Protocol Guidelines

16. Other matters

16.1 Diplomatic Contact Group

Canberra's Diplomatic Contact Group (DCG) offers a personal welcome and assistance to newly arrived diplomatic spouses. Most of its members are mostly spouses of current or former members of the Department. Diplomatic spouses will receive an invitation to morning tea at the home of a member of the DCG, together with an introductory note. At the morning tea, they will be given a comprehensive booklet with information about living in Canberra e.g. services, emergency phone numbers, schools, clubs, English language classes and places to visit. DCG members are happy to call on diplomatic spouses at home if this is more convenient. Every six months the DCG holds a morning tea for all new arrivals during that time. The DCG provides personal support, friendship and information when spouses are settling into their Canberra posting.

16.2 Women's International Club

The Women's International Club (WIC) of Canberra, like its counterpart organisations overseas, fosters friendship and mutual understanding among women of different nationalities. The Club has an active program to facilitate social and cultural contacts, and runs many small groups focussed on special interests such as sports, languages, cooking, arts and craft. The Club's membership is a balance between women from Australia and other countries, the latter group being drawn mainly from the Diplomatic Corps. WIC is non-political and non-sectarian. It does not undertake charity work.

16.3 Australian national anthem

"Advance Australia Fair" is Australia's National Anthem. It is played on all official and ceremonial occasions where the Anthem is required. The Vice-Regal salute for the Governor-General comprises the first four and last four bars of the Australian National Anthem.

"God Save the Queen", the Royal Anthem, is played with the Australian National Anthem at public engagements in Australia that are attended by the Queen or members of the Royal Family. Usually, the Royal Anthem is played at the start of royal functions and the Australian National Anthem at the end, unless it is more appropriate for both anthems to be played at the start.

At the Queen's Birthday parade in Australia (including the ceremony at the Royal Military College, Duntroon) the Australian National Anthem is played on the arrival of the Governor-General. The Royal Anthem is played for the symbolic arrival, salute and departure of the Queen.

16.4 Australian national colours

Green and gold (Pantone ® Matching System numbers 348C and 1C as used for printing on paper) are the official colours of Australia for use on all occasions on which such colours are customarily used. To be used correctly as national colours, they should appear together and not be separated with white or another colour.

16.5 Media releases, statements and publicity issued by missions and posts

The Australian Government attaches much importance to the free flow of information and recognises that it is an accepted function of diplomatic missions and consular posts to issue public statements, including media releases, and to distribute material and publications expressing the point of view of their government on international questions.

The Department requests missions and posts to ensure that, in issuing such statements and material, they observe normal proprieties. Whether supplied from elsewhere or compiled locally, material should not be cast in terms offensive to the Australian Government, to other governments with which Australia enjoys friendly relations, or to individuals. Similarly, public statements and written material should avoid inaccuracies, provocative and abusive language, or content embarrassing to the Australian Government in other ways.

The Department requests that missions and posts provide the Department's Parliamentary and Media Branch (fax: 02 6261 1337) with copies of the publicity and media material that they distribute.

16.6 Acceptance of gifts by public servants

Officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are instructed to avoid, if possible, accepting gifts either for themselves or for members of their family. Where it is judged that refusal of a gift might cause offence, the gift may be accepted and its receipt reported in accordance with Departmental procedures. The Department appreciates that there are circumstances in which missions or posts might wish to offer tokens of appreciation or goodwill to officers or their families, but gifts of substantial items or alcohol should always be avoided.

16.7 Acceptance and wearing by Australians of foreign awards and decorations

The acceptance and wearing of a foreign honour (i.e. any honour, decoration or medal other than one granted by Her Majesty the Queen of Australia) by any Australian citizen had been subject in each instance to the prior permission of the Governor-General.

In 2012, in conjunction with Government House and PM&C, revised processes were agreed for the acceptance of foreign awards by Australian citizens.

In the past, any such nomination came through DFAT which served as a post-box between posts overseas, missions in Canberra and the honours area in PM&C.  We have secured agreement to simplify and streamline such processes.

Under the new arrangement, with the exceptions listed below, it is no longer a requirement to seek approval from the Australian Government for an Australian to accept and wear a foreign award, provided the award is listed on the approved Schedule.

It remains a requirement to seek approval for awards:

Diplomatic missions and international organisations have been informed of these changes and asked to advise award recipients that foreign awards that allow the use of post-nominal or honorary titles in their country of origin may be accepted on the understanding that their use by Australians in Australia will not be recognised officially. 

It is important that diplomatic missions and international organisations, or the individual concerned, inform the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat, Government House, of awards bestowed on Australians for purposes of record-keeping.  DFAT and Defence officials should also inform the Secretariat directly should they receive a foreign award.

Any questions relating to foreign awards are best directed to the itsanhonour website

16.8 National Days

Representation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at national day functions hosted by foreign missions will normally be by the Chief of Protocol and the Assistant Secretary of the relevant geographic branch. The Chief of Protocol will propose a toast but will not make a speech. The preferred order of proceedings is for the Chief of Protocol to be invited to propose the first toast. After the Chief of Protocol proposes the toast to the Head of State and the people of the host country, it is customary for a verse of that country's national anthem to be played or sung, The host country's Head of Mission then proposes a toast to “the Queen and the people of Australia”, and this is followed by first verse of the Australian National Anthem.

16.9 Communication with Australian Government authorities

In order to facilitate the work of missions, the Australian Government does not object to their conducting routine official business directly with the relevant departments and agencies. However, in accordance with Article 41(2) of the Convention, the Department wishes to be consulted in all matters of a policy nature which could impinge on relations between the two countries, whether in the field of bilateral or multilateral trade, or foreign relations in general.

16.10 Distribution of correspondence including Notes Verbales

To ensure efficient distribution of correspondence including the handling of notes verbales, all correspondence from diplomatic missions should be sent directly to the appropriate area of the Department. For example, legal matters including extradition and divorce should be sent directly to the Legal Branch (fax 6261 2144) and matters concerning international organisations, including candidacies, should be directed to the International Organisations Branch (fax 6261 2272). Only notes on substantive protocol matters should be sent to Protocol Branch. These include advice of mission closures and head of mission absences (head of mission absences from Canberra but within Australia need not be advised).

Requests for diplomatic clearance for state aircraft should be faxed directly to Air and Space Operations Centre in accordance with the guidelines in Section 14.12.

Enquiries about or letters of support for visas for officials or delegations visiting Australia should in the first instance be directed to the relevant Australian diplomatic or consular post. In Canberra, inquiries can be directed to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) ACT and Regions Office on facsimile (02) 6274 4577.

Contact details for agencies other than the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can be found in the Commonwealth Gold Directory at www.gold.gov.au. Notes Verbales sent to other agencies should be copied to the relevant geographical area in DFAT for information.

Responses to notes verbales received from the Department should be addressed to the sending area, whose identity can be determined from the prefix of the departmental note number, for example LGB (Legal Branch), IOB (International organisations Branch).

16.11 Foreign Elections

Diplomatic missions and consular posts may open polling stations on their premises for elections in their home country without the need for special authorisation under Commonwealth laws. Local regulations may apply where polling stations are located away from the premises of the mission or post, in which case missions and posts should check with local authorities regarding any state or territory regulations, or municipal by-laws that may be relevant to the conduct of polling.

Protocol Branch should be informed in advance by diplomatic note so that it can inform relevant security authorities of the polling date and venue. Should any special security measures be considered necessary, those authorities will advise the relevant mission and posts in due course.