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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

Program management (public information services and public diplomacy)

1.1.13 Public information services and public diplomacy

Overview

The department supported Australia's foreign and trade policy priorities through public diplomacy to help shape positive international perceptions of contemporary Australia. In addition to a focus on overseas audiences, our Public Diplomacy Strategy for 2011–12 included a renewed emphasis on domestic advocacy to engage stakeholders across the Australian community, arts, business, education, science and media sectors in support of our international objectives.

The Australia–Korea Year of Friendship highlighted the 50th anniversary of one of Australia's most significant bilateral relationships. The department's advocacy and targeted media visits supported Australia's campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council as well as Australia's successful bid to co-host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project.

We enhanced our online presence by building on our existing YouTube and Twitter profiles to establish Facebook pages for a select range of posts, upgrading the smartraveller and post websites enabling access to public diplomacy material on the department's main website. Our engagement with the media in Australia and overseas helped promote accurate and balanced reporting of the Government's foreign and trade policies and achievements.

We continued to prepare publications on Australian diplomatic history, including a new work on Australia and the United Nations.

The department continued to revise internal procedures to ensure compliance with reforms to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Amendment (Reform) Act 2010. There has been a major increase in FOI applications, following the November 2010 reforms.

The Australia Awards Board worked to establish a single recognisable brand, developed a consolidated alumni database and strategy, and started to investigate partnerships with business, industry and universities to enhance opportunities for Australia Award scholars.

International public diplomacy

Consistent with our Public Diplomacy Strategy for 2011–12, the department's efforts focused on supporting Australia's relations with major strategic trading partners, including the United States, Japan, China, India, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and key ASEAN countries.

Through the Australia International Cultural Council (AICC), the department coordinated a joint Year of Friendship with the ROK in 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. This program successfully highlighted one of Australia's most significant bilateral relationships, with dynamic media, arts and cultural interactions profiling contemporary Australia and supporting the development of partnerships in a range of public diplomacy activities.

Highlights of this whole-of-government Australian promotion included the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's inaugural tour to the ROK, which delivered a sell-out performance and an outreach program for young musicians at Seoul National University. Australia's strong presence at the Korea International Art Fair, as guest country for the Fair's tenth anniversary, was coordinated by the Australian Commercial Galleries Association with performances by Back to Back Theatre and contemporary circus company, Circa, at the Seoul Performing Arts Festival. Separately, Australia's engagement in the 2012 International Expo in Yeosu, the Republic of Korea, showcased Australia's strengths in sustainable management of oceans and the coastline.

Photo of The Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Dr Emerson, opens the Australian Pavilion at Expo 2012, Yeosu, in May 2012, with Mr Kevin Nixon, Head, Yeosu Expo 2012 Secretariat, (L), Australia's Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Mr Sam Gerovich, (at back) and Australian Pavilion Goodwill Ambassadors (L-R) Ms Jessica Mauboy, Ms Yeojin Bae, and Ms Jessica Gomes.

The Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Dr Emerson, opens the Australian Pavilion at Expo 2012, Yeosu, in May 2012, with Mr Kevin Nixon, Head, Yeosu Expo 2012 Secretariat, (L), Australia's Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Mr Sam Gerovich, (at back) and Australian Pavilion Goodwill Ambassadors (L-R) Ms Jessica Mauboy, Ms Yeojin Bae, and Ms Jessica Gomes.

We supported Washington embassy's series of public diplomacy activities to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty. In Japan, we participated in initiatives to support recovery following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, including a 'recovery market' held in the town of Minami Sanriku, and support for school visits from disaster-affected areas to Australia. We also supported the reconstruction of Australia House, a base for cultural exchange, artist-in-residence programs and art exhibitions in Japan's Echigo-Tsumari region, which had collapsed in a powerful aftershock in March 2011.

The AICC grants program included a range of activities that followed from Imagine Australia, the Year of Australian Culture in China in 2010–11. We partnered with Musica Viva and Asialink to present performances, exhibitions and workshops across Asia, including in India, Bangladesh, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. We advanced preparations for Oz Fest, a major Australian cultural diplomacy program in India in 2012–13.

We increased our focus on science diplomacy, organising visits by eminent Australian scientists to China, India and the Philippines. With the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, the department's sustained advocacy and media engagement contributed to Australia's success in securing the right to co-host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope project.

Personal Profile:

Emily Hill

Prior to joining the graduate trainee program in 2011, Emily gained experience working in the Domestic Legal and Middle East Branches, as well as the Sydney Passports Office as an Indigenous Cadet.

Emily currently works in the Human Rights and Indigenous Issues Section, with primary responsibility for gender and Indigenous issues. She prepares statements and advice on these issues for Australia's participation in United Nations forums, including the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly, and, in consultation with the Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, helps to implement the department's obligations under the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012–18. Emily is also engaged in Australia's reporting under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

In May 2012, Emily undertook a short term mission as Assistant Commissioner to the Australian Pavilion at the International Expo – Yeosu, Republic of Korea. At the Yeosu Expo, Emily was involved in coordinating celebrations for Australia's National Day, including co-hosting Australia's cultural performances and hosting ministerial and business delegations in the Australian Pavilion.

Photo of Emily Hill

"I was grateful and proud to have been given the opportunity to represent Australia at the Yeosu Expo. The Expo enabled Australia to showcase our unique and diverse country and its assets – in line with the Expo's theme – 'The Living Ocean and Coast'. The experience I gained at the Expo developed my management and analytical skills, which will be of great use throughout my career in Australia and overseas."

Media services

The department's work continued to attract substantial public and media attention. We responded to around 9260 enquiries from domestic and foreign media organisations, of which over 30 per cent were received outside business hours.

There was sustained media interest in the department's provision of consular assistance to Australians, including: the sinking of the cruise ship, Costa Concordia, off the Italian coast; floods in Fiji; the detention of an Australian lawyer in Libya; the kidnapping of an Australian in the southern Philippines; and several high-profile consular cases in Bali, China, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the UK and elsewhere.

We provided strategic and logistical support for media aspects of high-level visits to and from Australia and other major events, including: the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth in October 2011; President Obama's visit to Australia in November 2011; the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul; the Australia–Indonesia Inaugural 2+2 Dialogue in Canberra, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations in Melbourne, all in March 2012; Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli; and the G20 Summit in Los Cabos and Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro, both in June 2012.

The department delivered 139 background briefings and interviews to the media, on issues such as Afghanistan, China, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, the Pacific, the G20, free trade negotiations, new diplomatic posts, International Women's Day and cultural affairs.

We issued 372 media releases and public statements for portfolio ministers, parliamentary secretaries and the department itself. We also issued 47 notes to the media to provide advance notice of overseas events and media opportunities, and distributed 423 transcripts of interviews, press conferences and speeches for ministers.

We continued to strengthen media skills across the department through in-house training on media engagement. This included targeted programs for new heads of mission and other staff going on overseas postings, consular and public affairs officers in Canberra and at posts, graduate trainees and other new recruits.

Website services and social media

The department's web presence continued to support departmental and ministerial communications and to reinforce foreign policy, trade, consular and public diplomacy messages. In 2011–12, the main departmental website averaged 340 000 unique visitors per month and the smartraveller website averaged 360 000 unique visitors each month. The department's combined overseas post websites, numbering more than 90, received 565 000 unique visitors each month on average.

We launched two new campaign websites, one in support of Australia's candidacy for the United Nations Security Council in 2013–14, and the other to promote the Australian Pavilion at the 2012 World Expo in Yeosu, Republic of Korea. We refreshed the smartraveller website, including important enhancements to online registration and the rollout of a mobile-friendly version. We modernised the design and layout of post websites to make information easier to find.

The department conducted extensive online user research in April 2012 to assess satisfaction with the content, format and utility of all departmental and ministerial websites. This research will inform a planned program of improvements through 2012–13 to meet public expectations and comply with the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy.

We expanded our social media program beyond Twitter and YouTube to include Facebook pages for selected posts. Our posts in Beijing and Seoul both established local-language social media platforms to strengthen engagement with growing online public audiences. The Imagine Australia cultural micro-blogging site in China was recognised in the annual Chinese internet portal Sina's Weibo awards.

Trade advocacy and outreach

The department worked to build understanding and support for Australia's trade policies domestically and internationally. We produced our annual trade publication Trade at a Glance and Trade Matters brochures to explain the value of trade and investment liberalisation and to focus on the importance of trade for each of the states and territories. We explained trade agreements, such as the Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement, in straightforward language in order to maximise public awareness of their outcomes (also see Publications Register in 1.1.13).

The department also provided detailed advice on trade and other economic statistics to ministers' offices, other agencies, business and the general public. Eleven statistical publications were produced and made available free of charge on the website. These were downloaded around 81 000 times in 2011–12 and we handled over 3500 statistical enquiries. The department revised its website pages on trade issues to make them more user-friendly and has increased its use of Twitter to deliver timely information.

Treaties

The department maintained the Australian Treaties Database, which is an online public resource for researching treaties to which Australia is a signatory, or where Australia has taken other treaty action. It can be accessed at www.info.dfat.gov.au/treaties. We also maintained the Australian Treaties Library, which also makes available the texts of all treaties Australia has signed, and those that have entered into force for Australia.

Special Visits Program

Our Special Visits Program brings emerging leaders and opinion-shapers to Australia for meetings in their areas of interest with government, business and community figures. It gives participants an understanding of Australia's culture and policy environment, and has increased our network of international foreign and trade contacts. Eighty-four individuals visited Australia under the Special Visits Program in 2011–12 (also see North Asia 1.1.1. through to Security, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation 1.1.11 for highlights).

International Media Visits

We organised nine fully funded and two partially funded innovative programs for 35 journalists from India, Japan, the ROK, Germany, Kenya, Nigeria, Jamaica, Egypt, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay. By targeting international media visits toward specific sectors and events, such as innovation and resources and CHOGM, we ensured resources were efficiently matched with policy objectives.

We increased our focus on science diplomacy, funding outward visits by eminent Australian scientists Dr Veena Sahajwalla to China and India, and Professor Terry Hughes to the Philippines.

We supported the development of journalism in our region. We arranged an internship for a Vietnamese journalist through the John Doherty Asia Pacific Journalism Internship with Australia Network, and for a journalist from Palau through the Douglas Gabb Australia Pacific Journalist Internship with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. We facilitated the exchange of a journalist from Australia and a journalist from Indonesia under the annual Elizabeth O'Neill Journalism Award.

Photo of The Secretary, Mr Dennis Richardson AO, with Indian High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr Biren Nanda, at the opening of Kindness/Udarta, an exhibition to mark 20 years of the Australia–India Council, in May 2012.

The Secretary, Mr Dennis Richardson AO, with Indian High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr Biren Nanda, at the opening of Kindness/Udarta, an exhibition to mark 20 years of the Australia–India Council, in May 2012.

Cultural diplomacy

International cultural visits

To profile the diversity and quality of Australia's contemporary culture, we invited 21 high-level international cultural leaders under the International Cultural Visits (ICV) program. We supported targeted participation at the Australian Performing Arts Market and the 5th World Summit on Arts and Culture. Twelve of the participants were from Asia, two from South America, two from the Pacific and five from Europe.

One of the key objectives of the ICV program is to foster networks that lead to international collaborations and new opportunities. This year, for example, the visit to Australia by Dr Félix Alfonso, Vice Dean of San Geronimo College of Havana, led to the first Indigenous art and photographic exhibition in Cuba through the Australian Journey Festival in January 2012.

Australia International Cultural Council (AICC) grants program

The AICC grants program supported 21 cultural projects in 2011–12, including to China, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Vanuatu, Ethiopia and North America. The program funded eight projects to the ROK for the Australia–Korea Year of Friendship in 2011, and six projects to India as part of the focus on that country in 2012. Projects included: AusHeritage's development of a conservation management plan and assistance with museology aspects of Kamaraj House in India; Indigenous band East Journey's tour to Vanuatu to perform at the music festival Fest Napuan; a collaboration between $1 and local Indonesian artists and communities to tour the physical performance work Wedhus Gembel in Indonesia; and Multicultural Arts Victoria's tour to Ethiopia of Dereb Desalegn's band, incorporating performances as well as collaborations with local musicians.

Indigenous Australian arts and culture

The department continued to deliver public diplomacy programs designed to profile Indigenous art and culture. The department simultaneously toured two Indigenous exhibitions, developed with Artbank. Audiences across Latin and Central America, and New York viewed Balgo: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills. The Foreign Minister launched Message Stick: Indigenous Identity in Urban Australia during National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week in Canberra, before the exhibition commenced a tour of the Pacific and Africa.

Our posts celebrated NAIDOC Week in July 2011 with a range of cultural activities, performances and workshops. We marked Reconciliation Week (27 May–3 June) with a presentation on Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights to the diplomatic corps in Canberra.

Presenting Australian visual arts and music overseas

Working in conjunction with Musica Viva and Asialink, we continued our music and visual arts touring programs to present performances and exhibitions targeting audiences in Asia. Highlights included touring Band of Brothers to India and Bangladesh and the Idea of North to Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

Australian Sports Outreach Program

The Australian Sports Outreach Program (ASOP), jointly managed with the Australian Sports Commission and funded by AusAID, continued to deliver very positive public diplomacy outcomes for Australia. Under ASOP, posts in the Pacific, Caribbean, Southern Africa and India supported sports programs for disadvantaged community groups to improve health and social inclusion through sport.

Fostering people-to-people links

The International Relations Grants Program (IRGP) is the largest grants program the department administers. We provide secretariats for, and work closely with, ten foundations, councils and institutes (FCIs) to promote people-to-people links and positive images of Australia in support of the Government's foreign and trade policy goals. FCIs manage the majority of the grant programs funded under the IRGP.

Council for Australian–Arab Relations

The department continued to foster people-to-people and cultural links with the countries of the Arab League through the Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR). This year the Council sponsored the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry forum in Sydney, and visits to Australia by Egyptian and Tunisian journalists. CAAR also established links with regional cultural organisations, including the El Sawy Culture Wheel in Egypt, the Dubai Centre for Arts and Culture and the Maquamat Dance organisers in Lebanon.

Australia–China Council

The Australia–China Council (ACC) continued to promote relations between Australia and China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan in the priority areas of economics and trade, education and science, and culture and society. ACC is a key partner of the new Foundation for Australian Studies in China, established to broaden the support of Australian Studies Centres in China and to provide assistance to the BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies at Beijing University. ACC sponsored 31 projects in 2011–12, including the Lowy Institute's Changing China lecture by the leading economist, David Daokui Li. Warwick Smith took up his new position as Chair of the ACC in September 2011. ACC renewed the focus on fostering the next generation of Asia-literate leaders. The Australia-China Youth Dialogue and AustCham China Scholarship Program co-funded by ACC are now premium national public diplomacy and youth exchange initiatives.

Australia France Foundation

The Australia France Foundation was created in 1989 as the major element of Australia's official contribution to the celebration of the Bicentenary of the French Revolution. Highlights in 2011–12 included the 13th annual Australia–New Zealand film festival in St Tropez; the second round of the Australia–France one and a half-Track Strategic Dialogue; an exhibition at the Australian Embassy on Australians on the Western Front for Anzac Day 2012; and the ongoing provision of the Sadlier-Stokes scholarship for schools from the north of France, awarded on Anzac Day 2012 in Villers-Bretonneux.

Australia–India Council

The Australia-India Council (AIC) continued building links between Australia and India. Commemorating its 20th Anniversary in 2012, the Council's exhibition and publication of Kindness/Udarta, produced a record of AIC-supported cultural exchanges. Funding was provided for the Lowy Institute's Australia–India Roundtable, a one and a half-track dialogue on the state of Australia–India relations, held in September 2011. In June, Dr Kaushik Basu, India's Chief Economic Adviser, delivered the 2012 KR Narayanan Oration. In February, environment expert, Dr Don Blackmore, visited India to engage with industry, academics and NGOs on water management, focused on the Ganges river system.

Australia–Indonesia Institute

The Australia–Indonesia Institute (AII) implemented a number of dynamic programs to strengthen people-to-people links, including a new program to fund Indonesian arts residencies in Australia, and a visit by ten Australian senior editors to Indonesia to strengthen linkages between senior media in both countries. The AII developed a pilot university partnerships project modelled on the successful Australia–Indonesia BRIDGE school partnerships project. BRIDGE continued to be the AII's largest program with significant funding from AusAID and the Myer Foundation. The AII successfully ran its two other flagship programs, the Australia–Indonesia Youth Exchange Program and the Muslim Exchange Program, which work to build links between young Australians and Indonesians. The AII's discretionary grants program funded projects in priority areas, including arts and culture and education. Science and technology and women and girls were added as new priority areas.

Photo of Australian participants for the Australia–Indonesia Institute's Muslim Exchange Program (L-R) Mr Ayman Islam, Mr Kemal Brkic, Ms Sana Zahra Gillani and Ms Assmaah Helal sharing their experience exploring Islam in Indonesia during a reception to mark the tenth anniversary of the program in May 2012.

Australian participants for the Australia–Indonesia Institute's Muslim Exchange Program (L-R) Mr Ayman Islam, Mr Kemal Brkic, Ms Sana Zahra Gillani and Ms Assmaah Helal sharing their experience exploring Islam in Indonesia during a reception to mark the tenth anniversary of the program in May 2012.

Australia–Japan Foundation

The Australia–Japan Foundation (AJF) supported over 40 projects in Australia and Japan. Key projects focused on ways to assist the people of Tohoku to recover from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Initiatives included supporting the design and rebuilding of Australia House, a significant cultural exchange venue that had collapsed in an aftershock. The new Australia House will open in July 2012 as the centrepiece of the third Echigo-Tsumari Arts Triennale. The AJF supported the highly successful visit to the Gold Coast of 24 young students from the tsunami-devastated town of Minami-Sanriku. The students stayed with Australian families; attended classes at Helensvale High School; and experienced Australian cultural and recreational activities. The AJF also funded a playground for kindergarten children evacuated from their village close to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Australia–Korea Foundation

In 2011–12, the Australia–Korea Foundation (AKF) supported the Australia–Korea Year of Friendship 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The AKF funded 45 projects in priority areas, building linkages in science and technology, environment, education, youth, and society and culture. It supported 17 young Australians to study in Korea through scholarships. The AKF also continued to support three flagship capacity-building programs for business and media interns and next-generation leaders. It sponsored the 2nd Australia–Korea Dialogue in October 2011, which explored cooperation on security issues. The AKF also supported the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and the National Academy of Engineering of Korea (ATSE–NAEK) Australia–Korea Green Growth International Workshop in May 2012; and DIGICON, a digital-content mission for children's television, in September 2011.

Council on Australia Latin America Relations

The Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) strengthened links with Latin America through support for 21 projects in priority areas. Visits by the COALAR Chair to Latin American countries raised Australia's profile with key business, investment and education sector representatives. COALAR supported collaboration in the mining sector, the annual Australia Latin America Business Awards, the inaugural Latin America Down Under conference and an industry mission to São Paulo. COALAR also supported exchange programs between universities and research institutions, and commissioned research by Tourism Research Australia.

Australia–Malaysia Institute

The Australia–Malaysia Institute (AMI) contributed to the bilateral relationship with Malaysia funding 25 grants in public policy, arts and culture, sports cooperation and education. The AMI initiated a new grant program to support sister school relationships. For the second time, the AMI supported the Australia–ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program, which brought together twenty-five emerging leaders from Australia and ASEAN countries for intensive discussions on regional challenges on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur, organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia. The AMI expanded its Elite Sports Program with the fourth Malaysian recipient undertaking an athletics coach placement with Athletics Australia. The AMI funded two vocational education and training programs in the automotive sector.

Australia–Thailand Institute

The Australia–Thailand Institute (ATI) targeted grant projects to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2012. The ATI supported a number of visits to Australia including by Thai sports journalists and by young Thai community leaders which focused on multiculturalism and social participation. It also launched a new program under which three young female Thai MPs visited Australia. The ATI worked to strengthen education linkages to encourage more Australian students to study in Thailand by sponsoring a visit to Australia by representatives from Thai universities. The ATI funded 19 grants focused on promoting economics and trade, public administration, arts and culture, education, and science, technology and innovation.

Photo of Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Simon Farbenbloom (fourth from the right), and First Secretary, Ms Amelia Henty (fifth from the right), at an Australia–Thailand Institute-funded Australian Lifesaving Association training in Phuket.

Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Simon Farbenbloom (fourth from the right), and First Secretary, Ms Amelia Henty (fifth from the right), at an Australia–Thailand Institute-funded Australian Lifesaving Association training in Phuket.

Australia Awards

The Australia Awards is a whole-of-government initiative combining the capacity and opportunity of Australia's leading government scholarship programs to promote knowledge, education links and enduring ties between Australia, its neighbours and the global community.

Officially launched in May 2011, the initiative has provided unique educational opportunities for international and Australian scholars from more than 160 countries. In 2011, the Government spent $273.2 million enabling over 4400 scholars to undertake further study, research and professional development in Australia and overseas.

In 2011–12, the Australia Awards Board progressed work to establish a single recognisable Australia Awards brand. It also developed a consolidated alumni database and strategy to help foster Australia's links with a strong network of Australian-educated leaders regionally and globally, highlighting the international profile of Australia's education system. The Board is also beginning to explore partnerships with business, industry and universities to provide additional opportunities for Australia Awards scholars.

A Secretariat, based in the department, supports the work of the Board by coordinating policy development on priority areas with Australia Awards implementing agencies (AusAID, the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research).

Direct Aid Program

The Direct Aid Program (DAP) is a flexible small grants program, funded by AusAID and administered by DFAT through 60 of the department's posts. It supports projects in over 80 developing countries, with a particular focus on small-scale projects at the community level.

The bulk of the DAP funding is allocated to regions in which Australia does not have a significant bilateral aid profile, including emerging priority regions such as Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Central and South Asia.

The program aims to advance Australia's national interests by helping developing countries to achieve sustainable development, while raising Australia's community and public profile. Typical projects address community health, gender equality, rural development, environmental issues and youth and education. Successful projects in 2011–12 included support for vocational training for rural women in the Palestinian Territories; construction of a borehole water facility for a small town in Nigeria; and a sustainable community farming project in Nicaragua.

In 2011–12, the DAP budget increased from $8 million to $10 million, with most of the additional $2 million used to support multilateral development projects in cooperation with international partners.

Freedom of Information

The department finalised 204 freedom of information (FOI) applications (see table 7), 61 more than in 2010–11. Requests often involved a substantial volume of information or covered complex and sensitive topics. The volume or sensitive nature of the documents requested sometimes made it difficult to achieve an access decision within the statutory deadline. The FOI caseload was managed by liaising with applicants on the content and processing of all requests. The department takes a broad approach to requests for information by providing information outside the formal processes of the FOI Act when appropriate, for example, offering media briefings.

The number of applicants requesting predominantly personal information has been steady, while other applications tripled. Nine requests for internal review of access decisions were received, and decisions were made on all the requests. Nine appeals to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner against an access decision were lodged in 2011–12.

Since May 2011, agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) have been required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act, and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements. DFAT's IPS is online at: http://www.dfat.gov.au/foi/ips.html.

The department was active in contributing to government-wide consideration of FOI reform and information policy. We made a number of submissions on specific and general information policy topics in the context of reviews, led by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Table 7. Requests processed under the Freedom of Information Act 1982

2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
Requests for information
Access granted in full
13
26
35
Access granted in part
52
57
84
Access refused
11
21
28
Requests transferred or withdrawn
22
39
57
Total
98
143
204
Requests subject to review or legal appeal
Requests for internal review (s.54)
6
8
9
Appeals lodged with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (s.55)
1
1
0
Ombudsman
1
1
0
Requests for reviews lodged with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
n.a.
4
9

n.a. not applicable

Publications Register

The department has a range of documents either for sale or free of charge. The list is provided below and is available online at http://www.dfat.gov.au/ and at http://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/.

Publications: 1st July 2011–30th June 2012

Arrested or jailed overseas

Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office Annual Report 2010–11

Australia's trade by state and territory 2010–11

Australia's trade with Africa and the Middle East 2010

Australia's trade with East Asia 2010

Australia's trade with the Americas 2010

Australia's trade with the European Union 2010

Backpacking overseas

Composition of trade Australia 2010–11

Consular list January 2012

Consular services charter

Death overseas

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2010–11

How we can assist your business: Victoria

Living and working overseas

Message Stick: Indigenous identity in urban Australia

Missing overseas

Portfolio additional estimates statements 2011–12

Portfolio budget statements 2012–13

Portfolio supplementary additional estimates statements 2011–12

Registration postcard

Sexual assault overseas

Subscription postcard

The APEC region trade and investment 2011

Trade at a glance 2011

Trade in primary and manufactured products Australia 2010–11

Trade in primary and manufactured products Australia 2011

Trade in services Australia 2010

Trade in services Australia 2010–11

Trade matters 2011

Travel insurance postcard

Travelling dual nationals

Travelling parents

Travelling seniors

Travelling well

Travelling women

Historical Publications and Information

As part of its public diplomacy program, the department continued to prepare publications on the history of Australia's relations with the world. Such publications shed light on the nature of the department's work, and provide an indispensable source for scholars, students and members of the public, interested in Australia's engagement with the global community.

The department made significant progress in preparing the most authoritative and up-to-date history of Australia's engagement with the United Nations, which will be published in 2012–13. We have also started work on other commissioned volumes in the Documents on Australian Foreign Policy series. We will publish Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2012–13. Other volumes under preparation include Australia and Apartheid in South Africa and White Minority Rule in Rhodesia, 1950–1980; Australia in War and Peace, 1914–1919; Australia and South Asia, 1945–1973; and Australia and the Middle East, 1950–1980.

We also responded to 155 requests for historical information from public and official inquirers.

Archival Examination

Public researchers can access archival records under Section 40 of the Archives Act 1983 on application to the National Archives of Australia (NAA). The NAA refers relevant records to the department to assess whether or not they should be exempt from public release in light of sensitivities relating to intelligence, security or international relations of the Commonwealth of Australia. The department is also responsible for approving applications for Special Access to Commonwealth records under section 56(2) of the Archives Act 1983.

Table 8 below outlines requests completed by the department in 2011–12 under the Archives Act 1983. These included files or documents relating to:

  • Papua New Guinea – Post Independence – Defence Negotiations; Defence and Intelligence relations with Australia; Relations with other countries
  • Nigeria – relations with Australia
  • Pakistan – Economic relations with Australia
  • Cambodia – Foreign Policy – General
  • Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – relations with Australia
  • Kampuchea (Cambodia) – relations with Vietnam
  • India/China Border Dispute – Aid for India
  • Cambodia/Vietnam relations 1968.

The number of requests completed rose from 422 in 2010–11 to 1055 in 2011–12, as a result of increased public interest – see Table 8 below. This increase prompted the department to review and streamline its procedures and resources for managing such requests. Of the 1055 requests completed, we recommended 523 files or documents for at least one exemption from release on national security or international relations grounds, and a further six for total exemption. We recommended that 532 files or documents be released in full.

Table 8. Requests assessed under the Archives Act 1983

2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
Requests completed
456
422
1 055
Number of folios assessed
82 413
94 067
208 219
Open Access
214
162
532
Wholly or partially exempt
242
260
523
Subject to review
2
0
4
Subject to appeal
4
0
3

Recordkeeping

We completed the Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) project this year, delivering a new electronic document and records management system to all DFAT users. The implementation of EDRMS included a successful program of visits to divisions, state and territory offices and overseas posts to help them prepare for the transition to digital recordkeeping.

Approximately 4800 staff worldwide are using EDRMS which is delivering effective and efficient records management. It is significantly increasing our ability to manage our electronic records in compliance with legislative recordkeeping obligations.

The records management section continues to complete action items under the Strategic Plan for DFAT Records Management 2008–13, including the archival transfer of the department's files to the National Archives of Australia (NAA). One hundred and twenty-four linear metres of files are being transferred to NAA for permanent storage, and a further 88.6 linear metres are awaiting transfer approval from NAA.

H V Evatt Library

The H V Evatt Library continued to provide a complete library and information service for departmental staff, both in Australia and at post, including a prompt and efficient reference service and alerts to new resources. The library increased the scope of personalised email alerts sent to officers by around 20 per cent, and introduced a new service targeting individual work areas. The library completed a project to scan and load on to the departmental intranet press releases from 1972 to 1994. New electronic reading devices were added to the library collection, enabling clients to access a wider range of published material in a timely manner. The library initiated an exchange program to enable departmental staff, in particular those embarking on postings, to share books with colleagues.

Outlook

The department will continue to promote a positive image of contemporary Australia in support of our foreign and trade policy priorities, through public diplomacy programs and activities in Australia and overseas, through an enhanced online presence, including increasing engagement in social media, and through domestic outreach.

Oz Fest, the key AICC program for 2012–13, will be the largest ever staged Australian cultural festival in India, with a curated program that showcases an innovative and diverse Australia. Oz Fest will be a major Government investment involving the support of over 20 partners across both countries.

We will work with local partners to deliver an ambitious celebration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2013 – the Year of Vietnam. We will commence planning and the development of partnerships in support of the forthcoming Years of Indonesia (2014), Turkey (2015) and Brazil (2016) – major vehicles for Australian public diplomacy, involving ministerial engagement as well as grassroots collaboration.

We will continue to publish books of historical interest and significance in 2012–13, including the new history of Australia and the United Nations.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade