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Clarification: SMH Article of 2 May, ‘Empty embassies: Overseas diplomatic posts run virtually after 370 COVID-19 infections’

Correcting the record

DFAT seeks to clarify information in the article ‘Empty embassies: Overseas diplomatic posts run virtually after 370 staff COVID-19 infections’, which was published in Nine papers and online on 2 May.

The article’s headline and initial paragraphs imply that DFAT staff are no longer working in Australia’s ‘empty’ overseas posts. All 112 DFAT-managed overseas posts have continued to provide non-stop services to Australians throughout the pandemic. Such posts have been operated by DFAT and other Australian Government staff deployed overseas and working remotely in-country, where required to ensure staff health and wellbeing or to adhere to local government COVID-19 restrictions.

DFAT’s overseas network, which includes staff from other Australian Government departments, has a mandate to assist Australians requiring assistance overseas. COVID-19 has dramatically increased the consular workload with assistance provided to over 47,000 Australians overseas in 2020, compared to around 10,300 in 2019. Our network of embassies and consular posts continues to provide assistance to Australians in need, be it through normal consular channels, working directly with airlines to get Australians on flights, or through the Hardship Fund that was introduced on 2 September 2020.

Australian and Locally Engaged Staff remain on the ground, at the frontline and continue to do everything they can to help Australians overseas.

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