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Welcome to the DFAT
Annual Report


At a Glance


We work to make Australia stronger, safer and more prosperous by promoting and protecting our interests internationally and contributing to economic growth and global stability, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region

We Do

Foreign Policy

Advancing Australia’s international interests by supporting the Prime Minister and portfolio ministers in multilateral forums (e.g. United Nations, WTO, G20 and OECD) and regional forums (e.g. APEC, ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Pacific Islands Forum and the Bali Process), as well as quadrilateral and trilateral dialogues and bilateral meetings

Promote Trade and Investment

$387 billion total value of exports

$377 billion total value of imports

$3.3 trillion level of total foreign investment in Australia*

* as at 31 December 2017

Reduce poverty and promote growth

$3.7 billion (estimate) total Official Development Assistance

Priority sectors

$593 million infrastructure and trade

$248 million agriculture, fisheries and water

$683 million effective governance

$654 million education

$456 million health

$1.3 billion gender equality

Humanitarian crises

$400 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance for communities hit by natural disasters

$200 million in humanitarian assistance to support refugees and internally displaced people

Assist Travellers

2,082,127 record number of passports issued

11,880 Australians overseas provided with consular assistance

>62,000 calls received by our Consular Emergency Centre

Connect People

13,774 New Colombo Plan students studied in the Indo-Pacific creating new people-to-people links in 37 countries across the region

4,031 new Australia Awards offered to individuals from over 60 developing countries

Promote Australia

11 visits for 66 influential journalists from 20 Indo-Pacific countries through our International Media Visits program, providing exposure to policies of strategic importance to Australia.

3 million social media followers


Foreign Policy White Paper

The Foreign Policy White Paper provides a strategic framework to advance Australia’s security and prosperity in a contested and competitive world over the next decade.

Exceptional year for trade negotiators and lawyers


Successfully negotiated the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11), the most significant global trade deal in over two decades.


Defended Australia’s right to regulate to protect public health through our comprehensive victory in four disputes against Australia’s tobacco plain packaging measures.

European Union
Free Trade Agreement

Launched FTA negotiations with the EU, Australia’s second largest trading partner.

Timor-Leste Maritime Boundary Treaty

The Maritime Boundary Treaty settled a long-running dispute, delimiting our maritime boundaries, and laying the foundation for a new chapter in our relationship.

United Nations Human Rights Council

Australia elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the world’s peak body for promoting and protecting human rights, to serve an inaugural three-year term.

ASEAN-Australia Special Summit

The inaugural ASEAN–Australia Special Summit elevated Australia’s strategic partnership with ASEAN and enhanced cooperation in counter-terrorism, maritime issues, cyber affairs, infrastructure and digital trade.

Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security

Launched the $300 million Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security which improves the capacity of regional health systems to help prevent epidemics, strengthen early detection, and support rapid, effective responses to disease outbreaks.

Pacific Labour Mobility

Our new Pacific Labour Scheme will allow workers in our region to take up low and semi-skilled work in rural and regional Australia.

International Cyber Engagement Strategy

Our Cyber Engagement Strategy is promoting an open, free and secure internet that drives growth, protects national security and fosters international stability.

Aid for Trade

Aid for trade comprised 22.4% of the aid program, surpassing the strategic target of 20%.

Innovation and Diversity

Recognised for our:

Women in Leadership Strategy
Winner, Gender Equality Award (APSC)

Tupaia (real-time mobile health data)
Winner, Public Sector Innovation
Award in Digital Data (IPAA)

Indigenous Supplier
Diversity Strategy

Finalist, Government Supplier of the Year (Supply Nation)


0 Total

0 Overseas Posts
Including Austrade-managed posts

0 in Australia

0 Overseas
Includes 2,298 locally engaged staff

Our Diversity APS Staff


2.5%Identify as Indigenous

2.2%Reported a disability

18%From non-English
speaking backgrounds

40%of our heads of mission
are women

Our staff have
proficiency in
31 languages

A Brief History of DFAT


The new Commonwealth of Australia established seven departments, including the Department of External Affairs (DEA), which was given responsibility for imperial relations and migration; and the Department of Trade and Customs, which administered customs duties and federal tariffs.


Australia established a high commission in London, its first post overseas. Former Prime Minister George Reid was appointed head of mission and remained there until 1916.


Prime Minister William Hughes abolished the DEA and divided its functions between the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of Home Affairs.


The DEA was re-established, mainly due to Australia’s membership of the League of Nations, but was still attached to the Prime Minister’s Department.


The first Australian trade commissioners were appointed to Canada, New Zealand, Japan, China and the Netherlands East Indies (later Indonesia), under the Trade Commissioners Act 1933 (Cth).


The DEA was released from its subordinate role in the Prime Minister’s Department and transformed into a fully separate foreign office.


Following the outbreak of World War II, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced that Australia would establish diplomatic posts in the major Pacific powers, beginning with the United States and Japan in 1940 and China in 1941.


The functions of the Department of Trade and Customs were separated — the first in a number of changes over the next thirty years, before the formation of the Department of Trade (1983–87).


The DEA was renamed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).


Responsibility for the high commission in London was transferred from the Prime Minister’s Department to the DFA.


Prime Minister Gough Whitlam restructured the DFA by creating a second Asia division, one for North and West Asia and the other for Southeast Asia.


The Whitlam Government created the Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA) to manage Australia’s aid program, withdrawing this responsibility from the DFA.


Under the Fraser Government, the ADAA was renamed the Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB) and placed under the direction of the DFA. Over the next two decades, the agency underwent several name changes, before becoming the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) in 1995.


The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Trade were merged to achieve better coordination in pursuit of Australia’s national interests.


DFAT released the first white paper on foreign and trade policy ‘In the National Interest’, which emphasised the need for ‘a realistic perspective of how to advance Australia’s security and economic interests’.


On 18 September Julie Bishop was appointed Australia’s first female Minister for Foreign Affairs.


DFAT and AusAID were integrated to ensure close alignment of the diplomatic and aid objectives of Australia’s foreign policy.


On 20 July Frances Adamson was appointed Secretary of DFAT, becoming the department’s first female Secretary.


DFAT released the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper ‘Opportunity, Security, Strength’, delivering a comprehensive trade, aid and foreign policy framework to ensure Australia’s prosperity and security over the next decade and beyond.

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