Vital Information

  • Capital: Canberra
  • Population: 20,600,856 (July 2008 estimate)
  • Government: Federal Parliamentary Democracy [1]


Courtesy Tourism Australia - The official for Australian Travel and Tourism Australia

A major political player, both globally and more prominently in the Asia-Pacific Region, Australia enjoys one of the most positive reputations in the world. In 2006, the Country Brands Index, which measures nations’ international images through analysis of a broad range of sectors, ranked Australia as the most marketable nation, projecting a largely positive image around the world. [2] The world’s reaction to Australia’s, of course, fundamentally linked to the nation’s domestic and international policies, but the consistently positive reputation owes a great deal to the nation’s public diplomacy initiatives. In comparison to countries like the U.S. and U.K., public diplomacy (PD) in Australia seems less of a government priority, with a far lower density of literature on the subject or official reviews of PD activities. Despite its lower profile, however, public diplomacy permeates a wide range of national projects and government initiatives. In 1997, the government affirmed the importance of public diplomacy to national interests:

In its multilateral strategies, as in its regional and bilateral efforts, Australia’s international reputation is itself a factor in our capacity to advance Australian interests. An international reputation as a responsible, constructive and practical country is an important foreign policy asset [3]

The sentiment was echoed more recently, when former diplomat Kurk Coningham said in 2007:

If we cannot maintain a neutral to positive stance on a government’s sense of cooperation with Australia then we will fail…So [public diplomacy] really does matter – not just in a tree-hugging, feeling good about ourselves sense. It matters in achieving our international objectives, because that is in some ways subordinate to how people feel about ive then we are not going to be able to achieve our objectives [4]

Government Agencies

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Images of Australia Branch

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) lists public diplomacy as one of its key functions, with the following aims: [5]

  • To project a positive and accurate image of Australia internationally
  • To identify and counter misleading perceptions of Australia
  • To promote Australia’s foreign and trade policies to diverse audiences.

Within DFAT, the Images of Australia Branch (IAB) serves as the primary division conducting official projects and activities relevant to DFAT’s Public Diplomacy aims. IAB’s responsibility is broadly defined as the implementation of “programs that aim to create positive perceptions towards Australia and to ensure that Australia’s international image is ‘contemporary, dynamic and positive.’”[6] More specifically, the Branch is divided into a number of functionally-differentiated divisions, discussed below.

Bilateral Foundations, Councils and Institutes

Special efforts are made by DFAT to sustain and deepen cooperation with a range of bilateral organizations in order to “foster perceptions of contemporary Australia as scientifically, technologically and educationally advanced, economically enterprising and culturally diverse” as well as to “build networks and contacts, influence opinion-makers and facilitate exchange of knowledge.” To this end, DFAT partners with nine different bilateral organizations to increase dialogue and develop cross-cultural initiatives. The Australia-China Council, for instance, funded about 60 separate activities between 2005 and 2006, including projects like the Year in China and Australian Studies Programs. Similar ventures are developed with the other eight organizations, which include the Australia-India Council, Australia-Indonesia Institute, Australia-Korea Foundation, Council on Australia-Latin America Relations, Council for Australian-Arab Relations, Australia-Malaysia Institute, Australia-Thailand Institute, and the Australia-Japan Foundation. In each partnership, particular emphasis is placed on developing people-to-people contacts and networks in order to facilitate dialogue first on an individual level, and ultimately on a broader international scope.[7]

Australia International Cultural Council (AICC)

The AICC focuses on cultural exchange as a powerful public diplomacy tool, and organizes a range of activities aimed at using arts and culture to further Australia’s international interests. The council itself is comprised of “representatives from government, the arts and culture community and business with a common interest in more effective international showcasing of Australian arts and culture.” Activities include such projects as the International Cultural Visits Program, which organizes visits to Australia by influential arts and media representatives from around the world, and the Cultural Relations Discretionary Grant program, which funds individuals and organization that “project a modern image of Australia abroad through cultural activity.”[8]

Invest Australia

Invest Australia serves as the government’s inward investment agency, with a mission of attracting “productive foreign direct investment into Australia to support sustainable industry growth and development through promoting Australia as an internationally competitive investment destination.”[9] The agency’s efforts include a number of promotional activities such as public relations projects, a global advertising campaign, attendance and visibility at key international events, and a multilingual website. In 2003, for instance, a global advertising campaign was launched, focusing specifically on key markets in the U.S., U.K., Europe, and Asia. Dispersed primarily through business magazines, the campaign featured a “Did You Know” section highlighting appealing facts about investment in Australia. Emphasized throughout the advertisements were characteristics such as economic performance, a skilled and multicultural workforce, cost competitiveness, innovative culture, information and communication technology infrastructure, open and efficient regulatory environment, and regional advantages. 10 (For an example advertisement see Axiss Campaign).

