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Australia using Public Diplomacy in an effective way

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Our plan 2014–16


Strengthen Australia's influence, reputation and relationships internationally by promoting a clear, creative and confident vision for Australia's international policy agenda that reflects our national interests and improves domestic understanding of DFAT's role.


DFAT will advance targeted public diplomacy initiatives which promote our economic, creative and cultural, sporting, innovation and science, and education assets to underline Australia's credentials as a destination for innovation, business, investment, tourism and study, and emphasise Australia's engagement with the Indo-Pacific region.

The objectives of DFAT's public diplomacy strategy are to:

  • promote Australia's competitive investment environment, open and resilient economy, predictable regulatory framework and commitment to trade liberalisation, tourism investment opportunities, strong education and training credentials, and excellence in innovation, science and technology

  • build understanding of Australia's role in and commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, including deeper integration, sustainable development and gender equality

  • strengthen Australia's influence in shaping the international political and security architecture in ways which advance our national interests and underpin prosperity and security in our region

  • promote Australia as a contemporary, creative, successful, diverse and tolerant nation; and an attractive place to study, work, visit, live and invest.


1. Promote Australia's economic credentials and support our economic diplomacy objectives

Promote, internationally and domestically, the benefits from Australia's existing trade agreements, ensure business takes advantage of the opportunities created by the North Asia free trade agreements, and build support towards the conclusion of agreements currently under negotiation.

Communicate Australia's commitment to the four objectives of economic diplomacy, across the Department's foreign, trade, investment and development work, specifically:

  • Trade: pursue trade liberalisation through bilateral, regional and global trade agreements that provide new opportunities for Australian exporters and sustain a strong, rules-based architecture for global trade.

  • Growth: support global growth and assist developing countries in the region to address internal constraints to economic growth, such as restrictive regulations, poor infrastructure and lack of capacity in the private sector.

  • Investment: promote investment into Australia and Australian investment internationally.

  • Business: advance the interests of Australian business overseas and the development a stronger private sector in our region, as well as promote Australian tourism.

Promote and support the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) which will help transform Australia into a leading innovative nation and position us to seize the next wave of economic prosperity.

Employ soft power for trade, investment and economic prosperity promotion.

Promote economic empowerment of women and girls, empower women entrepreneurs in our region and advocate internationally for the importance of women's participation in political, economic and social affairs and leadership for achieving prosperity and stability.

Audience: Government; business; NGOs; science, medical and research institutions; education bodies; commentators; host countries; women's organisations.

2. Underline Australia's deep engagement with the Indo-Pacific region

Emphasise Australia's deep integration, strength, investment and influence in the Indo-Pacific region including through participation in regional partnerships, forums and dialogues.

Highlight our commitment to building deeper and broader links through: the New Colombo Plan (NCP); Australia Awards; Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID); Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP); the Direct Aid Program (DAP); sports cooperation; growing two-way tourism; investing aid in the sustainable development of our close neighbours; and strengthening regional political and institutional architecture.

Encourage trade and investment in the Indo-Pacific, including through the entry into force of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the ASEAN Economic Community and associated opportunities for ASEAN economic integration and growing two-way investment.

Audience: Government; business; NGOs; commentators; partner countries; cultural and arts sector; sports sector; education sector.

3. Advocate Australia's vision for the international policy agenda

Build support for Australia's candidacy for the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018-2020 and the United Nations Security Council in 2029-2030. Highlight Australia's support for global, regional and bilateral security frameworks and norms based on the United Nations Charter, international law and our commitment to a well-functioning multilateral rules-based order.

Highlight Australia's important advocacy and norm-setting role on a number of key international policy issues, such as: gender (women's leadership, women's economic empowerment and ending violence against women and girls); human rights (ending the death penalty, good governance and National Human Rights Institutions); climate change and environmental sustainability (our leadership in implementing the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, the Green Climate Fund, and commitment to the World Heritage system); and international peace and security (the Responsibility to Protect principle, peacebuilding, arms control, humanitarian response, and accountability for international crimes).

Demonstrate our standing as a credible, engaged, significant actor on major international and regional political and security debates.

Emphasise Australia's commitment to strengthening the rules-based international political and security architecture, building on achievements from our role as the G20 chair in 2014 and our 2013-2014 term on the United Nations Security Council, and forming stronger ties with the countries in our region.

Audience: Government; business; NGOs; research institutions; commentators; think tanks; partner countries.

4. Promote Australia's development credentials

Highlight Australia's commitment to supporting partner countries in our region accelerate economic growth, enhancing stability in the region, managing the impacts of climate change and reducing poverty through effective development and humanitarian assistance.

Lead on deliberations and policy actions relating to Australia's priority development themes in global fora, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and G20.

We will work to increase public understanding of the aid program and key themes including its Indo-Pacific focus, private sector engagement, aid for trade initiatives, innovation, and women's economic empowerment. This will increase the visibility and understanding of the aims and value of Australian aid to both a domestic and international audience. One focus will be on outreach to diaspora communities in Australia, through ethnic community media channels, including radio and social media. We will actively seek opportunities to engage with ethnic communities to promote the benefits of the Australian aid program with increased messaging around international days, festivals and events.

Audience: Government; NGOs; business; local beneficiaries of Australian aid; think tanks; commentators; ethnic media and diaspora communities in Australia.

5. Champion Australia as an open, innovative, democratic, and diverse nation

Support the implementation of the NISA, and in particular its international initiatives such as the Global Innovation Strategy, through international advocacy.

Promote Australia's culture of resourcefulness, entrepreneurship and ingenuity; and our creative industries, scientific research organisations and education system.

Highlight Australia's high levels of ethnic diversity and social harmony and our commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom of speech, cultural diversity, gender equality, respect for people with disabilities, and respect for Indigenous cultures.

Underline the role played by Australia in championing women's economic empowerment and gender equality, including through the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Strategy and the work of the Ambassador for Women and Girls.

Foster enduring people-to-people ties and institutional links across all levels of government and civil society.

Audience: Government; business; NGOs; research institutions; think tanks; diaspora communities; commentators; cultural and arts sector; sports and education sectors.

2. Our approach

We will pursue these Public Diplomacy goals and objectives through approaches which engage audiences on contemporary Australia and which facilitate networks, collaboration and connections between people and institutions to build understanding, trust and influence in advancing our national interests.

Cultural diplomacy

Culture provides a unique and critical forum for fostering mutual understanding and relationship-building. Cultural diplomacy has a vital role to play in international relations. Alliances are just as likely to be forged along the lines of cultural understanding as they are on economic or geographic ones.

DFAT will work collaboratively with the Ministry for the Arts, the Australia Council for the Arts and organisations which strengthen Australia's reputation as a sophisticated and creative nation with a confident, outward-looking arts sector.

We leverage Australia's creative industries, including fashion, design, and architecture, in line with the Government's economic diplomacy and innovation agenda as well as development assistance priorities.

Through funding arts and cultural activities in priority countries and regions, we aim to:

  • establish networks and promote collaboration and exchange between Australian artists/arts organisations and their international partners

  • expand audiences and markets for Australian artistic work and creative products

  • promote Australian expertise in arts production and management

  • leverage public-private partnerships

  • recognise the role of cultural actors as authentic and accessible barometers and agents of social change

  • influence perceptions of Australia at home and abroad.

DFAT's programs will promote Australia's cultural exports and creative industries.

  • The rebranded focus country program Australia now Brazil (2016) will strengthen and deepen bilateral ties, and build enduring connections through integrated cultural events and activities. We have commenced planning for future focus country programs in Germany (2017) and Japan (2018). Alongside a focus on promoting Australia's creative excellence, DFAT will highlight Australian innovation and deepen people-to-people and institutional links.

  • The International Cultural Visits (ICV) program supports visits to Australia by leaders in the arts and cultural industry from overseas. It aims to generate improved commercial opportunities in overseas creative industry markets for the domestic arts industry. The program includes targeted exchanges/visits (both inward and outward bound to support two-way engagement), with a particular emphasis on identified market priority countries and current and future focus country programs.

  • The film program promotes Australian screen content, industry expertise and Australian culture through film in partnership with Screen Australia. We will look for new opportunities to do more with the film and television industry in promoting our talent overseas.

  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program demonstrates Australia's respect for, and recognition of, cultural diversity and heritage, and promotes greater international understanding and awareness of Australia's Indigenous cultures. It supports many expressions of Indigenous culture through two-way Indigenous exchange/visitor programs, performances, visual arts exhibitions, NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week. The program aligns with the Indigenous Peoples Strategy which provides a framework for Australia to work with our international partners and the United Nations to influence international policy to advance the interests of Indigenous peoples in Australia and around the world.

