Annual Report 2003-2004

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 3 > Output 3.1 > 3.1.2 Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

OUTPUT 3.1: Public information services and public diplomacy

3.1.2 Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

On this page: Overview :: International public diplomacy :: Public affairs material :: Special visits program :: International media visitors :: Cultural visitors :: Promotion of Australia through our cultural assets :: Bilateral engagement: creating people-to-people links :: Direct Aid Program :: ABC Asia Pacific satellite television service


The department strengthened its extensive public diplomacy efforts, providing new tools to overseas posts and divisions to help them promote Australia internationally. The tools included:

Extensive international media reporting of Australia during the year covered Australia's position on Iraq, regional cooperation on security and counter-terrorism issues, Australia's role in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Australia's strong economic performance, the free trade agreements with the United States and Thailand, and the simultaneous visits to Australia of the Presidents of the United States and China. There was consistently positive media coverage of our posts' promotion of Australian arts, culture, education, investment, technology and tourism. We responded to some critical coverage on, for example, Australian travel advisories. Reporting on people smuggling, asylum policies and immigration issues continued to decline.

Close monitoring of international reporting on Australia enabled the department to respond quickly through targeted public affairs material and our websites, and to counter media or public misconceptions. Our posts responded to negative or inaccurate international reporting on the maritime boundary negotiations with East Timor, the Redfern riots in February 2004, the Government's immigration and asylum policies, the fire-bombing of Chinese restaurants in Perth in February 2004, kangaroo culling and other issues involving animal welfare and livestock exports, including the MV Cormo Express incident.

The department supported public advocacy of the Government's active policy approach in the Pacific region, securing widespread coverage of an interview with the Prime Minister.

Photo - See caption below for description
“Travel, Work, Discover” – a banner on the façade of the Australian Embassy in Paris promoted the new Working Holiday Program agreed between Australia and France in November 2003.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

International public diplomacy

Our posts overseas conducted 3400 public diplomacy briefings, events and initiatives over the year (attended by more than one million people) to promote Australia's foreign and trade policy interests, to foster an accurate and contemporary view of Australia and to dispel stereotyped or dated images of Australia.

We introduced a number of initiatives to improve the effectiveness of our public diplomacy activities overseas. These included:

Public affairs material

We continued to use the internet as our major platform for distributing international public affairs material, but also produced some hard-copy publications for direct distribution to target audiences overseas. These included special 'one-off' publications to mark specific events and foreign language versions of our reference booklet, Australia in brief, and Australia Now fact sheets.

This material was distributed with key messages, talking points and background information on specific issues to international media representatives and other key target groups to contribute to an increased understanding of Australia's perspectives and to lead to more balanced and accurate international reporting.

Initiatives over the year included:

Special visits program

The Special Visits Program (SVP) is the department's premier visits program. It is targeted at bringing to Australia influential individuals who can—on their return home—contribute to a greater understanding of Australia's policies and institutions. The SVP allows the department to build a valuable long-term network of international contacts likely to be in positions that deal with issues of direct relevance to Australia's interests. The department organised 28 visits this year, including:

International media visitors

The department's International Media Visits (IMV) program, which provides for targeted working visits by senior international journalists and commentators, generated significant international media coverage in support of Australia's foreign and trade policy objectives.

A total of 41 overseas media representatives were assisted to visit Australia under the IMV program. They came from Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, China, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

These visits generated positive reporting in influential media outlets on subjects such as Australia's innovation and scientific achievements; the continuing strong performance and resilience of the Australian economy; Australia's strengths as an international investment destination; Australia's agricultural trade liberalisation policy, particularly in the WTO; the benefits of the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA); and Australia's strong level of engagement with the Asia–Pacific region.

Feedback on the IMV program from participants, our overseas posts and external clients has been uniformly positive.

Highlights for the year included:

The department's International Media Centre in Sydney also provided resident and foreign media with background information, briefings, advice and logistics support to help them report accurately on Australia.

Cultural visitors

The Cultural Awards Scheme (CAS) continues to be a successful and important visit program for the department. The program sponsors visits to Australia by cultural journalists, festival organisers, gallery and museum directors, performing arts administrators and artists.

During 2003–04, 14 visitors from 13 countries visited Australia under this program. Several of these visits were planned in cooperation with key partners, including the Sydney Biennale, the Australia Council and the Australian Film Commission. CAS participants praised the organisation and value of the visits in providing them with accurate, contemporary perceptions of Australia.

