Department Foreign Affairs & Trade  
Annual Report - Contents
DFAT Annual Report 1998-99

Information and Cultural Relations : Sub-program 1.9


The Images of Australia Branch of the Public Affairs and Consular Division administers this sub-program. The branch was established in April 1999, drawing together the former Images of Australia Unit (previously located in the South and South-East Asia Division), the Internet Unit (formerly located in the Parliamentary Media Branch) and elements of the former Overseas Promotions and Olympics Branch. The branch also assumed responsibility for the International Media Centre, Sydney, while responsibility for administering the department’s functions under the Freedom of Information, Privacy and Archives Acts was transferred to Sub-program 3.1, Services to Parliament, the Media and the Public, which is administered by the Parliamentary Media Branch.

Table 26 Information and Cultural Relations (1.9) Resources Summary


1997-98 Actual ($’000)

1998-99 Budget ($’000)

1998-99 Budget and Additional Estimates ($’000)

1998-99 Actual ($’000)



Running costs

11 414

11 294

11 677

16 037

Other program costs


10 901

10 901

3 973

Total appropriations

11 693

22 195

22 578

20 010

Less adjustments

1 097

2 193

3 516

2 591

Total outlays

10 597

20 002

19 062

17 419

Staff years





Note: International Expositions was transferred to DFAT under Administrative Arrangements Orders in October 1998.

n.a.: Not applicable.

Objectives, Performance Indicators and Results


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


The contribution of the Australian International Cultural Council to a more cohesive national approach to promoting Australia abroad through the arts.

The Australian International Cultural Council, established in February 1998, brings together leading figures in the Australian cultural community. The council is independent of, but supported by, the department and is chaired by Mr Downer. Its second meeting on 3 March 1999 agreed on key elements of a three-year strategy designed to build on the opportunities for promoting Australian culture abroad through major events like Expo 2000 in Hanover, the Sydney Olympics and the Centenary of Federation. A list of council members is provided at Appendix 12.

The council also agreed to establish a senior officials’ level Commission for International Cultural Promotion, to better coordinate the cultural relations activities of Government agencies. At its first meeting on 7 May, attended by five agencies and chaired by the department, the Commission decided on a series of practical steps towards a more cohesive approach to overseas cultural promotion. This approach includes measures for more closely integrating arts exports into the Government’s trade promotion and trade development programs.


The effectiveness of the program of Australian events in the Philippines in 1998 (under the ‘All the Best¾ From Australia’ integrated country promotion) in updating Philippine perceptions of Australia: as measured by satisfaction levels of Australian stakeholders, including the private sector; the extent of media coverage and heightened awareness of Australia in the Philippines, and other positive feedback.

In cooperation with Austrade, we presented a festival of Australian culture, sport, technology and business in Manila from 2 to 27 November 1998. Called ‘All the Best—From Australia’, it was Australia’s contribution to the celebrations marking the Centenary of Independence in the Philippines, and comprised 27 events in over 50 locations around Manila. Mr Fischer’s visit to the Philippines in support of the festival also increased its profile, with the centrepiece Trade and Investment Forum (hosted by Mr Fischer) attracting over 140 Australian and 600 Filipino business people.

The festival highlighted Australia’s cultural diversity through the visual and performing arts, a food and wine promotion, and a film festival. The Department of Defence, the Australian Sports Commission, AusHeritage and the National Film and Sound Archive also hosted some of the events, thus helping to broaden levels of existing bilateral cooperation. Australian stakeholders demonstrated their support for the festival through their substantial financial and in-kind sponsorship, which totalled $900 000.

Media monitoring by the embassy in Manila revealed some 900 articles on Australia in the Philippine press during November 1998 (nearly triple the usual levels), and 511 in December. The festival was also widely reported by local television and radio networks. One of the festival’s main aims was to raise awareness in the Philippines of Australia’s culturally diverse, sophisticated and tolerant society. Findings of an independent evaluation conducted by Trends-MBL Inc. following the promotion indicated a significant fall in the percentage of writers and commentators who perceived Australia as a racist country: currently 36 per cent, down from 66 per cent. The evaluation also found that although Filipinos continued to view Australia primarily in terms of tourism, there was a growing awareness of Australia’s achievements as an advanced economy.