Tourism Australia

Courtesy Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia is the primary body responsible for marketing the nation as a prime travel destination through a wide range of advertising campaigns and marketing activities. The agency targets potential consumers as well as providing marketing resources to industry and corporations. The official mission of Tourism Australia is described as follows:[10]

To stimulate sustainable international and domestic demand for Australian tourism experiences through industry leadership and coordination; and to influence the actions of the industry’s tourism and travel marketing by:
  • championing a clear destination marketing strategy;
  • articulating and promoting a compelling tourism destination brand;
  • facilitating sales by engaging and supporting the distribution network;
  • identifying and supporting the development of unique Australian tourism experiences, especially Indigenous
  • promoting Australia as a leading sustainable business events destination;
  • gathering and communicating reliable market intelligence and insights for improved decision making
  • working with partners who can extend Tourism Australia’s influence

Specific Tourism Australia programs and projects are discussed in greater detail below.

Brand Australia


Brand Australia was first introduced by Tourism Australia in 1995, and focused on the promotion of Australia’s natural environment, people, and lifestyle. In 2004, the scope of the brand was expanded and relaunched with the slogan “Life in a Different Light.” The new campaign was based on the idea that Australia is bright country “where colors are true, skies are tall and the light shifts perspectives wherever it shines.” [11] This concept, as well as all of Brand Australia’s projects, is founded on the fundamental values chosen by Tourism Australia as the essence of Australian identity: “irreverence, optimism, mateship, integrity, and originality.” [12] The brand’s logo, which incorporates the images of a kangaroo, sun and water, is designed to build on these characteristics, representing “warmth, boundless energy and forward looking optimism” [13]. The brand serves as the reference point for almost all marketing campaigns, including tourism promotion as well as efforts in other sectors, and aims to provide a united image of Australia in its dealings with the rest of the world. So far Brand Australia has proven remarkably successful: in 2006 the Country Brands Index ranked it as the most marketable brand in the world, with Australia placing among the top ten rankings for twelve of the twenty categories considered. [14]

Media Management and Relations

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Courtesy ABC In 2007, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was redesigned as ABC International, a joint enterprise of Radio Australia and Australia network. Operating with the understanding that ABC is a “major player in how our nation is represented offshore, in terms of television, radio, and online,” the corporation develops media programs for an international audience. The organization explicitly lists its functions as paralleling and supporting the government’s public diplomacy policies, specifically by addressing the following aims:

  • Provide a credible, reliable and independent voice in the region
  • Present a “window” on Australia and Australian perspectives on the world
  • Project images and perceptions of Australia in an independent, impartial manner
  • Foster public understanding of Australia, its people and its strategic and economic interests
  • Raise awareness in the region of Australia’s economic and trade capabilities, including the in the education and tourism industries

With a presence in about forty countries, radio programs in seven languages, and an estimated weekly audience of twenty million, ABC International is one of the most visible incarnations of Australian public diplomacy. [15]

Tourism Australia Media Programs

In collaboration with DFAT, Tourism Australia hosts a number of programs aimed at developing a positive national image through international media. The Global News Bureau is responsible for the distribution of material including newsletters, press releases, video and photo material, fact sheets, trend reports, tourist destination guides, articles, as well as responses to enquiries about the nation. In addition, the International Media Hosting Program (IMHP) organizes visits for foreign journalists and film crews. Both the individuals invited and the itinerary of their trips are “carefully chosen as part of an annual strategic media plan…on the basis of their ability to deliver the right messages to the right target segment of their country of origin.” Each year the program generates hundreds of positive articles that are printed in publications such as National Geographic, Vogue, and the New York Times, as well as more narrowly targeted niche journals. Complementing the IMHP is the Domestic Media Program, which commissions Australian-based journalists for feature articles to be distributed in major international media channels. These stories are encouraged to emphasize one or more of the following categories: Aboriginal culture, nature, outback, coastal lifestyle, food and wine, and major cities and journeys, in an effort to align with the goals of Brand Australia. [16]

International Broadcasting

Tourism Promotion

Global Programs

The Global Programs project utilizes international media programs to reach foreign consumers and travelers. Specifically, Tourism Australia has partnered with National Geographic and the Discovery Channel to produce appealing programs intended to encourage foreign visitors. According to the agency, “global tourism enables Tourism Australia to negotiate and leverage world-wide editorial, publicity and sponsorship and advertising deals with both media brands.” [17]

Aussie Specialist Programs

The Aussie Specialist Programs trains retail travel agents to become “Aussie Experts” who can actively and effectively market Australia around the globe. The program was developed jointly by Tourism Australia and the State and Territory Tourism Organizations to “provide a network of retail agents to whom Tourism Australia could direct consumers interested in traveling to Australia, along with providing a vehicle for Australian products to access the retail network.” [18]

Australian Experiences

Australian Experiences develops targeted campaigns aimed at attracting visitors and consumers interested in specific aspects of Australia. The program identifies seven “Key Australian Experiences,” each of which represents a particular niche market:

  1. Aboriginal Australia
  2. Aussie Coastal Lifestyle
  3. Australian Major Cities
  4. Australian Journeys
  5. Food and Wine
  6. Nature in Australia
  7. Outback Australia

Promotional activities for each of these sectors include advertising campaigns as well as marketing resources for corporations.[19]

Consumer Marketing

Tourism Australia designs and produces a variety of advertising and public relations campaigns aimed at encouraging travel to the nation. In addition to traditional forms of advertising, online material and interactive websites are used extensively. Destination campaigns have also become a major point of focus, with an emphasis on presenting “a compelling single brand proposition about Australia to consumers in all markets.” [20]

Image and Video Resources

Tourism Australia also manages a large collection of media material online, including images and videos relevant to the seven key Australian experiences outlined above. Material is “pre-selected [to] complement these experiences” and support current advertising campaigns. [21]

For more information on Tourism Australia marketing programs and resources see Tourism Australia Online Marketing.

Sydney Olympic Games 2000

In 1993 Australia was awarded hosting rights to the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, presenting the opportunity to maximize the nation’s international presence and positive reputation around the world. In a 2000 interview Maggie White, Olympic Games Business Manager for the Australian Tourist Commission, remarked on the significance of the opportunity, noting that “it is very important to keep [the games] in context because –whilst the general level of awareness of Australia around the world varies from market to market – it was important for us to add depth and dimension to people’s impressions about the country. It’s about being more than just sun, sea, sand, friendly people and cute animals.” [22] Certainly those characteristics, many of which correspond to Brand Australia values, were promoted. The official mascots, for instance, were quintessentially Australian animals: Olly the Kookaburra, Syd the Platypus, and Millie the Echidna, all of which underscored Brand Australia qualities of casual fun and quirky creativity. However, the government also attempted to deepen Australia’s reputation by focusing on more substantial issues of global interest. The event was billed as the “Green Olympics,” with programs highlighting Australia’s environmental consciousness. The most prominent project was the transformation the highly contaminated Homebush Bay, which was converted into the site of the games through extensive remediation efforts. Billed as the most ambitious environmental reconstruction project in the history of the nation, the effort was intended to showcase Australia’s environmental awareness and achievements, particularly as the nation’s efforts earned endorsement from prominent organizations like Greenpeace. The project backfired somewhat as reports of unresolved toxic contamination emerged, but the effort was nonetheless successful in propelling Australia into the global limelight.

The Sydney Olympics were marketed as "Green Games" with an emphasis on environmental awareness (Photo Courtesy Sydney Games Info)

[23] In addition to environmental issues, the Sydney Olympics also consistently emphasized reconciliation, particularly with regard to Aboriginal Australians. In response to increased

The opening ceremony highlighted Aboriginal culture with themes of integration and reconciliation (Photo Courtesy Sydney Olympic Games Info)

international attention and concern about the state of Australia’s indigenous populations, the government published a number of fact sheets addressing issues of reconciliation, land rights and native title, Indigenous Australians and business, Government policies on health, housing, employment and education, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Indigenous Australians and business, and the mining industry’s relationship with Aboriginal communities. [24] Events during the games also incorporated the issue: the Opening Ceremony showcased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture with 900 Indigenous people performing traditional ceremonies, and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron was performed by Indigenous athlete Cathy Freeman, broadcasting “a keen message of reconciliation to the global audience”[25].

Marketing and publicity efforts also played an essential role in the advancement of Australia through the Olympic Games. Extensive media coverage was managed and promoted by a number of groups, including the Sydney Olympic Broadcasting Organization, which provided radio and television coverage of every Olympic event. [26] Total television coverage of the Games ultimately reached a total of 36.1 viewer hours in 220 countries, greater Olympic coverage than ever before.The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also organized more than 30 formal media briefings by senior department officials and distributed over 250 official statements over the course of the year, and produced a large collection of Australia fact sheets and marketing materials. In addition, DFAT hosted the Australia- Our Sporting Life exhibition, focusing on the Olympics Games, which was “seen by over 1.5 million people [and] generated significant positive international media coverage in 11 countries.” [27] The government’s efforts were largely considered successful, with the games crowned the “best ever” by Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the International Olympic Committee.[28]In terms of its effect on Australia’s international image, prominent author Bill Bryson seemed to sum the general response up when he wrote, “Everybody has come away with a clear impression that Australia is a beautiful, friendly, modern, cringe-free country.” [29]

Other Public Diplomacy Activities

(Public Diplomacy in Australia)[30]

Cultural Diplomacy

The government has a number of programs designed to highlight Australia’s cultural heritage and diversity. Among these are the Indigenous Arts Program, Australian Visual Arts Touring Program, and Australian Fine Music Touring Program. Each aims to increase global awareness and appreciation of the nation through appealing representations of Australia’s art and culture. The Embassy Roadshow, for instance, is a project of the Australia International Culture Council that presents a traveling film festival of contemporary Australian films and documentaries in Australian embassies around the world. Additionally, DFAT organizes visits to the nation by foreign arts representatives and cultural media in order to “promote awareness of the diversity and excellence of Australian cultural product, enhance links and networks, and improve commercial opportunities for the Australian arts industry.”