Participants during the year included: directors of leading art galleries, such as Vincent Tidoli, Director of Tate Modern (London); directors of international arts festivals, such as Jaime Suarez, Programming Director of Mexico's Cervantino Festival; museum directors, including Mohammad Kargar, Director of the National Museum of Iran; arts media representatives; chief curators; and opinion makers. While in Australia, CAS visitors met with leaders in the Australian cultural community, previewed touring productions, profiled individual arts practitioners and participated in Australia's major arts festivals.

The Cultural Awards Scheme also supported the international delegates programs for the inaugural Australian Contemporary Music Market held in Brisbane in July 2003 and the Australian Performing Arts Market held in Adelaide in February 2004. Both programs provided CAS visitors with a snapshot of contemporary export-ready Australian performing arts.

Promotion of Australia through our cultural assets

The department continued to use art and culture as a platform for projecting a positive and contemporary image of Australia internationally.

Australia International Cultural Council

The Australia International Cultural Council (AICC) is the peak consultative group for the promotion of Australian culture overseas. It is also the department's primary vehicle for delivering high-quality events overseas, aimed at projecting a positive image of Australia, advancing foreign and trade policy interests, and promoting the export of Australian cultural products. Chaired by Mr Downer, the AICC comprises senior figures from the arts community, business and government arts agencies. The department provides the AICC secretariat and plays a lead role in delivering AICC programs, particularly through our network of overseas posts. We work closely with the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australian Film Commission, both of which are represented on the AICC. In July 2003, a new Council was appointed to develop the AICC's forward program to 2010.

AICC promotions during the year included the Ancient future—Australian arts, Japan 03 promotion in Tokyo, a continuation of the successful Embassy Roadshow series of Australian film mini-festivals, and the development of OzArts Online, an interactive service to promote Australian art overseas. The AICC also made a significant contribution to the G'Day LA, Australia Week 2004 in Los Angeles, funded cultural events to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Australia's dialogue partnership with ASEAN, and supported the participation of The Tankstream Quartet at events in Denmark to celebrate the marriage of the Crown Prince and Ms Mary Donaldson.

Supporting Australian artists overseas

The department complemented the work of the AICC through the Cultural Relations Discretionary Grants (CRDG) program, which provides seed funding to help high-quality Australian artists and companies take their work overseas. The objective of the program is to project abroad an image of a creative, sophisticated, diverse and technologically advanced Australia in support of the Government's key foreign and trade policy objectives.

During 2003–04, the CRDG program provided funding for 22 projects in China, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Funding was provided to a diverse range of arts companies and organisations, including music, dance, theatre, visual arts and craft, physical theatre and circus. Organisations assisted under the program included Australian contemporary dance company Expressions, which performed at the Festival de Mexico en el Centro Historico, Mexico City; ModernWhite, a contemporary design company which was helped to exhibit at Stilwerk, Germany; and Back2Back Theatre Group, which toured to Switzerland and Germany.

Artists participating in the program represented the diversity of the Australian community. They included people with intellectual disabilities, youth, multicultural and Indigenous representatives, reinforcing Australia's reputation as a tolerant, multicultural society. CRDG projects also helped facilitate direct links between Australia's arts and culture industries and overseas markets, helping promote Australia's cultural exports.

The department also funded the Australian Visual Arts Touring Program and Fine Music Touring Program, which aim to project a positive image of contemporary Australian cultural excellence and diversity through the presentation of high-quality Australian visual art and music in South and South-East Asia.

Indigenous Australian culture

The department's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program projects a positive image of contemporary Indigenous peoples and cultures in Australia internationally through a range of cultural and other programs.

The program produced and launched a major touring exhibition of photographs—Kickin' up dust—depicting four Indigenous cultural festivals. The department worked closely with the Yothu Yindi Foundation, Goolarri Media Association, Torres Shire Council, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and Canberra-based company Liquid SPA to produce the exhibition which celebrates the diversity and dynamism of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

This and the department's other touring exhibitions—Kiripuranji (artwork and objects from the Tiwi Islands) and Seasons of the Kunwinjku (paintings and photographs from Arnhem Land) were shown in more than 18 major cities in 15 countries in South-East Asia, North Asia, Europe and North America.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program encourages posts to use the exhibitions to support their foreign and trade policy objectives. For example, our post in Geneva presented the Seasons of the Kunwinjku exhibition to celebrate Australia's presidency of the Commission of Human Rights. In Los Angeles, the Kickin' up Dust exhibition was used to support the post's G'Day LA Australia Week event held in January 2004.