  • Through the visual arts program we tour visual arts exhibitions to target locations in Asia and support inbound exhibitions of works from Asia to enhance two-way cooperation. We will explore touring beyond the region to target visual arts market priority countries for Australia.

  • We support international and regional arts activity through partnerships and engagement, including Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts in Melbourne in 2017 and the APT: Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art and the Australian Performing Arts Market in Brisbane.

Media engagement

DFAT's media engagement work provides significant opportunities to inform and influence audiences. We will draw on a range of advocacy opportunities and tools, including Official Visits, informal briefings, HOM/SES interviews, news conferences and social media channels. We will look for opportunities to promote the Department's work, including by publicising policy developments, achievements, new services and significant statistics as well as human interest stories.

The International Media Visits (IMV) program supports implementation of our key foreign and trade policy objectives by providing participant journalists and their readers with an increased understanding of contemporary Australia. IMVs will be targeted towards promoting international understanding of Australia's innovation, science and research capabilities and infrastructure; investment environment; gender; human rights; and sporting assets and capabilities to host major events.

Sports diplomacy

The Australian Sports Diplomacy Strategy 2015-18 capitalises on Australia's sporting assets and expertise to promote Australia's diplomatic, development and economic interests. The whole-of-government strategy provides a practical way to inform, engage and influence key groups, particularly youth, emerging leaders and women and girls. It also promotes Australian capabilities and creates business opportunities through the Australian Government's international sports business program, Match Australia, and aims to establish our sports 'brand' in the region.

DFAT will continue to provide a central coordination point for all sports diplomacy activity across the Australian Government. This ensures a best practice approach to utilising the Australian Government's investment in sport. Through sports diplomacy we will:

  • build institutional and people-to-people linkages

  • promote our reputation for excellence in performance and training, sports governance and domestic participation

  • support sport for development initiatives

  • showcase our major events capabilities.

In 2016, DFAT will expand the sport for development program to Asia, building on the success of the Pacific Sports Partnerships initiative, targeting improvements in education, health, gender equality, and disability inclusion through sport.

Science diplomacy

DFAT has prioritised the development of a science diplomacy strategy in 2015-16 to enable the Department and its overseas network to promote Australia's national innovation and science credentials; identify opportunities for collaboration; and to further institutional and people-to-people links.

The strategy will support and complement the Australian Government's NISA and its existing suite of international engagement initiatives and programs, as well as advance the Department's strategic and economic foreign policy objectives.

The strategy aims to:

  • enhance Australian international competitiveness and economic diplomacy in innovation, science and technology

  • promote Australia as a destination for education and training

  • lift Australia's profile as a partner for science centre capacity building, research collaboration and international exchanges, including climate science

  • facilitate greater international engagement and collaboration in innovation.

It will also recognise existing DFAT programs (such as the focus country program, IMV and Special Visits Program and the Australian Fellowship Awards) as well as identifying further opportunities to promote international understanding of Australia's science, research and innovation capabilities through a range of international fora.

New Colombo Plan (NCP)

The NCP is a signature Government initiative which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

The NCP aims to be transformational, deepening Australia's relationships in the region, both at the individual level and through expanding university, business and other stakeholder links. The program will develop a more regionally-aware Australian workforce for the future and support a genuine two-way flow of students within the region, complementing the thousands of students coming to Australia to study each year. Over time, the NCP alumni network will establish itself as an influential cohort with direct experience of living, studying and working in the region.

Australia Awards

In 2016 Australia Awards scholarships and fellowships will provide around 2,000 awards for citizens of more than 85 eligible countries to undertake study, research and professional development. They are a feature of nearly all of Australia's bilateral aid programs, contributing to the achievement of development objectives across a range of sectors and building people-to-people links between Australia and the Indo-Pacific region.

Australia Awards Scholarships provide emerging leaders the opportunity to undertake full-time undergraduate or postgraduate study at Australian tertiary institutions.

Australia Awards Fellowships offer mid-career professionals an opportunity to undertake short course study, research and professional development in Australia. They will be aligned to Australia's public diplomacy goals, encouraging Awards with cultural, sports, innovation, science and research institutions, alongside Awards to support broader development priorities.

Together with the New Colombo Plan, the Australia Awards create a two-way exchange that is critical to Australia's engagement with the region.

Alumni engagement

Australia's global alumni represent a highly-educated and influential network of leaders with an affinity to Australia who can play an important part in contemporary diplomacy.

