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Protocol Guidelines

3. Diplomatic missions, consular posts and other representative offices

All diplomatic missions in Australia are located in Canberra, the national capital and seat of the federal government. Diplomatic missions cannot have 'branches' outside Canberra; their accredited staff must reside in Canberra. Diplomatic staff may perform consular functions throughout Australia, regardless of the existence of any consular post or its jurisdiction.

In certain circumstances, the Department will consider proposals by missions to co-locate their official premises, on the understanding that physical co-location in no way indicates that the missions concerned are less than independent offices with their own identities, agendas and operations. Co-location does not connote joint or mutual or shared representation.

All consular posts are located in major centres – usually capital cities (outside the Australian Capital Territory). There are no consular posts in Canberra. Consular posts are headed and staffed either by career consular officers or by honorary consuls, but not a combination.

The size of missions and posts should be kept within reasonable and normal limits, having regard to their operational needs.

Several agencies of the United Nations and other international organisations maintain offices in Canberra and other Australian capital cities. The status of these offices and their staff derive from sources other than the Vienna Conventions. Nevertheless, much of the advice in these guidelines applies equally to them.

3.1 Diplomatic missions

The establishment of a diplomatic mission in Canberra requires the prior approval of the Australian Government. The sending state should provide a note verbale detailing the reasons for opening a mission, its intended main functions and activities, proposed timing for opening and an indication of the number and level of staff to be assigned. The sending state may request agrément for a head of mission when seeking approval for the mission's establishment, or later. Once approval has been granted, Protocol Branch will liaise with the authorities of the sending state on the practical issues involved.

If a sending state wishes to send a reconnaissance team to Canberra for research and discussion before making a formal request to establish a mission, Protocol Branch can assist with advice and contacts.

The following designations are used for staff of diplomatic missions:

  • Ambassador/High Commissioner
  • Chargé d'Affaires
  • Chargé d'Affaires a.i./Acting High Commissioner
  • Minister/Minister-Counsellor/Counsellor
  • Deputy High Commissioner
  • First/Second/Third Secretary
  • Attaché
  • Defence Attaché (for non-Commonwealth countries)/Defence Adviser (Commonwealth countries).

3.2 Consular posts

The establishment of a new consular post in Australia – whether staffed by career or honorary consular officers – requires the prior consent of the Australian Government, which must give its approval of the location, classification and jurisdiction. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, jurisdiction should cover states/territories in their entirety; and only one post per state/territory will be approved. The process of establishing a new consulate can take up to three months.

The sending state must provide a note verbale detailing the reasons for opening a post; the functions to be performed, for example issuing passports and visas, notarial acts and consular assistance; expected caseload; proposed staffing arrangements and jurisdiction. For new posts to be headed by career consuls, acceptance of the head of post and other staff is managed through the visa and accreditation processes outlined in chapter 4.

From August 2023, the Australian Government does not accept new appointments with the title ‘Honorary Consul-General’ or the promotion of ‘Honorary Consul’ to ‘Honorary Consul-General’.  Officials currently accredited as Honorary Consuls-General may keep the title until the end of their tenure.

Consular designations include:

  • Consul-General
  • Deputy Consul-General
  • Consul/Honorary Consul
  • Vice-Consul/Honorary Vice-Consul.

3.2.1 Posts headed by Honorary Consuls

For posts to be headed by honorary consuls, the note verbale (see above) must also specify the location of the office; the telephone and email details of the honorary consul; and proposed business hours. Approval for the honorary consul may be requested at the same time (see below).

3.2.2 Honorary consul nominations

Before an honorary consul nomination can be approved, Protocol Branch liaises with the police and other authorities in each state or territory encompassed by the consular district to ensure that they have no objections to the proposed appointment.

Honorary consul nominees must:

  • be Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • be of good character
  • enjoy a good reputation in the local community
  • be able to communicate and maintain good relations with the authorities in the consular district
  • reside in a major centre (preferably a capital city) in the consular district
  • be readily available to provide routine services to consular clients and accessible at all times to deal with emergencies.

To minimise the possibility of a conflict of interest, either real or perceived, the appointment of Federal or State/Territory Government office holders as honorary consuls is not considered appropriate.

The sending state must include all of the following with the nomination:

  • a full curriculum vitae for the nominee;
  • the nominee's contact details;
  • a National Police Check (NPC) Application form to be requested from Protocol Branch, completed and signed by the nominee (NOT a Police Certificate);
  • a certified copy of the personal data pages of the nominee's passport; and
  • a certified copy of the nominee's driver licence.

After the nomination of an honorary consul is approved, Protocol Branch will advise the sending government by note verbale and will follow up regarding accreditation procedures. Honorary consuls appointed as heads of post will be issued with an exequatur authorising them to perform consular functions.

When an honorary consul's position becomes vacant, Protocol Branch allows up to two years for a successor to be nominated and accredited. If the position remains vacant after two years, the post is deemed closed.

Any changes to the location or business hours of the post must be conveyed to Protocol Branch.

More information for honorary consuls can be found in the Honorary Consul Guidelines.

3.2.3 Support for honorary consuls

Honorary consuls may receive administrative support from persons in their office or home.  However, such persons are not accredited, are not empowered to perform substantive consular functions, and have no immunities or privileges.  Honorary consuls cannot appoint a delegate, deputise, or ask other persons to perform substantive consular functions on their behalf.

3.3 International organisations

Arrangements for UN and other international organisations and their staff vary according to the terms on which the office has been established. In all cases, however, the nomination of staff must be made from headquarters, not by the local office.

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