Figure 31 Information and Cultural Relations (1.9) Organisational Chart

Figure 31


The quality and impact of the department’s contribution in support of the successful staging of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and Paralympics, including implementation of initiatives to promote Australia internationally and to advance wider national interests through the Games: as reflected by feedback from stakeholders, including the Australian Government and the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games organising committees.

The department initiated and coordinated a series of activities to promote the Sydney Olympics in key overseas markets, including Asia and North America. These activities—ranging from exhibitions, to sporting events and seminars—sought not only to promote the 2000 Games but also to increase general levels of interest and understanding of modern Australia, and to generate positive publicity.

Our centrepiece exhibition, ‘Australia—Our Sporting Life’, drew nearly one million visitors during its international tour to Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, the United States, Singapore and the Republic of Korea. We developed this exhibition in partnership with Austrade, the Australian Tourist Commission, the Australian Sports Commission, and corporate sponsors including Ansett, Fujitsu, the Melbourne Cricket Club, the Seven Network and Westfield. It promotes Australia’s leading role in developing sporting equipment and services, and emphasises our sporting achievements and overall love of sport. Feedback passed to us through the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and our partners indicates that the exhibition was successful: it heightened awareness overseas among business, government and sports industry leaders of Australia’s economic advantages, technological innovation, quality of service, social stability, cultural diversity, and preparedness to host a successful Games in 2000.

We also concentrated efforts on developing and implementing strategies to exploit international media interest in Australia as a result of the 2000 Games. The most significant of these strategies, developed in partnership with the NSW Government, is the Sydney Media Centre, scheduled to open at Darling Island, Pyrmont, in July 2000. This centre will provide media with information and resources to help them report on Australia’s achievements, attractions, lifestyle and culture. To complement the centre’s work, the department is developing an Internet website to assist international media, including visiting journalists, in developing story lines. We plan to launch this site one year out from the Games in September 1999. Other media-related initiatives include providing video material for use by television broadcasters overseas, and plans to increase staffing at our existing International Media Centre in Sydney to meet the already growing demand for assistance by foreign journalists. These preparations have been helped by an increase in corporate sponsorship for the International Media Centre, clearly demonstrating the private sector’s confidence in our strategies.


The impact of the sports diplomacy activities associated with the Australia–South Pacific 2000 Program, the Australia–Asia Sports Linkages Program and other Olympics-related initiatives, as measured by feedback from target countries, host governments, sporting bodies overseas and Australian stakeholders.

The department continued to work closely with host governments in the South Pacific and with international sporting bodies on athlete development under the Australia–South Pacific 2000 Program. We received strong support from the International Olympic Committee and the Oceania National Olympic Committees Organisation for our management and delivery of this program, with the IOC indicating that it may adopt the program as a model for Olympic activities in other regions.

The Sports Component of the Australia–South Pacific 2000 Program has been introduced to 17 states and territories in the South Pacific. It seeks to maximise the number of South Pacific athletes who will qualify for the Sydney Olympics based on individual performance rather than national quotas. The High-Performance Athlete Sub-component Program demonstrated its success through the increase from seven to eight in the number of sporting disciplines having athletes approaching Olympic-qualifying standards. These disciplines are athletics, judo, yachting, swimming, boxing, weightlifting, tennis and wrestling.

Through the Cultural and Heritage Component of the Australia–South Pacific 2000 Program, and in association with national galleries and cultural foundations in Australia, we sponsored outdoor sculptural exhibitions of large-scale traditional and contemporary works in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. These events drew appreciative audiences and received positive coverage in local television and print media. Due to popular demand, our exhibition in New Caledonia was extended by a month.