Strong and enthusiastic local alumni networks, working alongside and with Australia's extensive network of embassies, open up opportunities for alumni to:

  • remain connected to each other through face-to-face activities and social media

  • form new personal and professional networks

  • access ongoing local, regional and global opportunities for networking and professional development

  • remain connected to Australia.

In 2016 DFAT will launch a whole-of-government Global Alumni Engagement Strategy in collaboration with government and tertiary institution partners. Effective alumni engagement will strengthen people‑to‑people linkages, grow trade and investment, promote our capabilities and enhance Australia's diplomatic, cultural, economic and international education interests.

Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID)

Volunteers promote a positive perception of Australia in the region and of the aid program domestically. AVID also contributes to development outcomes and links the Australian community with people and organisations in developing countries.

The AVID program:

  • builds understanding of Australia's international role and commitment to integration with the Indo-Pacific region

  • increases the number of volunteers working to improve the economic livelihoods of people in developing countries

  • develops volunteer assignments in priority areas of governance, health, social infrastructure and services and education.

Through the AVID program, around 1400 dedicated and skilled Australians work as volunteers in more than 1000 host organisations across 23 countries.

Australian volunteers frequently continue their engagement with the aid program when they return to Australia, forming vibrant and engaged networks comprised of influential professionals with enhanced cross-cultural understanding, who are able to advance Australia's interests domestically.

Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)

The ANCP is DFAT's single largest support mechanism for accredited Australian NGOs. ANCP programming directly contributes to the ability of communities to achieve economic development, improve local and national governance, and empower women and people with a disability.

The ANCP engages high performing Australian NGOs and their in-country partners on projects that yield results and extend the impact and reach of the bilateral aid program.

The ANCP extends the reach of Australia's aid program by leveraging NGOs' public and private support–every dollar invested by the Government translates into approximately $1.50 on the ground.

The ANCP also extends Australia's international networks as Australian NGOs work through nearly 5,000 partners in developing countries including private sector organisations, governments and local civil society. This strengthens Australia's diplomatic relationships across the world and enables Australia to mobilise quickly and effectively when humanitarian need arises.

We will work with ANCP members to showcase the strength and expertise of civil society organisations and the effectiveness of the aid program to our domestic constituency.

Direct Aid Program (DAP)

The Direct Aid Program (DAP) is a flexible small grants program administered through 66 of DFAT's overseas posts. DAP provides an effective way to build relationships and maintain Australia's profile to:

  • advance developmental outcomes in Official Development Assistance-eligible countries with projects primarily focused on practical results

  • support Australia's wider foreign and trade policy interests and public diplomacy objectives, including promoting a positive image of Australia.

Foundations Councils and Institutes (FCIs)

The Foundations, Councils and Institutes (FCIs) engage audiences on contemporary Australia and facilitate international networks, collaboration and connections between institutions and communities to build understanding, trust and influence. FCI boards, comprising eminent Australian business and community leaders, form advisory groups for brokering ideas on how to advance business, education, science, media, arts, culture and sporting links with key bilateral and regional partners. The FCI grant programs catalyse and deepen professional, community and institutional linkages between Australia and its partners on contemporary issues of mutual interest. DFAT will encourage FCIs to:

  • expand efforts on economic diplomacy including through facilitating dialogue between business leaders and business media exchanges, as well as cultural exchange

  • extend engagement with emerging leaders and alumni networks, including through the NCP and the Australia Awards

  • enhance engagement with diaspora communities in Australia

  • support enhanced use of digital communications including social media platforms to advocate, listen to and engage with domestic audiences

  • promote stronger private sector partnerships to secure funding, partnerships and support–a leading example is the Australia-China Council's partnership with BHP Billiton for the Foundation for Australian Studies in China.

Building networks of influence

An important priority for DFAT's public diplomacy strategy is building and nurturing networks of influence and strengthening engagement with domestic and international stakeholders. DFAT will:

  • strengthen engagement with key institutions (in Australia and overseas) including, in Australia, the Australian Institute for International Affairs, the Lowy Institute, NGOs, universities, science infrastructure and business groups and peak bodies to amplify our public diplomacy messaging, including in political and business circles

  • strengthen engagement with key private sector organisations, philanthropists and NGOs including in-kind sponsorship and financial support for public diplomacy events and outreach to broaden audiences through the partner networks

  • foster international cultural relationships to enhance our global standing through culture and support market development for our creative industries.

