Annual Report 2007-2008

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 3 > Output 3.1 > 3.1.2 Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

OUTPUT 3.1: Public information services and public diplomacy

3.1.2 Projecting a positive image of Australia internationally

On this page: Overview :: International public diplomacy :: Public affairs material :: Special Visits program :: International cultural program :: Cultural diplomacy :: Bilateral engagement: creating people-to-people links :: Direct Aid Program ::Regional television service: Australia Network :: Australian participation in the 2010 World Expo—Shanghai :: Outlook


The department’s public diplomacy programs advanced Australia’s global, regional and bilateral interests by shaping and influencing international opinion, projecting an accurate and positive image of Australia and generating goodwill. Our public diplomacy activities sought to further develop people-to-people links in key countries and reinforce Australia’s credibility and general standing in international affairs. We worked more closely with other agencies to enhance consistent and cohesive delivery of public diplomacy messages and programs.

The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Inquiry (in 2006–07) into the nature and conduct of Australian public diplomacy provided recommendations on refinements to whole-of-government public diplomacy activities.

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Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Mr Rod Smith PSM, during a story-telling session with indigenous children from Bagobo and Matigsalog tribes at the Institute for Indigenous Peoples Education (IIPE) Centre in Davao City on 24 June 2008. The IIPE was established by the Philippines-Australia Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao project.
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Our media, cultural and special visits programs brought a wide range of opinion and decision-makers from priority countries to Australia, engendering a better understanding of our identity, interests and values. The department’s cultural diplomacy programs continued to utilise high-quality Australian visual and performing arts, literature and film to project a positive and contemporary image of Australia overseas. More activities were conducted in Asia and the Pacific than in previous years.

International public diplomacy

Our posts overseas conducted 5484 public diplomacy briefings, events and initiatives to advance Australia’s foreign and trade interests and promote an accurate and contemporary image of Australia.

Posts’ robust and proactive approach to media management (including by international media monitoring) had a positive impact on our visibility and image. International media coverage of Australia in 2007–08 was broadly positive and factual.

The department liaised with relevant agencies to ensure whole-of-government positions on emerging and contentious issues were articulated through the overseas post network. For example, through the department’s website we disseminated footage, photographs and other information on the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. This material supported post-arranged events and media liaison to mark the occasion. The event generated extensive and extremely positive international coverage, eliciting congratulations to the Australian Government from foreign leaders, foreign ministries and a range of overseas indigenous organisations.

The department equipped posts with resources to assist their advocacy on general foreign and trade policy issues. A weekly Key Messages Brief (with 124 items over the year) and a new twice-weekly Newslink cable (offering links to online information) provided posts with background on issues including food security, interfaith dialogue, free trade agreements, nuclear non-proliferation and emissions trading. These resources were used extensively by posts in their media management and general public information programs.

Posts successfully placed articles in influential newspapers around the world. These contributed to more accurate and balanced reporting on Australia’s approach to important policy such as climate change and indigenous issues. In Tokyo, we facilitated an interview by the Chief Editor of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper with the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd. This resulted in unprecedented coverage (front page and five analytical articles), which underscored the importance of Australia–Japan relations and clarified Australia’s position on a range of issues.

Posts’ activities and events

Posts’ public diplomacy activities and events achieved improved awareness of and support for Australia’s interests among target audiences around the world. Examples of these were:

In Australia, the department contributed to the promotion of whole-of-government interests in a number of major international projects and events such as the World Youth Day and the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

The department launched two exhibitions promoting important messages about our international commitments. In conjunction with the Canadian High Commission in Canberra, we hosted Rebuilding Afghanistan, a photographic exhibition depicting the role of Australian and Canadian defence personnel, aid agencies, diplomats and police forces in reconstructing Afghanistan. The department collaborated with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in London and the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne to stage the Remembered photographic exhibition. Remembered commemorated our war efforts and the Commission’s work over its 60-year history.

The department explored options for engaging younger regional audiences in our public diplomacy programs. To this end, we facilitated an Australian Government conference titled Our Space: Asia Pacific on Line, to discuss developments, future directions and expectations for new media in the region.

Photographic exhibition: Rebuilding Afghanistan

In March 2008, the department joined with the Canadian High Commission in Canberra to stage an exhibition showcasing Australia and Canada’s contributions towards international efforts to build a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

The Rebuilding Afghanistan exhibition comprised 39 photographs highlighting the role of Australian and Canadian defence personnel, aid workers, diplomats and police officers in improving the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

As the largest non-NATO contributor to the International Security Assistance Force, Australia has over 1000 Defence personnel serving alongside coalition partners including Canada in the southern provinces of Afghanistan. Australia has committed more than $600 million in aid and reconstruction assistance since 2001. Focused on building Afghan capacity, the assistance includes training Afghan police and government officials working on health, education, agriculture and rural development, as well as humanitarian assistance, food assistance and clearance of land mines.

The exhibition was launched in the R G Casey building in March by the Secretary, Mr Michael L’Estrange AO, and the High Commissioner for Canada, H.E. Mr Michael Leir. The Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, H. E. Mr Amanullah Jayhoon, spoke at the opening. He noted both the progress his country has made since 2001 as well as the challenges it continues to face and emphasised the gratitude of the people of Afghanistan for the support provided by the international community.

Material from the Canberra exhibition subsequently formed part of a major Australian–Canadian–Dutch exhibition on reconstruction in Afghanistan, which was organised by the Australian embassy in Berlin at the German parliament in April 2008. The photographs have been made available electronically to Australian and Canadian diplomatic missions around the world so they may replicate the exhibition locally. Arrangements are also in train to tour the photographs to other Australian cities and regional centres.

The exhibition enabled the department to join with a close partner in demonstrating to domestic and international audiences that our military, humanitarian and development assistance commitments are generating tangible results and contributing to the rebuilding of Afghanistan

Evaluating international public diplomacy programs

The department drew on a range of mechanisms to evaluate the success of our international public diplomacy programs in promoting a positive and accurate image of Australia abroad including: media monitoring; surveying by the Australia Network; and analysis of feedback from government officials, media and business contacts, academics and other opinion leaders. In 2007–08, we also began subscribing to an independent nation brand survey that measures attitudes in 36 target countries to six key elements (exports, governance, culture and heritage, people, tourism, and immigration and investment) of Australia’s international image. The 2007 survey showed that Australia as a brand ranks fifth out of the countries surveyed, with attitudes positive across all the elements surveyed. The department will use the breakdown of the survey to further focus our public diplomacy activities.

Public affairs material

Through the department’s website and in print through our network of posts, we delivered a wide range of public affairs material to target international audiences. These resources included:

Special Visits Program

The Special Visits Program (SVP) is the department’s key visits program. It is a carefully targeted program that brings to Australia influential or potentially influential people for meetings with key Australian government, business and community figures, and an introduction to Australian culture and society. On their return home, SVP visitors are likely to contribute to a better understanding of Australian society and policies. Over the years, the program has helped establish a network of international contacts relevant to our foreign and trade policy interests. During the year we organised 29 visits to Australia, which included:

The SVP also contributed to a visit to Sydney by ASEAN’s Secretary-General, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, by facilitating his discussions with the Government on enhanced Australian engagement with ASEAN.

International media visits program

The department’s International Media Visits (IMV) program, bringing senior journalists and editors to Australia, played a key role in generating informed international media coverage on Australia and our foreign and trade policy objectives. Participating media representatives were selected on the basis of their capacity to influence and contribute to an improved understanding of Australia and our interests.

In 2007–08, the department, through its International Media Centre (IMC) in Sydney, arranged 15 visits involving 57 participants from 19 countries. Many were from the Asia-Pacific region reflecting its strategic importance to Australia. Visits were themed on issues of key significance, such as Indigenous society and culture, preparations for World Youth Day, regional interfaith dialogue, mining and resources, innovation and environmental protection, agriculture and resources, and Australia as a diverse and tolerant society.

IMV participants published a large number of high-quality stories about Australia, not only on their immediate return but on an ongoing basis. For example, after a visit for senior Chinese journalists focusing on environment and innovation issues, articles appeared in major Chinese publications (China Environment News, Beijing Youth Daily, China Green Times and China Industrial Economy News) on Australia’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol, carbon trading, Australian technological developments to combat climate change, environmental protection laws, government and community support for environmental protection, our new green technologies, sustainability, and solar technology.

Posts actively maintained relationships with former IMV participants to build on foundations laid during IMV visits. Our post in Bangkok hosted a meeting of past IMV participants. The group, representing visits spanning 2004 to 2008, retained a strong interest in Australian issues and actively continued to publish on Australian affairs. The most recent participant, chief reporter for a biweekly business newspaper, had been part of an agriculture and resources themed visit during the 2007 ABARE National Outlook Conference. Following her IMV, the newspaper published interviews on bilateral trade issues with Mr Crean and the Thai Ambassador to Australia. The reporter has continued to report frequently and positively on Australia’s bilateral relationship with Thailand and our environmental, agricultural and information and communications technology policies.

Within the IMV program, the IMC also arranged two professional exchange programs—the Douglas Gabb Australia–Pacific Radio Journalist Internship with Radio Australia, and the John Doherty Asia–Pacific Journalism Award with Australia Network. In 2007–08, the program also inaugurated the Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award, established in memory of departmental officer Liz O’Neill, who died tragically in service on 7 March 2007 as a result of a plane crash in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The inaugural award went to two reporters from Radio Australia and Indonesia’s Metro TV. Both participants said the visit gave them a better understanding of the bilateral relationship, and the opportunity to develop new professional contacts and extensive material for broadcast. The Indonesian participant broadcast to Indonesia a live election-night special and subsequent interviews with Australian academics and the Indonesian Ambassador in Canberra. She produced a tourism program and news features on issues including Australian multiculturalism, Islam in contemporary Australian society, collaboration between Australian and Indonesia artists, and Australian fashion.

The IMC provided support to foreign media based in Australia, including the Foreign Correspondents’ Association (FCA). In association with the Chamber of Mines and Energy in Western Australia, the Minerals Council and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, the IMC organised a visit for FCA members to Western Australia to report on the mining and energy sectors. The IMC arranged story leads, contact referrals and briefings for foreign journalists by ministers and senior officials.

International cultural visits

The International Cultural Visits (ICV) program developed new links between the Australian arts community and those of other countries, expanding opportunities for the promotion of Australia’s cultural assets overseas. During 2007–08, the department hosted 19 international cultural visitors from New Caledonia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, India, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Vietnam, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia.

Through the ICV program, senior arts officials were exposed to Australia’s distinctive arts and culture. As a result of visits conducted in 2008:

Cultural diplomacy

The department’s cultural programs and exchanges delivered important messages about Australia’s diversity, innovation and capacity for tolerance to audiences around the world.

Arts and culture country promotions

The Australia International Cultural Council (AICC) supported major arts and culture country programs in 2007–08, including in France, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The My.Oz program, held between January 2007 and March 2008, commemorated 50 years of official bilateral relations with Malaysia and 50 years of Malaysian independence. The post used the My.Oz program to strengthen relationships with key government officials, influential business people and prominent members of civil society. The program projected a positive image of Australia as a key bilateral partner and as a vibrant and creative nation with a rich culture. The AICC provided funding for five major events, including a season of the Malthouse Theatre production, Alias Grace. Over 58 articles were generated on My.Oz events in newspapers, magazines and websites, including the main English daily in Malaysia, The Star. The daughter of the Malaysian Prime Minister opened The Independence Project exhibition, highlighting the history of cultural exchange between Australia and Malaysia.

The AICC’s arts and culture program in Indonesia, IN2OZ: Creative Australia, was launched in March 2008. A feature project of the IN2OZ program was a visit by Australian Idol star, Jessica Mauboy, to perform at a series of major events in June 2008. With an Indonesian father and Australian mother, Jessica is an example of the strong cultural and people-to-people ties between Australia and Indonesia. Her visit provided a powerful opportunity to highlight those connections to the Indonesian people. On the Indonesian Idol television program, Jessica performed live and spoke of the friendship between the two countries. The broadcast reached an audience of more than one million. The IN2OZ program will continue until December 2008.

In 2007, the Paris Quartier d’Eté summer festival presented an Australian program of music, theatre, cinema and video art that attracted an estimated 4500 people. Indigenous musician William Barton was a highlight of the festival program, with at least 800 people witnessing his performances. Australia’s participation in the festival also led to increased interest in Australian cultural product, prompting the festival’s co-director to attend the 2008 Australian Performing Arts Market to identify Australian content for future cultural promotions in France.

Supporting Australian artists overseas

The department funded Asialink’s delivery of the Australian Visual Arts Touring program and Musica Viva Australia’s management of the Australian Fine Music Touring program, which respectively tour Australian contemporary visual arts and music to South and South-East Asia. The programs showcased Australian cultural content to target regional audiences, fostering institutional cooperation and expanding people-to-people links. For example:

Indigenous Australian culture

The department aims to promote an accurate and positive image of contemporary Indigenous Australia through its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program. The program includes touring visual arts exhibitions and complementary public programs, supporting performing arts, and providing information and educational resources to our network of overseas posts.

The Torres Strait Islander linocut exhibition, Gelam Nguzu Kazi: Dugong My Son, continued its tour through ten cities in the Asia-Pacific Region, generating positive feedback and extensive local media coverage. Ho Chi Minh City Television (the main television channel in Southern Vietnam), the Philippine’s network ABS-CBN and its international cable television arm, The Filipino Channel, the Seoul Broadcasting System, Indonesia’s Metro TV and ANTV all featured the exhibition. In advance of the exhibition’s opening in Seoul, a major Korean university sent a delegation to the Torres Strait Islands to document community life. The visit generated a photographic display that powerfully complemented the exhibition of prints when it was launched in Korea.

NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Day Observance Committee) Week was strongly supported by the department and its posts. Forty-five posts celebrated the event through screenings of Indigenous Australian films, flag-raising ceremonies and public seminars on contemporary Indigenous Australia. Indigenous elite athlete Patrick Johnson travelled to Madrid for NAIDOC week to promote the involvement of minority groups in high-level sports.

Embassy Film Roadshow

Since 2001, the department has worked closely with the Australian Film Commission to promote Australia internationally through film. The principal vehicle for this cooperation has been the long-running AICC-funded initiative Embassy Film Roadshow program.

Our overseas posts stage Australian film festivals at public venues, drawing on the Roadshow’s stock of 59 feature films and documentaries and 30 short films. In 2007–08, the Roadshow travelled to 14 destinations, including Argentina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Jordan, Nepal, Poland, Russian Federation, the Philippines and United Arab Emirates. Attendance at Roadshow film screenings across these locations in 2007–08 was 25 405. A major event was an Australian film festival in India in March 2008. This year the festival took place not only in New Delhi but also in Hyderabad and Bangalore, two cities where Australia has a strong profile as a tourist and education destination. More than 6000 people attended the film screenings in the three cities.

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Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Bill Farmer AO (second from right) and the Secretary-General of Ministry for Religious Affairs, Professor Bahrul Hayat, attending a ceremony on 1 August 2007, at Al-Fauzan Islamic Boarding School in Labruk Lor village, East Java, to mark the opening of 46 Islamic junior secondary schools built with Australian assistance.
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As the medium of film offers a unique opportunity to connect with significant audiences in other countries, five Arabic-subtitled films were added to the collection with support from the Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR). There are now 11 Arabic-subtitled films in the collection.

Australia International Cultural Council grants program

Sixteen activities were funded in AICC priority regions—Asia, South Pacific, the Middle East, and North America and Western Europe.

The grants covered a range of activities, including support for the tour to Japan of the National Museum of Australia exhibition, Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, the largest collection of works by a single Australian artist to tour overseas. The exhibition was mounted in one of Tokyo’s most prestigious galleries and generated substantial media coverage, both in Japan and Australia. The exhibition highlighted the sophistication of contemporary Indigenous visual art on the international stage, meeting a key recommendation of the 2007 Senate report on Australia’s visual arts and craft sector that the Commonwealth support increased efforts to showcase Indigenous visual arts and craft internationally.

AICC funding also supported Australian Writers’ Week in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, promoting Australian writing to the Chinese market. The week received significant and positive media coverage conveying the diversity and sophistication of Australian writing, with features carried in China Daily, on China Radio International and on the website of the Ministry of Culture. The publishers forum attracted around 20 major publishers, translators and distributors, all of whom expressed interest in continuing contact with a view to developing future commercial relationships. In Shanghai, over 400 university students and academics participated in forums.

Brisbane-based IDA Projects also received a grant to present new media exhibitions of the work of Australian, Chinese and other international artists in China and Japan. As a result of the collaborative exhibition, the Queensland University of Technology is pursuing other joint projects with the Beijing Film Academy.

Australian Sports Outreach Program

Under the Australian Sports Outreach Program (ASOP), the department administers discretionary grants in conjunction with the Australian Sports Commission. The grants reflect the important contribution sport makes to community development and the role of sport in fostering people-to-people links that support our foreign and trade policy agenda.

Following a review in 2007, the program was expanded beyond the Pacific to include predominantly Commonwealth countries under the Rest of the World Program. In 2007–08, 38 grants were approved under the Pacific Program, and 26 grants under the Rest of the World Program. All projects focused on community sports development programs, coaching clinics, equipment and infrastructure construction.

The projects were strongly supported by local communities, met prescribed objectives in sports development, and achieved significant media and general public exposure (including commendation at high levels of government in participating countries). In Papua New Guinea, for example, 15 schools participated in a basketball coaching clinic that generated substantial, positive reporting in the local press. Another project for women’s basketball training undertaken with the PNG Basketball Federation also received extensive media coverage with articles appearing in major local newspapers (Post Courier, The National and the Sunday Chronicle). Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Community Development spoke at the launch of this project and applauded the Australian Government for its ongoing support of the ASOP program.

Bilateral engagement: creating people-to-people links

The department provides secretariats for and works closely with nine bilateral foundations, councils and institutes to promote people-to-people links and accurate, contemporary images of Australia in support of the Government’s foreign and trade policy goals.

Council for Australian–Arab Relations

The Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR) continued to promote a greater mutual understanding of each other’s cultures, values, beliefs and diversity. Highlights during 2007–08 included: the visit to Australia in February–March 2008 under the Young Professionals Exchange Program of 15 young business people from across the Arab region for work experience in Australian industry, the commencement of the CAAR Scholarships Program which brings Arab postgraduate students to Australia for study, the continued funding by CAAR and the Australian Government of a rural irrigation reconstruction project in Bsharre, Lebanon that is helping communities to recover from conflict, and a number of grants for business promotion, education, and cultural sponsorships and exchanges with the Arab world.

Australia–China Council

The Australia–China Council (ACC) continued to broaden and deepen Australia–China people-to-people links, underpinning Australia’s relationship with China. The department completed a review of the ACC and its programs in March 2008, which resulted in changes to existing programs and a new charter, strategic plan and grant funding priorities.

The ACC continued its youth scholarship program providing 15 participants the opportunity to study in China. The ACC also sponsored a national competition for Australian secondary students to promote and recognise outstanding achievement in Chinese language. Through its support of Australian Studies in Chinese tertiary institutions, the ACC funded 23 research projects that facilitated a greater understanding of Australian society, traditions and capabilities. Australia’s expertise was showcased in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan through ACC residencies for 15 artists and ACC Asialink fellowships for two authors.

Other highlights of the ACC’s work in 2007–08 included: support for the Festival of Australian Theatre in Beijing and Shanghai, the Process/Journey and International Digital Art exhibitions in Beijing, the latter also in Songzhu and Brisbane, and an exchange program between radio stations in Hong Kong and Sydney.

Australia–India Council

The Australia–India Council (AIC) continued to build institutional and people-to-people linkages between Australia and India, with an emphasis on showcasing Australian excellence to influential Indian audiences. This included highly successful tours of India by Australian science communicator and author, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Miles Franklin Award-winning Indigenous author, Alexis Wright, and eminent economist, Professor Peter Drysdale. The AIC also supported visits to Australia by several highly influential Indians, including Rahul Gandhi, Lalit Mansingh and Tarun Das. The AIC continued to nurture Australian Studies in India, providing funding and keynote speakers for the biennial Australian Studies Conference in Kolkata. The success of the ‘Border–Gavaskar’ cricket scholarships for promising young Indian male cricketers led the AIC to initiate a new program for young female cricketers in 2008. The AIC continued to support the Australian Studies Fellowships, HIV/AIDS ‘Train the Trainer’ program, Asialink’s art residencies and the AIC public lecture series.

Australia–Indonesia Institute

The Australia–Indonesia Institute (AII) continued to support a range of activities in its six core program areas aimed at strengthening mutual understanding and promoting positive images of each country in the other.

The AII increased its funding base substantially this year through partnerships with other organisations. In January 2008 the AII was awarded a grant over three years from the Myer Foundation for the BRIDGE project (Building Relationships through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement) which will be managed in conjunction with the Asia Education Foundation. Its aim is to support annual visits to Australia by Indonesian teachers who will be hosted by schools around Australia, and reinforce these links through a website for online schools twinning and an online collaborative curriculum strategy between Indonesian and Australian schools.

Two flagship exchange programs continued to attract high-quality applicants. The Australia–Indonesia Youth Exchange Program sponsored young Australian and Indonesian students to experience each other’s diverse cultures through city and regional homestays. The Muslim Exchange Program involved visits by three groups of young Muslim professionals from Indonesia and one visit from a group of young Australian Muslim leaders to Indonesia.

Media and sports projects generated extensive and positive coverage. The AII encouraged more in-depth and informed reporting on Indonesia by funding a visit of nine senior Australian editors from print and television organisations to Jakarta and Yogyakarta in May 2008. In the sporting field, AII supported cricket and Australian Rules Football training workshops for Indonesian children. The Saraswasti Arts Program also sponsored innovative and useful projects in music and visual arts as well as in cultural artefact conservation techniques.

Australia–Japan Foundation

The Australia–Japan Foundation (AJF) aims to increase understanding in Japan of shared interests with Australia, to increase understanding in Australia of the importance of Japan to Australia as an economic and strategic partner, and to increase recognition in Japan of Australian excellence and expertise.

Key achievements in 2007–08 include: funding of the Utopia Room of anthropological exhibits associated with the popular Emily Kame Kngwarreye Indigenous art exhibition in Osaka and Tokyo in February and May 2008, the development of a program of events to mark the 20th anniversary of Questacon as a joint Australia–Japan bicentennial project, and a number of initiatives by the Australia–Japan Research Centre at the Australian National University to enhance scholarly research into the bilateral political and economic relationship.

The AJF continued to support Australian studies as an academic discipline in Japan, including through the Sir Neil Currie scholarships to Japanese postgraduate students, the Annual Conference and a special lecture series by the Australian Studies Association of Japan; and support for the position of Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at the Centre for Pacific and American Studies at the University of Tokyo. The AJF also supported a conference on the future of Australia–Japan relations held at the Lowy Institute in Sydney in October 2007.

As part of its Strategic Ties for the Arts program, the AJF supported the Hello Tokyo! public arts forum featuring some of the foremost visual arts practitioners and curators in Japan and Australia at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in June 2008 on the eve of the Sydney Biennale.

Australia–Korea Foundation

The Australia–Korea Foundation (AKF) played an important role in the Government’s efforts to broaden and deepen links with the Republic of Korea.

The AKF placed particular emphasis on supporting activities portraying Australia as educationally, scientifically and technologically advanced, economically enterprising and culturally diverse. Key priority areas were science and technology, commerce and industry, education, the arts, sport and the media. For example, the Australia–Korea Early Career Scientists Exchange Program succeeded in forming a strong link between the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Technical Sciences and Engineering and their Korean counterpart, the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation. In the field of technology, the AKF supported the 4th Korea–Australia–New Zealand (KANZ) Broadband Summit held in Seoul on 19–20 June 2008, following the OECD ICT Ministerial Meeting on the ‘Future of the Internet Economy’.

The AKF also funded a highly effective one-day conference, ‘New Governments, New Beginnings: Outlook on Korea–Australia Relations’ in June 2008 hosted by the Lowy Institute for International Policy which brought together experts from both countries and was supported by an AKF grant.

Council on Australia Latin America Relations

The Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) continued to enhance Australia’s economic, political and social relations with Latin America across its priority areas of business, education, tourism and culture. In particular, COALAR worked closely with Austrade and the Australia Latin America Business Council (ALABC) to raise awareness of the potential of Latin American markets for Australian business and to enhance the profile of Australian businesses looking to initiate closer engagement with the region. Funding was provided for projects that promoted economic reform in Latin America and strengthened links with key partners in business and government.

Through the COALAR Education Action Group, and in close collaboration with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, COALAR continued to promote Australia as a competitive and high-quality provider of education and training. COALAR provided funding for a collaborative project between the Australian and Chilean departments of education for the ongoing development of an English Language Education Kit. A number of other projects funded by COALAR increased awareness of Australian expertise in niche sectors such as sustainable mining practices, beef genetics, economics in agriculture, education financing and agricultural embryonic research.

Australia–Malaysia Institute

In its second year of operations, the Australia–Malaysia Institute (AMI) strengthened links between Australia and Malaysia with an expanded program of activities.

Working with the Malaysian Institute for Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), the Institute co-hosted the first Malaysia–Australia Colloquium in August 2007. The Colloquium brought together academics, government and other stakeholders to review the bilateral relationship, share regional perspectives and explore measures to strengthen cooperation and expand ties.

Two-way visit programs again proved an excellent way to promote understanding and in-country experiences for young leaders and future opinion makers. Following closely after the Australian election, the visit to Australia in December 2007 by a group of five Malaysians under the Young Leaders Program showcased the strengths of the Australian political system. Reciprocal visits under the Muslim Exchange Program by four Malaysians in March and six Australians in June 2008 furthered links and understanding among Muslim community leaders. Participation by the Australian exchange team in the ‘Bridging the Gap: Islam and the West’ conference promoted an appreciation among conference participants of religious tolerance and ethnic diversity in Australia.

The Australia–Malaysia Fellowships Scheme awarded fellowships to seven Malaysians and five Australian academics, enabling them to undertake in-country research for periods up to three months. In August 2007 the AMI established a grants program in support of bilateral cultural and artistic activities.

Australia–Thailand Institute

The Australia–Thailand Institute (ATI) entered its third year of operation in 2007–08, expanding institutional and people-to-people links between Australia and Thailand in public policy, health and science and culture and the arts.

A highlight was the visit to Thailand in July 2007 by members of the Institute’s Executive Committee, led by the then ATI Chairman, Tim Fischer AC, which provided an opportunity to identify new areas for future cooperation. The Institute’s Muslim/Interfaith Exchange Program continued to attract positive feedback from participants and other stakeholders in Thailand and Australia.

Thailand’s return to parliamentary democracy provided impetus to new partnerships. The Institute supported cooperation between the Australian National University and Thailand’s National Economic and Social Advisory Council in the development of economic reform options for the then incoming Thai government. The Institute also provided assistance to a range of innovative forward-looking projects including Tropfest’s first short-film festival in Thailand (indeed, its first in Asia) and collaboration between Australian and Thai architecture students in the development of low-cost sustainable housing for rural communities. The Institute continued to support Melbourne’s Thai Culture and Food Festival and lent its backing to the first Thai Festival held in Perth.

Direct Aid Program

The Direct Aid Program (DAP) is a flexible small grants scheme funded by AusAID and managed by the department. It is designed to alleviate humanitarian hardship while pursuing the Government’s international relations and public diplomacy objectives. In 2007–08, the department distributed over $4 million in DAP funds to 49 posts for projects in over 84 countries. Disaster relief was also provided in response to Hurricane Felix in Central America and flooding in Mexico, Uganda and Solomon Islands.

A broad range of community development projects were funded by DAP throughout the year, including:

Direct aid program provides assistance for amputees in Mexico

The city of Tapachula is the main point of entry into Mexico for potential illegal migrants from Central America trying to reach the United States. They resort to travelling on top of cargo trains as a means of reaching the Mexico–U.S. border. Unfortunately, many of them suffer accidents when they fall off the trains.

Through our embassy in Mexico City, the Direct Aid Program (DAP) has provided funding to the Albergue Jesús el Buen Pastor del Pobre y el Migrante, a shelter for persons who have opted to illegally enter the United States but who have become amputees. The shelter assists newly-arrived amputees with help in securing emergency medical treatment and by providing physical and psychological care, and access to legal advice.

DAP has funded the construction of a bakery at the shelter and purchased bakery equipment and supplies. Working at the bakery will provide an opportunity for the amputees to earn an income and develop new skills which may help them gain employment elsewhere in the future. This project is assisting displaced amputees to regain their self-esteem, learn a trade and become self-reliant once more.


Regional television service: Australia Network

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First Secretary, Mr Glen Connell (back row, second from right), with students at Pathumwan School, during the launch of Clean Up the World campaign in Bangkok on 10 March 2008.
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Australia Network, Australia’s regional television service, contributes to the Government’s public diplomacy objectives by delivering high-quality and contemporary programming (in education, arts, culture and drama) as well as a credible, independent news and current affairs service. Australia Network is available in 44 countries across Asia, the Pacific and the Indian sub-continent. 2007–08 saw substantial growth in audience reach. The service is available in approximately 22 million homes (up from 20 million in 2006–07) and has a measured monthly audience of around seven million viewers (up from six million). India is currently the channel’s single largest market with a monthly measured audience in excess of five million viewers. During the year large increases in audience numbers were recorded in Hong Kong, India and Bangkok, and more modest increases in Taipei and Jakarta.

In 2007–08, Australia Network began negotiations to obtain official landing rights in China. In March 2008, an Agreement of Cooperation was signed between the ABC’s Managing Director and the President of China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing. The agreement facilitates cooperative activities such as sharing news and programming, production and co-production, feature programming weeks on each other’s countries, and visits by senior executives.

Australia Network regularly surveys audience attitudes towards Australia. Survey findings influence programming initiatives. For example, an online survey of nearly 2000 viewers showed that half of respondents saw Australia as ‘distant culturally and politically’. The department responded by providing funding to Australia Network to develop three short programs about Australian artists and five migrant vignettes for broadcast across the network. Using personal stories, the productions offered an intimate snapshot of life in Australia and our positive connections with our neighbours.

Australia Network’s news and current affairs programming rated highly in audience surveys in all of the network’s Asia-Pacific markets. Viewers appreciated the station’s regional focus and emphasis on context and analysis. The station employed dedicated correspondents in Beijing, Delhi, Jakarta and Suva, and accessed the resources of ABC News Australia.

Newshour with Jim Middleton

Newshour with Jim Middleton, Australia Network’s flagship current affairs program, was launched on 20 February 2008 in Parliament House. Jim Middleton, Australia Network’s chief current affairs anchor (formerly political editor with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) presents interviews, analysis and debate about top stories from the Asia-Pacific and around the world.

The launch was attended by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, the Treasurer, Mr Swan, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, shadow ministers, members of Parliament, senior ABC executives, members of the diplomatic corps, and journalists from the Canberra press gallery.

At the launch, Mr Smith reaffirmed the Government’s support for Australia Network, acknowledging the important role it played in projecting Australia’s image internationally, promoting engagement with the region and keeping a diverse audience informed about domestic Australian, regional and international affairs.

A number of key Australian ministers and regional leaders have already been interviewed on the program.





Australian participation in the 2010 World Expo—Shanghai

In July 2007, the department appointed the Melbourne-based company ThinkOTS! as the winning tenderer for the design of the Australian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010, which will be held between 1 May and 31 October 2010. In collaboration with ThinkOTS! and Wood Marsh architects, the project team developed and refined the design concept, which formed the basis of a budget proposal for the project. In the 2008–09 Budget the Government allocated $61 million over three years to fund Australia’s participation at the expo and announced it would also seek a further estimated $22 million in funding from corporate sponsorships and through partnerships with the states and territories.

We released two of our five major tenders: for the communications and public affairs program; and for the provision of construction, exhibition and technical operations services for the pavilion throughout the expo. We continued to develop tender documentation for the remaining three tenders with a view to releasing them in late-2008 and early-2009: pavilion staffing, retail and operations; production and management of the cultural program; and pavilion decommissioning.

Consistent with the aim of delivering a whole-of-nation, whole-of-government project, we conducted extensive consultation with federal agencies and state and territory governments, with a particular focus on the business promotion program.

In late-January 2008 we completed the establishment of a dedicated project team within the department. In late-May 2008 the Commissioner-General was appointed, and we completed a number of formal steps, including the submission to the Shanghai expo bureau of Australia’s Theme Statement, which broadly illustrates how we will address the expo theme ‘Better City, Better Life’ in our pavilion and associated programs of activity.


Photo - See caption below for description
Then Australian Ambassador to Thailand, Mr Bill Paterson PSM (right), with Australian Defence Attaché, Colonel John Blaxland (left), and former prisoner of war, Mr Bill Haskell OAM (centre), after the Anzac Day dawn service at Hellfire Pass in Kanchanaburi province on 25 April 2008. Photo courtesy of The Nation, Bangkok.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department will continue to deliver innovative, high-quality and economical public and cultural diplomacy programs in support of the Government’s foreign and trade policy goals. We will continue to promote Australia’s immediate international interests and longer-term strategies of building a solid foundation of goodwill from which to manage Australia’s image internationally.

Supporting a public diplomacy strategy for Australia’s United Nations Security Council bid, and continuing oversight of public diplomacy elements of Australia’s interests in the Beijing Olympics and World Youth Day 2008 will be priorities for 2008–09.

In an international environment characterised by intense competition for audience attention, we will further develop whole-of-government advocacy strategies and better harness multimedia and emerging technology platforms to pitch key messages abroad. Managing negative perceptions and images of Australia in overseas media will continue to require close coordination across government.

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