diplomacy and communication activities both in Australia and overseas, the department promoted Australia and the Government’s international policies.

This enhanced Australia’s influence, reputation and relationships overseas and assisted the Government to meet its foreign, trade and development policy priorities.

Our active engagement with the media contributed to informed coverage of Australia’s policies and programs and more accurate reporting of the department’s role in response to consular and humanitarian crises.

We handled 3,293 media queries from both Australian and international media and prepared 460 media releases and public statements for portfolio ministers and the department. Our missions also managed several thousand foreign media queries. We supported high-level overseas media visits, including APEC and COP 21, and crisis events, including Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The department managed five International Media Visits to Australia, comprising 45 journalists from 23 countries. The visits promoted economic and cultural links with Africa and Latin America, investment opportunities in northern Australia, policies and programs that support women’s empowerment, and Australia’s scientific research infrastructure, including the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project in Western Australia.

We provided high-quality communications to the public through our websites and digital media channels. We redesigned almost 100 overseas post websites and launched six new websites. We increased our social media presence by 25 per cent and drew on new platforms to engage with different audiences, for example using Periscope and YouTube to live stream events at our missions and in Canberra.

The department offered 2,031 new Australia Awards, with 87 per cent in the Indo–Pacific region, bringing the total number of students assisted under the program during the year to over 7,000.

We led the development of the Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy that commits the Australian Government to working collaboratively with tertiary institutions to foster a global alumni community that continues connections with Australia.

The department’s foundations, councils and institutes advanced Australia’s foreign relations, including through 244 grants that deepened economic, cultural, science, sport and education linkages internationally. Our Direct Aid Program funded 880 projects in 120 countries.

We capitalised on Australia’s sporting reputation, drawing on the sports industry to leverage diplomatic, development and economic opportunities. We delivered sports for development programs in the Pacific and launched initiatives in Asia, with 16 national sports organisations now delivering projects in 17 countries.

We promoted awareness of Australian society and values through cultural diplomacy programs including the International Cultural Visits program, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program, the Visual Arts program and a strengthened focus on creative industries (Fashion and Design program). We are developing a science diplomacy strategy to promote Australia’s science, research and innovation capabilities and assets.

We delivered cultural activities at 93 posts. The Australia now focus country program in Brazil highlighted Australia’s creative and innovation excellence with over 100 events in 11 cities.

These programs strengthened links between Australian cultural leaders and institutions and their partners internationally, and expanded audience and markets for Australian artistic work and creative products, including in key
Indo–Pacific markets.


Building personal networks and institutional links to enhance Australia’s influence, reputation and relationships internationally and promote Australia's economic, cultural, educational, scientific and other national assets

the Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy

Case Study
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and former Tourism and International Education Minister Richard Colbeck attending the launch of the Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy in Launceston. [DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING/Chris Crerar]
Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop (centre front) and former Minister for Tourism and International Education Senator Richard Colbeck (centre back), with Australia global alumni and Australia Awards scholars, launch of the Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy, Australian Maritime College, University of Tasmania, Launceston, 30 April 2016. [DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING/Chris Crerar]

the Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy

In 2015–16, the department led the development of the Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy in partnership with the Department of Education and Training, Austrade, Australian universities and other education institutions as part of our efforts to build personal networks and institutional links to enhance Australia’s influence.

Launched on 30 April 2016 by Foreign Minister Bishop, the strategy marks a new approach for the department to public diplomacy by engaging our global alumni community to promote Australia and advance our national interests, especially in the Indo–Pacific region.

In the last fifty years, more than 2.5 million international students have studied in Australia. These students, and the Australians who study overseas including through the New Colombo Plan, make up Australia’s global alumni community.

We will leverage the prestige, access and reach of the diplomatic network to connect, mobilise and celebrate Australia’s global alumni community.

We developed a suite of e-diplomacy initiatives to support the strategy, including the Australia Global Alumni website, Twitter handle and LinkedIn presence. Since the launch of the strategy, the website has received nearly 4,000 hits from 134 countries and over 3,000 alumni have created accounts. The LinkedIn account has almost 4,000 followers.

A new partnership between the department and ABC International will see an alumni profile series screened on Australia Plus over the next two years. The series, Australian by Degree, celebrates the successes of Australian alumni and shows how an Australian education is helping alumni contribute to nation-building and development both in their own countries and across the region.

The alumni community has supported our diplomatic and development role in the region. To build on this, the department invited 12 alumni ambassadors to work with our diplomatic missions to grow Australia’s alumni community, raise the profile of our world class education system and strengthen ties between Australia and the globe.

Broadening knowledge and understanding within the Australian community and globally of the Government’s international policies and programs and the department’s role

International Media Visit to northern Australia

Case Study
Indonesian journalist Rista Rama Dhany visiting the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University in Cairns. [DFAT/Stacey Leigh Walker]
Indonesian journalist Rista Rama Dhany learns about the fight against dengue fever during a visit to the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University, Cairns, 12 November 2015. [DFAT/Stacey Leigh Walker]

International Media Visit to northern Australia

In November 2015, the department organised an international media visit to broaden knowledge in our region of investment opportunities in northern Australia and promote the Government’s business initiatives.

The week-long visit exposed journalists from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore and United Kingdom to Australia’s capabilities in the gas and petroleum industries, opportunities in infrastructure, expertise in agribusiness and aquaculture, and our rich Indigenous culture.