  • cultivate non-Australian influencers and 'local voices' across the political, business and cultural spheres, including youth representatives

  • use the working-holiday maker program, diaspora communities and expatriate networks in Australia and overseas to strengthen relations and reinforce messages

  • establish connections with the youth population in our region through targeted activities using communication platforms where youth engage

  • build networks amongst emerging leaders, through alumni networks generated by the NCP, Australia Awards, AVID, FCIs and broader private alumni.

Diaspora communities

Australia has a large Asian-born immigrant population giving us an important comparative advantage in diaspora diplomacy in the region. We also have an estimated 1 million Australians living abroad with the largest concentrations in UK, Europe, New Zealand and North America.

We will:

  • connect and cultivate Australian diaspora and alumni networks for business, investment and research linkages aligned with NISA

  • showcase Australian innovation, creative and scientific excellence and celebrate achievements of global Australians

  • promote broader government interests and priorities.

Diaspora diplomacy includes 'public diplomacy at home' through outreach to diaspora communities in Australia, as well as diplomacy conducted indirectly by Australian businesses and NGOs operating overseas, and increasingly by Australian-diaspora networks.

Further steps will be taken to engage diaspora communities drawing on their linguistic skills, social networks and cultural community connections to showcase and celebrate Australia's capabilities and values.

We will institute links to diaspora communities in Australia (including through Australia Awards, and alumni, and FCIs) to strengthen relationships with their descendent country.

Investing in public diplomacy content

DFAT will draw on the capabilities, skills and expertise of the portfolio to:

  • make more effective use of communication technologies, including active use of online and social media as public diplomacy tools – through a new Digital Media Strategy, expanded social media initiatives, co-branded social media campaigns in collaboration with Austrade, refreshed online media presence (post and public diplomacy websites) and clear, coordinated guidance in public diplomacy best practice and techniques

  • plan public diplomacy campaigns, drawing on the programs of major cultural, sports, innovation and science, NGO and education partners, portfolio partners and support posts to anticipate and capitalise on visits, tours and events of our major partners

  • enhance our approach to branding, including the development of corporate visibility guidelines and co-branding with the national brand, Australia Unlimited, to strengthen Australia's international profile

  • launch a dynamic Public Diplomacy Portal–a current and information-rich internal resource with communications products and content which can be adapted for local audiences and context, and draws on articles on Australian capability and creativity from the existing Australia Unlimited website managed by Austrade

  • build creative and strategic partnerships, including with media organisations in Australia and overseas (media partners for conferences and events, sponsoring Australian media representatives to cover programs at posts)

  • leverage development-related initiatives and community focused projects to complement public diplomacy programs.

3. Management of public diplomacy programs

A coordinated approach with portfolio agencies

DFAT continues to adopt a whole-of-portfolio (working closely with Austrade, Tourism Australia and ACIAR) and whole-of-government approach in Australia, collaborating with the Ministry for the Arts, Department of Industry and Science, Department of Education, and State and Territory Governments.

A collaborative approach at post

Public diplomacy efforts will be regarded as a mission-wide, whole-of-government activity at post, drawing on the experience, expertise and networks of all officers at post and with all staff responsible for public diplomacy.

Supporting longer term public diplomacy partnerships to improve impact and sustainability

DFAT will review the priorities and strategies annually in line with Government priorities and objectives.

Each year, Posts will be invited to present comprehensive proposals for combined activities across all DFAT public diplomacy funding sources. This will support a more programmatic approach to public diplomacy, and create more sustainable and flexible approaches enabling longer-term relationships with key identified partners.

Posts are encouraged to seek out other sources of funding, sponsorship and in-kind support.

Measuring and evaluating benefits of public diplomacy investments

Adopting a three-year time frame for DFAT's public diplomacy strategy will not only ensure a less opportunistic and more strategic and thematic approach to programming–it will also provide a stronger basis to assess impacts and results, supported by improved monitoring and evaluation of activities.

Work is underway to develop a practical measurement framework that will guide monitoring and evaluation of public diplomacy activities in DFAT. The framework will identify realistic indicators and a plan for targeted independent evaluations.

We will develop a systematic approach for gathering qualitative evidence that demonstrate outcomes that become visible over time. This information will be used to generate best practice case studies to facilitate learning and continuous improvement.

The impact of digital communications will be measured through analytics and development of a Departmental social media dashboard.


Please join the conversation here: We look forward to learn from you and your experience.


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