Embassy Film Roadshow

The department continued to support the Embassy roadshow—a film initiative funded by the AICC and co-managed by the department and the Australian Film Commission. The program aims to project a contemporary image of Australia and to promote the Australian film industry through a series of stand-alone Australian film mini-festivals. It has proven to be a low-cost, highly effective public diplomacy tool, with posts reporting a strong demand for the films from overseas audiences. There were ten new films added to the collection in the past year, including the Academy Award-winning short film, Harvie Krumpet. Posts in 20 countries and 24 cities hosted Embassy roadshow film festivals in 2003–04.

Sports diplomacy

In conjunction with the Australian Sports Commission, the department continued to oversee the Australia South Pacific Sports Program 2006 (ASP 2006), a program which has provided sports development assistance in 14 countries in the South Pacific since 2001. The program enjoys considerable support in the region.

Bilateral engagement: creating people-to-people links

Bilateral foundations, councils and institutes work with businesses and community groups to facilitate people-to-people links. Through their activities, they also promote a positive, accurate and contemporary image of Australia internationally. The department provides the secretariats for these bodies.

Australia–China Council

The Australia–China Council (ACC) funded a range of educational and cultural programs aimed at expanding people-to-people contacts and underpinning the further development of bilateral relations. The Council's major programs provided a number of scholarships for young Australians to study in China and promoted Australian studies in China. The ACC continued to provide support for the maintenance of the Shanghai Library's Australian Collection.

The ACC's Year in China program (formerly Young Scholars program) provided five Australian secondary school graduates with the opportunity to spend a year at Liaoning University in Shenyang. We moved the program from Beijing to allow for greater contact with various Chinese communities. In a further expansion of its successful Beijing and Taipei Residency programs, the Council offered the first Hong Kong and Shanghai Residencies. With these extra residencies, an additional twelve residencies were able to be granted in 2003–04 for individuals to undertake a range of projects, from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) research to collaborative academic work to a variety of artistic pursuits. The continuing exchange with the Taipei Artist Village saw two Taiwanese artists visit Australia.

Australia–India Council

The Australia–India Council (AIC) continued to promote collaboration between Australia and India in support of Australia's foreign and trade policy interests. Through its program, the AIC promoted a greater understanding and appreciation in India of Australia as a sophisticated and dynamic country. The AIC also sought to engender greater awareness and appreciation of India in Australia. Key AIC activities to promote these aims included teacher and media exchanges, visiting fellowships, artists-in-residency, development of an 'understanding Australia' website in Hindi, academic conferences, including a security round table and a conservation and heritage preservation workshop. The AIC-sponsored Border–Gavaskar Cricket scholarship program provided specialist coaching to young Indian cricketers at the Australian Cricket Academy.

Australia–Indonesia Institute

The Australia–Indonesia Institute (AII) initiated and supported a range of activities which expanded and strengthened people-to-people contacts between Australia and Indonesia. The AII continued efforts to promote greater mutual religious understanding between Australia and Indonesia by supporting visits to each country by prominent Muslim community leaders to better inform perceptions of Islam in Australia and Indonesia. The AIA also negotiated a new training program in Australia for Indonesian teachers at Islamic higher education institutions in order to strengthen mainstream Islamic education in Indonesia.

The AII increased understanding and encouraged more sophisticated reporting on Indonesia in the Australian media by hosting a visit to Indonesia by nine senior Australian media editors. It assisted an expansion of the study of Australia in Indonesian universities through support for the establishment of an Australian Studies Network. The AII's support for successful exchanges and visits by students, teachers and arts performers broadened contact between young Australians and Indonesians and opened the way to improved knowledge about each other's culture and society.

Australia–Japan Foundation

The Australia–Japan Foundation (AJF) is a statutory body and FMA agency, and is therefore required to submit its own annual report to Parliament. The AJF's annual report contains a detailed account of its activities over the year.

Australia–Korea Foundation

The Australia–Korea Foundation (AKF) continued to play an important part in the Government's efforts to broaden and deepen relations with the Republic of Korea.

