Media release from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

D13  - Wednesday, 1 September 2004 

Launch of Australia in the World: the Foreign Affairs and Trade Files

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) today launched a new historical monograph series, Australia in the World: The Foreign Affairs and Trade Files.

DFAT has a long and proud commitment to producing works of history on our international relations, providing Australians with the opportunity to judge for themselves the handling of complex foreign and trade policy issues.  Australia in the World makes our diplomatic history more accessible to the general public than ever before. 

The first publication in the series is Australia and the origins of the Pacific Islands Forum, written to commemorate the 35th meeting of the forum held recently in Apia.

It presents a lively history of the genesis of the Pacific Islands Forum, including Australia’s involvement.  Beginning in early 1970, Australia grappled with the concept of a new international political forum in response to the aspirations of the Pacific’s emerging nations.

Over coming months - during which there were moments of discord and tension - a consensus emerged among Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa, the Cook Islands and Nauru that they should meet regularly to discuss regional issues. The first forum was held in Wellington in August 1971, and a second in Canberra in February 1972.

A distinguishing feature of the forum’s formative period was its full-bodied international debate. There was agreement on some issues, and disagreement on others. Australia and the origins of the Pacific Islands Forum argues that this was part of a process by which relationships formerly influenced by colonial forces came to be characterised by the interests of sovereign states. The story reveals from an Australian perspective the process of diplomacy that led to the creation of a new forum, and offers a window on the work of our diplomats. 

The Australia in the World series will open up DFAT’s historical working files across the full range of departmental activities from bilateral relations through to trade negotiations, consular activities, passport production and communications.  It will provide an array of absorbing stories, and offer an insight into how Australia engages on international events and issues.

DFAT will produce about two titles in the series each year on an ad hoc basis.  Publication orders to Dr David Lee, Director, Historical Publications and Information Section at DFAT (02 6261 1111).

Media enquiries:  DFAT Media Liaison on 02 6261 1555