Centered on the Northern Australia Investment Forum in Darwin, we showcased an array of successful investments and emerging opportunities across the top of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. The journalists met federal and state ministers and business representatives, as well as foreign investors from Landbridge (China), Shanghai Zhongfu (China), POSCO Research Institute (Republic of Korea), Adani (India) and Singapore Power.

We used the diversity and scale of opportunities across the three states to promote Australia’s open and resilient economy and competitive investment environment. We generated positive and informed foreign media coverage and showed how, by raising international awareness of the reforms and opportunities set out in the Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, we can help promote domestic policy priorities, such as the long-term growth strategy in the north.

Following the visit, Indian journalist Dheeraj Tiwari wrote an Economic Times article highlighting former Trade and Investment Minister Robb’s optimism about signing a free trade agreement with India and investment opportunities in the food and agribusiness sector. Singaporean journalist Marissa Lee published a Straits Times story promoting Australia’s investment in services to simplify regulatory approval obligations. Korean journalist Kyumin Choi published a Chosun Ilbo feature on Australia’s tropical medicine expertise in the fight against dengue fever, and Japanese journalist Yasuhiko Ota from Nikkei showcased some of Australia’s best cultural experiences through Twitter posts.

Media, websites and social media


As more communication takes place online, the department has lifted efforts to inform and engage with audiences and make our views known. We expanded our digital media communications to better reach the general public, partners and stakeholders. In 2015–16, the department reviewed the quantity and quality of responses to media enquiries and the number of visits to our various websites. We also commissioned an external audit of departmental social media accounts.

Consular matters were the subject of over half of all our media queries. High-profile cases and crisis events generated strong interest as did significant developments in bilateral FTAs and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We worked with internal and external clients to develop high-quality media and communications products to deliver targeted and timely responses and messaging.

Our website (dfat.gov.au) is 20th in federal government website rankings receiving over 4.5 million users and 17.6 million page views in 2015–16. Around 35 per cent of traffic to the site came from overseas. Most users were from Australia (64 per cent) followed by the United States (4.6 per cent), Indonesia (2.37 per cent), India (1.92 per cent) and the United Kingdom (1.73 per cent).

Together, the department’s global network of nearly 100 websites reached over 9.9 million users and had over 35.2 million page views. Australia’s embassy in Beijing had the most website visits with over 6.6 million page views.

At 30 June 2016, we maintained 174 social media accounts across 84 countries, an increase of approximately 25 per cent over last year. Across all our accounts, we had almost 196,000 total Twitter followers and over 1.6 million Facebook page likes. Our range of platforms grew to include seven Instagram accounts, a SoundCloud account operated by our Seoul post, and an official blog by our High Commissioner to New Zealand.

Public diplomacy


Following the results of commissioned research into public perceptions and soft power, we refreshed the department’s Public Diplomacy Strategy 2014–16 to include strengthened messages promoting Australia’s creativity, robust economy, capacity for innovation, and contribution to the global community.

While the overarching goals and objectives of the strategy remain in effect for three years, an annual review ensures we can reflect new government policies and respond to emerging opportunities which advance Australia’s international policy agenda. The updated strategy is approved annually by the departmental executive.

Posts develop public diplomacy proposals aligned with the strategy and tailored to local context each year and also report on past activities.

We commenced early work on a new monitoring and evaluation framework which acknowledges the challenges in measuring public diplomacy impact. The proposed framework will provide a practical, streamlined and proportionate basis for assessing performance of activities, noting the relatively small amounts of funding involved. For example, 71 per cent of posts have public diplomacy budgets of less than $26,000.

The proposed monitoring and evaluation framework will be available for staff consultation in 2016–17. Proposed metrics include audience reach through social media and attendance at events, as well as reputational indicators such as Australia’s ranking in surveys conducted by Portland Soft Power 30, Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index and Good Country Index.

We will apply the framework, initially, to selected programs. Measurement efforts will be commensurate with the size of programs and will consider resource and other impacts on posts.

Analysis and outlook

In today’s increasingly complex and information-rich global environment, there are more players seeking to influence foreign, trade and development policies and outcomes. As a result, the power to influence opinion and shape perceptions through public diplomacy has become an essential component of Australia’s foreign policy and will remain a key ongoing area of our work.

The department’s delivery of effective public diplomacy initiatives was enhanced by the continued implementation of a long-term Public Diplomacy Strategy. This provided a clear framework for the department, overseas posts, and foundations, councils and institutes, and ensured better strategic alignment between public diplomacy programs and policy outcomes. The quality of programming and demand for funding increased across the department, reflecting a growing recognition of the value of public diplomacy as a tool for advancing our policy priorities.

We continued to professionalise the public diplomacy capabilities of departmental staff with the delivery of seven regional training events, covering 70 per cent of our posts, and the launch of a public diplomacy handbook.

The department responded to a changing media environment by strengthening our digital capabilities and expanding social media use to improve our communications and public engagement.

Following aid budget reductions, we limited the intake of Australia Awards scholarships and deferred intake of the Australia Awards fellowships program. We completed the selection process for Australia Awards fellowships commencing from July 2016.

In 2016–17, we will improve our services and focus on outcomes that help engage the public and enhance Australia’s international reputation. We will update the Public Diplomacy Strategy for the following three years, including to incorporate science diplomacy and an emphasis on creative industries. We will also implement the department’s digital strategy, launch additional social media channels, and progress the Australia Awards Global Alumni Strategy.

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