The AKF's Investigating Australia study kit was updated and upgraded. The bilingual kit was made available in CD-ROM format and on the Internet at In October 2003 the revised kit was distributed to 3000 Middle Schools in the ROK. In January 2004 the kit was demonstrated to teacher groups and textbook authors, with a view to incorporating it into the ROK schools' curriculum.

During the second half of 2003, the AKF exhibited at seven regional art centres in the ROK historically significant photographs of Korea taken by Australian photographer, George Rose in 1904. In 2004 the AKF produced a high-quality book of the Rose photographs, 1904 Korea through Australian eyes. The book received wide media coverage in the ROK and co-publisher, Korean book company Kyobo, advised that the Rose book was at one stage number four on its 'best seller' list.

Following the May 2003 Australia–Korea Broadband Summit, the AKF identified 'e-health'—the use of emerging technologies, especially the Internet, to improve or enable health and health care—as an area capable of broadening and deepening the Australia–Korea relationship. Throughout 2003–04, AKF Board member Professor Mike Miller conducted a feasibility study and enlisted the Samsung Medical Centre, Seoul National University Hospital, Samsung Electronics and the Korean Ministry of Information and Commerce as partners in collaborative 'e-health' trials scheduled to begin in 2004–05.

Council on Australia Latin America Relations

The department supported the Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) as a vehicle to promote Australian commercial, educational and cultural interests in Latin America. In addition to trade-related activities, COALAR hosted a Latin American student seminar to increase awareness of the benefits of studying in Australia. The council adopted a cultural strategy to better promote Australian art and culture in Latin America, sponsored visits to Australia by Latin American journalists and identified additional priorities for its second term, including tourism. Following the success of its first term in which Council activities helped raise Australia's profile in Latin America, the Government renewed COALAR for a further three years. The department will continue to provide administrative support for the council.

Council for Australian–Arab Relations

In the relatively short time since it was established in December 2002, the Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR) has begun to implement a broad and innovative program of work in support of its mandate to strengthen Australian–Arab relations. In 2003–04, the Council funded the visits of two Australian journalists to a number of Arab countries to explore their various links to Australia. It initiated a business speakers' program and the Young Professionals Exchange Program, designed to give young Arab and Australian business people and university students the chance to pursue individually tailored learning opportunities in Australia and selected Arab countries. In 2003–04, CAAR also decided to develop a teachers' resource kit on Australia for use in Arab schools, initially in Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar.

Photo - See caption below for description
Australian Ambassador to Argentina, Sharyn Minahan, visited a bakery on the outskirts of Asunción, Paraguay, which received funding under the department’s direct aid program to buy industrial baking equipment.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

Direct Aid Program

In 2003–04, the department dispersed $3 526 000 in Direct Aid Program (DAP) funds, through 45 posts, to projects in over 70 countries. The DAP is a flexible small grants scheme which aims to tackle humanitarian hardship while supporting the Government's international relations and public diplomacy goals. The diversity and scope of the projects funded can be seen from the following examples:

ABC Asia Pacific satellite television service

Now in its third year of operation, the ABC Asia Pacific (ABCAP) satellite television service made significant strides in expanding and strengthening its service in 2003–04. The service is funded by the Government under contractual arrangements managed by the department. ABCAP is now available in 33 countries in the region on more than 150 broadcasting platforms. The service is available in approximately 6.5 million homes and is conservatively estimated to be available in over 150 000 hotel rooms.

The service has strengthened its programming significantly over the past year. It operates 24 hours a day with 60 to 70 per cent of programs produced in Australia. Twenty-five per cent of programming is news and current affairs, with ABCAP-commissioned programs dominating the line-up. Audience research and feedback has confirmed that ABCAP's program mix provides its competitive advantage in a crowded regional TV market. In addition to regionally focused news and current affairs, the service also broadcasts educational and children's programs, lifestyle, drama, sports and general entertainment.

Access to ABCAP's website has also grown quickly, recording almost 120 000 page-views per week (up from 50 000 in October 2003).

ABCAP continued to help the department broadcast community awareness announcements for the benefit of Australians living and working throughout the Asia–Pacific region. In addition to broadcasting a travel warning message on-screen in the aftermath of the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta in August 2003, ABCAP also screened the smartraveller campaign promoting the department's travel advisory service, and advice on the new M-series Australian passport launched in December 2003.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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