Skip to content
Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Departmental overview

Role and functions

The department is responsible for advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally. The department's staff in Canberra, in our state and territory offices and around the world work to achieve the department's three outcomes, outlined in our Portfolio Budget Statements 2011–12 and presented in Figure 3 on page 12:

  • the advancement of Australia's international strategic, security and economic interests including through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement on Australian Government foreign and trade policy priorities
  • the protection and welfare of Australians abroad and access to secure international travel documentation through timely and responsive travel advice and consular and passport services in Australia and overseas
  • a secure Australian Government presence overseas through the provision of security services and information and communications technology infrastructure, and the management of the Commonwealth's overseas owned estate.

To support the achievement of these outcomes in a challenging international environment, the department deployed its staff and other resources in a targeted and flexible manner (see Section 3 for more information).

Organisational structure

The Secretary and four deputy secretaries constitute the department's executive. Supported by the department's senior executive service, they manage the department and provide leadership on foreign and trade policy, consular and corporate issues. The executive shapes the values and culture of the department, promotes the highest professional standards of service to the Government and to Australia, and provides a fair and professionally rewarding working environment for staff.

The department's organisational structure is outlined in Figure 1. In Canberra, as at 30 June 2012, the department was made up of 14 divisions, the Australian Passport Office, the Overseas Property Office and Services, the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office and three stand-alone branches.

The department manages a network of 95 overseas posts (for more information see Appendix 12). Each overseas post is attached to a parent division in Canberra. In addition to headquarters in Canberra, the department maintains offices in all Australian state and territory capital cities. These offices provide consular and passport services to the Australian community and liaison services to state and territory governments and Australian business. We also maintain a Passport Office in Newcastle and a Liaison Office on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Details of our offices in Australia are provided inside the back cover of this report.

Photo of The Secretary and Deputy Secretaries of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (as at 30 June 2012).

The Secretary and Deputy Secretaries of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (as at 30 June 2012).
L-R (seated): Deputy Secretary, Mr Paul Grigson, the Secretary, Mr Dennis Richardson AO
L-R (standing): Deputy Secretaries Dr Heather Smith, Mr Bruce Gosper, Ms Gillian Bird
Photo: Norman Plant

The department also engages people overseas to act as honorary consuls. Honorary consuls provide consular assistance on behalf of the department to Australian travellers in locations where the Australian Government does not maintain other representation (see Appendix 12 for more information).

Policy Planning Branch

The Policy Planning Branch (PLB) encourages fresh, critical thinking on political, economic and strategic challenges for Australian international policy.

PLB produces strategic policy papers and briefs that identify emerging issues, assess international trends and their implications for Australia and propose policy options to advance and protect Australia's national interests and values.

It also produces speeches for the department's ministers, parliamentary secretaries and senior executive. In 2011–12, the branch drafted 118 speeches.

Both the policy planners and speechwriting unit collaborate with divisions, posts and other stakeholders in developing their work, but both also retain critical independence.

The branch tries to question policy assumptions and stimulate critical thinking. It liaises with Australia's wider foreign, economic and security policy community, both inside and outside of government.

PLB regularly invites external experts to present seminars on emerging foreign, trade and security policy issues.

Figure 1. Executive structure (as at 30 June 2012)

Figure 1. Executive structure (as at 30 June 2012)

Figure 2. Location of Australia-based staff

Figure 2. Location of Australia-based staff

Structure of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio

The foreign affairs and trade portfolio supports the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, the Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the conduct of Australia's foreign and trade policy.

Six agencies make up the portfolio:

  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • AusAID (Australian Agency for International Development)
  • Australian Trade Commission (Austrade)
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)
  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
  • Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC).

Figure 4 outlines the portfolio structure and each agency's outcomes.

NB: EFIC is not included for outcome reporting purposes in Figure 4 because it is covered by the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act).

Figure 3. Outcomes and programs framework 2011–12

Figure 3. Outcomes and programs framework 2011–12

Figure 4. Portfolio outcomes structure – Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio
as at 30 June  2012

Figure 4. Portfolio outcomes structure – Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio

 

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade