The Department

1.9 Information and Cultural Relations

Table 20: Resources Summary for Sub-program 1.9

Figure 32: Information and Cultural Relations Program and Organisational Structure as at 30 June 1998

Sub-program Objectives

In 1997-98, the objective of sub-program 1.9 was to:

  • project abroad an image of modern Australia in support of our key foreign and trade policy objectives.

The following objective was formerly included under sub-program 3.1, Services to Parliament, the Media and the Public:

  • administer the Department’s responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and the Privacy Act 1988.


The Overseas Promotion and Olympics Branch of the Public Affairs and Consular Division administers the sub-program. The branch coordinates and supports the information and cultural activities at all Australian overseas posts and funds the newly-established Images of Australia Unit, administered under sub-program 1.2, Interests in South and South East Asia.

During the review period, the branch underwent significant restructuring. It incorporated the former Historical Documents Branch, assuming responsibility for production of publications to record and expand the knowledge and history of the portfolio, and for dealing with public access to archival records under the provisions of the Archives Act 1983. The branch also assumed responsibility for the Department’s administration of public access to official information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and the Privacy Act 1988, formerly listed under sub-program 3.1, Services to Parliament, the Media and the Public, administered by the Parliamentary and Media Branch. It transferred responsibility for the Australia-Japan Foundation, Australia-Korea Foundation and the Australia-China Council to sub-program 1.1, Interests in North Asia, administered by the North Asia Division. Similarly, it transferred responsibility for the AustraliaIndonesia Institute and the Australia-India Council to sub-program 1.2, Interests in South and South East Asia, administered by the South and South East Asia Division.

The sub-program pursues strategies designed to help achieve one of the Department’s corporate goals: to promote public understanding of Australia’s foreign and trade policy. Strategies include promoting a positive image of Australia overseas through cultural relations and dissemination of information, maximising the benefits from Australia’s hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2000, arranging visits to Australia by key opinion leaders, supporting tours by elite Australian cultural presentations and, in partnership with state and federal government agencies and private corporate bodies, staging exhibitions and integrated promotions to showcase Australian art, lifestyle, sport, environment, science, education and technological capabilities in key overseas markets.

Performance Information

In 1997-98, the sub-program indicated that it would evaluate its performance using:

  • quality and impact of the Department’s contribution to planning for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, including progress with initiatives to promote Australia internationally and advance other national interests through the games, as measured by feedback from stakeholders, including the Commonwealth and the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games
  • impact of the Australia South Pacific 2000 program of sports diplomacy and other Olympics related initiatives, as measured by feedback from target countries, host governments, sporting bodies and Australian stakeholders
  • effectiveness of the program of Australian events in 1997 in the United Kingdom under the newIMAGES promotion in updating British perceptions of Australia; satisfaction levels of Australian stakeholders, including the private sector; and the extent of UK media coverage and other positive feedback
  • impact of cultural relations activities underpinning the ‘Year of South Asia’ initiative in 1997 in target countries, including media coverage of Australia and satisfaction levels of Australian stakeholders in the promotion
  • effectiveness of overseas touring of Australian visual and performing arts, under the Elite Performance and Visual Arts Touring and other programs, and other cultural relations activities in raising Australia’s profile and sending key messages about Australia to priority countries, including the extent of access to overseas decision makers and opinion leaders, audience responses and media coverage in target countries
  • extent and quality of media coverage of the international cultural relations program and understanding of this program among key Australian stakeholders; level of corporate support and other counterpart funding for these programs.

The following performance measure was formerly included under sub-program 3.1, Services to Parliament, the Media and the Public:

  • handling all freedom of information requests in a prompt manner.

Performance Outcomes

1.9.1 Internatlional Cultrual Relations

The Department completed the development of a major touring exhibition, ‘Australia— Our Sporting Life’, securing extensive public and private sector sponsorship. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Tim Fischer, launched the exhibition in June in Melbourne and the Department prepared an itinerary for an overseas tour to priority markets in Asia, the United States and Europe. The exhibition is designed to build interest in the Sydney 2000 Olympics and better inform the public by showcasing contemporary Australian sporting images. The Department also obtained agreement from the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games for the right to use Sydney Olympic intellectual property and merchandise for departmental promotional programs; this agreement greatly increases the scope for the Department to promote the Olympics and Australia internationally.

Following the Government’s decision to underwrite the cost of the Olympic Torch Relay through the South Pacific, the Department advanced negotiations with SOCOG to promote portfolio objectives.

The Department continued to work closely with host governments in the South Pacific and international sporting bodies, receiving their strong support for athlete development and community activities under the Australia South Pacific 2000 program. The Prime Minister announced a possible extension of the ASP 2000 program to 2006 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October in Edinburgh. The Department also developed and expanded the Australia-Asia Sport Linkages Program to make available Australian expertise in sports development and industry in target Asian countries. The Government approved new programs to provide facilities and services for the large number of unaccredited media expected to visit Australia in connection with the Olympics, including the Olympic Media and Public Affairs Program and the Temporary Centre for Media. The Department, through the Visitor Information Campaign, also assisted the preparation of information on entry and departure requirements for intending visitors to Australia for the Olympics.

Photo: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Tim Fischer, views the exhibition 'Australia--Our Sporting Life' with exhibition design project manager, Erin O'Brien (left), and Director, DFAT Olympic and Sport Unit, Billy Williams (far left), in June in Melbourne. (photo: John Brennan, Squire Photographics)

The Department organised the first Cultural Relations Summit in February in Adelaide, chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer. At the conclusion of the summit, Mr Downer announced the establishment of the Australia International Cultural Council involving leading business and entertainment figures and festival organisers. The council, which held its first meeting on 26 June, is mandated to improve the overall coordination and effectiveness of Australia’s international cultural relations program and will develop a three-year strategy for the promotion of Australian culture overseas.

Through the cultural relations program, the Department increased awareness in priority countries of Australia’s image as a culturally diverse, sophisticated and internationally competitive country, including through support for tours by contemporary indigenous art exhibitions, and elite performing and visual arts events to Asia, Europe and South America. The Department achieved high levels of attendance and excellent media coverage for the cultural events it managed in the ‘Year of South Asia’ and substantial coverage for its UK newIMAGES initiatives.

In preparation for ‘All the Best— from Australia’, the major integrated promotion planned for next November in the Philippines, the Department succeeded in securing substantial sponsorship and support from the private sector and the Philippine Government. It also arranged contracts for new exhibitions (‘ Innovative Australians— a Science and Technology Exhibition’, ‘Richness in Diversity: the People of Australia’, and ‘New Directions— Aboriginal Australia and Business’) to tour through Asia, the Americas and Europe next year to increase awareness of Australia’s scientific and technical capabilities, cultural diversity and effectiveness of mining industry cooperation with indigenous communities.

Photo: (From right to left) Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan, Geoff Brooks, Executive Officer of the DFAT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program, Leona Landers, and a guest viewing the Seasons of Kunwinjku exhibition held in September in Karachi. (photo: VM Art Gallery, Rangoonwala Community Centre, Karachi)

The Department made substantial efforts by providing staff on secondment and using overseas posts to support Australia’s bid to host Expo 2002 in Queensland. Despite a strong campaign and close final result, the bid was unsuccessful.

1.9.2 Overseas Information

The Department also sought to project abroad an image of modern Australia through producing and distributing a range of print and electronic material to overseas posts and media. The Department distributed through its state and territory offices, all overseas posts and by direct mail, 5 000 copies of the 27-part Fact Sheets series, 6 500 copies of the quarterly newsletter DFAT Record and 100 000 copies of the new English-language edition of Australia in Brief. An additional 128 000 foreign-language versions of Australia in Brief were produced at posts. Foreign-language versions included French, German, Italian, Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese and Japanese. Work also began on Thai, Vietnamese and Korean versions. A number of posts produced, as required, local versions of selected Fact Sheets. Most posts received copies of the general video, Australia— 24 Hours. Other more targeted material, such as news releases and bilateral productions, was only sent to the relevant posts. The Department also made much of this information available on the departmental website ( Publications are also listed in Appendix 7.

Photo: Former Minister for International Trade and Industry of Japan, Shinji Sato, receives a book commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce, from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Tim Fischer, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, in July. (photo: Peter Kelly Photography)

1.9.3 Historical Documents, Archives and Freedom of Information

In line with its objective to increase public understanding of Australia’s foreign and trade policy, the Department promoted greater awareness of Australia’s diplomatic history. During the review period, the Department published the book Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce 1957 to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the signing of that agreement. Mr Downer expressed his satisfaction with the quality and timeliness of the production.

The Department also published Volume XIV— The Commonwealth, Asia and the Pacific, 1948-49 which forms part of the series Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49 and completed prepublication work for a further volume on Australia and Indonesia’s Independence, 1949, due to be published during the next review period.

The Department reduced ongoing operating costs by implementing a user-pays scheme for some records assessment work and advanced negotiations with agencies for payment for services performed on their behalf. Forty-eight per cent of records assessed in the review period required exemptions on the grounds of sensitivity under the Archives Act 1983 demonstrating the importance of the Department continuing its assessments of records. The Department developed a new database to carry out functions previously handled manually; this should help it to deal effectively with the 60 per cent growth in demand for records assessment. Overall, official and public demand for historical information increased by 25 per cent, and clients expressed their satisfaction with the quality and timely service provided.

The Department met its obligations under Sections 8 and 9 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Appendix 6).

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