Since its establishment in 1978, the Council has played an important role in expanding and deepening the range of contacts between Australia and China by supporting activities that complement and underpin official contacts. Given the expansion of Australia's relations with China, over the years the Council has been conscious of the need that its objectives and programs continue to reflect the nature of the bilateral relationship and that its programs remain consistent with Australia's wider foreign and trade policy objectives. To this end, the Council has continually refined its objectives and priorities under its broad purpose: to foster people-to-people relations between Australia and China.
The Council conducted a review of its direction and activities early in the period covered by this report. It strengthened its focus on the objective of promoting greater mutual awareness and understanding between Australia and China through a range of programs in the key areas of education, culture, the Internet, business, and science and technology. The Council also formulated a three-year strategic plan for its activities 1999-2002 to ensure that maximum impact would be gained from its activities in view of its limited funding and the wide range of possible worthwhile programs for support. The Council agreed to lean towards support for flagship programs, with less emphasis on one-off projects and, wherever possible, more on providing 'seed' funding for activities that would be most likely to have on-going benefits.
Under its strategic plan during 1998-99 the Council initiated and supported a number of significant programs that aimed to promote greater awareness and contemporary understanding between Australia and China in line with its objectives, including:
It is essential that Council activities be integrated and coordinated with overall bilateral relations. During the year council members had the opportunity to exchange views with the government and Australian diplomatic representatives in China on a number of issues in the bilateral relationship and on its program of activities. They were also able to hold discussions with a number of key organisations involved in delivery of the Council's programs in Beijing and obtain feedback important for future planning of activities.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australia's diplomatic representatives for their on-going support of the Council and its activities. I would also like to thank the secretariat for its work in managing council programs and council members for their continued valuable contribution.