Again through the Australia–South Pacific 2000 Program, we co-sponsored the premiere season in Melbourne and Sydney of a joint Australian–Papua New Guinean production of the award winning play Rising Fish Prayer. This production, which provided an opportunity to expand bilateral cultural links through the three PNG actors who joined the cast, received positive reviews in both Melbourne and Sydney media.

The Australian National University and the University of Sydney welcomed the involvement in university activities of 16 prominent Pacific Islanders under the Senior Visiting Fellowship Scheme, another element of the Australia–South Pacific 2000 Program. The visits resulted in four new publications on the significant regional issues of accountability and corruption, and the role of women in Pacific Island affairs.

In November 1998, in partnership with the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, we facilitated the Prime Minister’s launch of the Oceania leg of the Olympic Torch Relay in Canberra. This was supported by concurrent events hosted by our posts in New Zealand, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The launch received an enthusiastic response from diplomatic and community representatives, and generated positive media coverage throughout the region from the television and print media and Radio Australia. This coverage increased recognition and appreciation of the Australian Government’s role in routing the Olympic Torch through Oceania.

The Australia–Asia Sports Linkages Program, initiated by the department in 1997, seeks to strengthen Australia’s profile as a world leader in sports participation, development and training activities. Managed by the Australian Sports Commission on behalf of the department, this program operates in 11 countries in South and South-East Asia. During the year in review, sports authorities in these countries acknowledged that the program had assisted their sports development and the preparation of their athletes for the 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The effectiveness of this program was further demonstrated when several participating Thai athletes won medals at the Asian Games in Bangkok in December 1998.

Launch of the Oceania leg of the Olympic Torch

  • In delivering messages about Australia to the world, we seek to use high-profile events to project a contemporary and accurate image of Australia and to promote the best of current Australian achievement. For example, international interest in the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games is an ideal platform from which to send our targeted messages—in print, electronic and multimedia form—to international opinion- and decision-makers. The photo shows (from left to right) Mr Brett Chivers (Guam Olympic squad member), the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, NSW Minister for the Olympics, Mr Michael Knight, and Secretary, Dr Ashton Calvert, at the launch of the Oceania leg of the Olympic Torch Relay in Canberra in November 1998. photo: Alan Porritt

Feedback received through the Australian Sports Commission indicated that the program had generated a greater appreciation among clients in participating countries of the quality of the Australian sports industry, and of Australia’s expertise in sports management, facilities and services. Visitors from national sports authorities in South and South-East Asia also commented on the program’s effectiveness in promoting Australia’s commercial and sports industry capabilities.

Both the Australia–South Pacific 2000 Program and the Australia–Asia Sports Linkages Program showcase Australian training, education, and sports facilities design and construction capabilities, and are generating export opportunities for Australian business.


The extent and quality of media coverage of Australia overseas, including of Australian culture and society.

During the year, the department initiated and facilitated overseas visits by the 1998 Young Australian of the Year, Ms Tan Le, and the 1996 Australian of the Year, Dr John Yu. In December 1998, Ms Le visited Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. During her visit she received extensive media coverage and high-level access, including to the Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr Chuan Leekpai, and the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr Nguyen Manah Cham. As a result of Ms Le’s visit to Malaysia, a high-level Malaysian media group decided to visit Australia. This in turn led to extensive favourable coverage in English, Chinese and Malay language dailies, as well as a television documentary series. In May 1999, Dr Yu visited Singapore, Bangkok, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The impact these visits had on broadening the perceptions of Australia overseas exceeded expectations, and follow-up visits by Dr Yu to China and Hong Kong in October 1999 are now being planned.

We also sought to increase awareness and coverage of Australian affairs by the foreign media through targeted programs of media visits. Under these programs, 79 foreign media representatives were invited to visit Australia from Argentina, Belgium, Britain, China, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. Among them were groups of senior editors from Japan, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea. These visits not only raised the level of understanding of Australian affairs but resulted in a wide range of articles and television programs about Australia.

Through the International Media Centre in Sydney, we also assisted several hundred visiting foreign journalists by providing logistical advice and support, background information, story ideas and contacts. This contributed to the production and publication of articles and broadcast material on a wide range of subjects: from Australia’s economy, trade and investment, through to freedom of the press, Aboriginal issues, immigration, and the 2000 Games.

The International Media Centre also expanded its relationship with resident foreign correspondents and domestic media representatives specialising in foreign affairs. It arranged some 48 functions, including a series of media background briefings with visiting heads of mission from China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam. We also arranged a trip for resident correspondents to Canberra during Budget week. This resulted in articles on the Australian economy and tax reform being published in Britain, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Sweden and Switzerland.

Under the Cultural Awards Scheme, the department organised 24 visits to Australia of overseas cultural media representatives and cultural opinion-makers. These visits sought to raise awareness of Australian culture and enhance institutional links useful in promoting our cultural assets.

Australian of the Year Ms Tan Le, shaking hands with the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister,  Mr Nguyen Manah Cham

  • We seek to project Australia overseas as an open, culturally diverse, sophisticated, internationally competitive and technologically advanced country, which is actively engaged in the Asia-Pacific region as well as having important global interests. Visits by prominent Australians as ‘Goodwill Ambassadors’ help us achieve this goal, both by generating media interest in Australia and by forging new links and partnerships. The photo shows former Young Australian of the Year Ms Tan Le, shaking hands with the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr Nguyen Manah Cham, in Hanoi in December 1998. Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr Michael Mann, is pictured in the background. photo: Lê Mihn Diên


The effectiveness of public affairs material and cultural relations activities in presenting an accurate image of Australia, as measured by the quality and comprehensiveness of the material, feedback from posts and, where applicable, usage in the international media.

The department toured three specially designed exhibitions to Asian capitals to promote important messages about contemporary Australia. The science and technology exhibition, ‘Innovative Australians’, showcasing Australian high-technology capabilities, toured to Manila, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok and Taipei. It attracted around 30 000 visitors, with significant numbers of high-level guests and media attending openings at each venue. Feedback showed that many visitors were surprised at the diversity and sophistication of Australia’s science and technology, and left the exhibition with a new perspective on Australia.

The second exhibition, ‘New Directions—Aboriginal Australia and Business’, which was developed jointly by the department and Rio Tinto, sought to highlight the positive relationship between Aboriginal Australians and sections of the Australian mining industry. This exhibition toured to Manila, Seoul and Tokyo. More than 4 000 people visited the exhibition at each site, including key representatives of leading business, industry, government and non-government organisations, and it received extensive print and electronic media coverage. In Manila, the exhibition was launched by Mr Fischer as part of our integrated country promotion ‘All the Best—From Australia’. Informal feedback through our overseas posts indicated that visitors left the exhibition with an understanding of the positive changes occurring in relations between Australian business and Aboriginal communities.

Through the third exhibition, ‘People of Australia—Richness in Diversity, we sought to portray Australia as a successful, culturally diverse and racially tolerant society. This exhibition was launched at the Australian Museum in Sydney by the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, on 22 October 1998. The exhibition then toured to Manila, Seoul, Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok, attracting more than 4 000 visitors at each venue. Again, informal feedback and coverage in the media indicated the success of the exhibition as part of our continuing efforts to raise awareness in the region about Australia’s culturally diverse society.

While we are increasingly using the Internet to provide accurate and timely information to clients and the public, the department still retains an active publications program. Throughout the year, we continued to distribute public affairs material through all our overseas posts, through State and Territory offices, and by direct mail to clearly defined and influential target audiences. These include MPs, senior civil servants, media representatives, academics, libraries and schools. We updated and reprinted copies of our 28-part Fact Sheet series (average circulation 6 000), and added new titles including Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, The Centenary of Federation and An Australian Republic. We distributed approximately 6 500 copies of each issue of the quarterly journal Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Record to subscribers in Australia and overseas. Preliminary work on a new edition of Australia in Brief, to be published in November 1999, was also completed. To ensure that our message is conveyed effectively overseas, we continue to distribute through our overseas posts local-language versions of Australia in Brief (including in Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish). Several posts (including Beijing, Bonn, Jakarta and Tokyo) also produce local-language versions of Fact Sheets.

During the year, we commenced an evaluation of our public affairs material aimed at ensuring that it not only remains effective in its own right, but that it also complements our Internet program appropriately. As part of this evaluation, we surveyed 79 overseas posts in August 1998 to assess the key public affairs material and its uses. This survey confirmed that the small but comprehensive booklet, Australia in Brief, as well as the handy Fact Sheet series were considered the department’s most valuable and useful publications. More than 80 per cent of the 67 respondent posts described these as ‘essential’ or ‘very useful’ public diplomacy tools. Posts also commented that this material met the needs of their clients, both in terms of quality and comprehensiveness. As a result of the survey findings, we have already discontinued publication of some material identified as being least useful, and produced other material for distribution over the Internet alone. Additional Fact Sheets were also produced to address specific issues identified by posts as being of particular interest. As part of our continuing evaluation process, a survey of all publications is scheduled for completion by July 1999.


Updating and enhancement of the department’s Internet website, resulting in a sharper focus on foreign and trade policy.

The main departmental website is located at In addition to this site, four of our State and Territory offices and 36 of our overseas posts maintain linked sites tailored to local needs. Of our overseas sites, 14 are accessible in the local language: Bangkok, Beijing, Belgrade, Bonn, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Jakarta, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo.

To ensure that our Internet website is both relevant to clients and easy to access, we provided a range of new features for international and domestic users. These included:

  • improved media information, through the provision of more timely publication of ministerial speeches, press releases and interview transcripts;
  • real-time access to the diplomatic and consular representatives’ lists (previously printed six-monthly);
  • an integrated open markets site, providing a common entry point for material supporting the Government’s trade liberalisation campaign; and
  • Y2K compliance information, with details of the plan the department is following to address the problem, as well as links to sources of other Y2K information from around the world.

We sought to improve the quality of the site further by ensuring material from across the department was integrated and linked consistently and appropriately to other sites. In addition, we conducted regular reviews of posted material to maintain its accuracy, relevance and currency: for example, we published monthly updates on the East Asian economic crisis and regular reports on the situation in Kosovo.

A department-wide Internet publishing strategy was initiated during the year, and recommendations from the resultant paper are currently being considered. As a first step, we discussed ways in which other areas of the department could develop web-publishing capabilities to help meet departmental objectives as well as to respond better to public inquiries. As a result of this discussion, some areas have already begun training staff and preparing documents for our site.


The timeliness and relevance of departmental website content.

Clients’ increased use of our website was evidenced by the dramatic rise in the number of ‘hits’ to the website recorded during the year. The number of times the site was accessed was more than double that of the previous year (211 000 per week this year, up from 90 000—or almost 11 million per annum). Feedback via email has been positive, with all reasonable suggestions being implemented. On the basis of this feedback, we also restructured the site to align it more closely to users’ needs: for example, by refraining from using bureaucratic terminology that may be unfamiliar to the public. Similarly, in response to feedback from international users who do not have access to fast computers and high-speed connections, we have simplified the site by posting smaller documents and limiting the use of graphics.

We also sought to ensure that media releases, speeches and travel advisory notices were posted on our site as soon as they were cleared for public distribution, thereby providing clients with immediate access to time-sensitive information. The Budget night site exemplified these efforts, with the department’s Supplementary Budget documents being published in an easily accessible form at the commencement of the Budget speech in Parliament.

Figure 32 Hits Recorded per Week to the Departmental Website (1998–99)

Figure 31

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