Environmental Projects

DFAT hosts numerous speeches, workshops, and public relations campaigns “to support Australia’s international advocacy on environment issues and to promote Australia’s strong credentials as a country committed to addressing environmental matters.”

Humanitarian Projects

Financed by AusAID, Australia’s international relief fund, DFAT publicizes the nation’s responses to international disasters and emergencies. Regarding the significance of these activities, DFAT says the following: Such efforts have a particularly enduring [public diplomacy] outcome because they are motivated by humanitarian considerations and are ascribed a level of integrity which sets them apart from any other PD program. Emergency relief efforts underline the shared interests and values which bind Australia and other societies [together] AusAID provides $4.57 million for publicizing related public diplomacy activities, including a global education program, internet presence, media activities, promotional projects and events, press releases, and publications.

Educational Projects

The Australian government organizes a variety of educational programs intended to increase international dialogue and appreciation. Australian Education International (AIE) is responsible for the promotion of educational exchange, and states the following about its significance:

Student and academic mobility and exchange are seen to provide the basis for friendship, :::mutual respect and understanding, just as education is the key to prosperity, security :::and peace in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond

Building on this concept, AIE organizes a number of promotional activities including visits to Australia by top officials, education leader, and journalists, as well as public lectures and research symposia. Additionally, AIE sends press releases about its activities to international media outlets, and provides support for international alumni networks. Complementing the efforts of AIE, the Study In Australia program represents a brand in itself, with a slogan of “Live. Learn. Grow.” and works towards the promotion of Australia’s education internationally. According to an independent evaluation conducted in 2002, its reputation is one of the strongest in the world, surpassed only by the U.S. and U.K. 8 (For more information see Study in Australia).

Continuing Concerns and Conclusion

Despite successes such as Brand Australia’s marketability, Australia’s public diplomacy efforts are relatively sparse compared to the priority of public diplomacy in many other prominent nations. Illustrating the point, per capita spending on cultural diplomacy is roughly 17 cents in Australia, versus almost 19 dollars in the U.K. 12 In February of 2007, a senate inquiry was set up to consider the issue. In the final report the committee outlined a set of particular concerns: [31]

  • the low level of interest in, or awareness of, Australia’s public diplomacy by many Australians
  • the lack of methodical and long-term research into attitudes toward Australia by countries that are of significance to Australia
  • the effectiveness of Australia’s whole-of-government approach to public diplomacy in producing a cooperative, coordinated and united effort by the many agencies and organizations that contribute to, or have the potential to contribute to, Australia’s public diplomacy, including Australia’s diaspora
  • DFAT’s ability to meet the growing challenges of conducting public diplomacy in a fiercely contested environment including matters such as the resources devoted to public diplomacy, staff training and the role of locally engaged staff
  • The need to ensure that those responsible for managing and delivering public diplomacy programs are taking full advantage of advances in technology to reach the global audience
  • The apparent absence of appropriate performance indicators suggesting that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not have mechanisms in place to monitor and assess adequately the effectiveness of its public diplomacy programs

In response to these issues, the committee published a number of recommendations, primarily focusing on increasing awareness and funding for public diplomacy initiatives. (For recommendations and further information see Senate Report) If these recommendations are incorporated, current and future public diplomacy projects in Australia will likely emphasize a more coordinated strategy among participating agencies and actors, and on deepening international perception of Australia beyond the “stereotypical and outdated images of sunshine, cuddly koalas, and abundant natural resources.” As the senate report implies, the public diplomacy success Australia has already achieved with limited funding suggests that with greater resources and more concerted efforts Australia will be able to cultivate an increasingly positive and influential presence around the globe.

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Further Reading


  1. "Australia." The World Factbook. 30 June 2008. CIA. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  2. AAP, ""Australia" brand tops the world." 07 Nov 2007 9 Jul 2008 <,26058,20716614-5012678,00.html>.
  3. "Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy." DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  4. "Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy." DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  5. "Investment Attraction." Annual Report 2002-2003. 2003. Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  6. "Public Diplomacy in Australia" Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy. DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  7. "Public Diplomacy in Australia" Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy. DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  8. "Public Diplomacy in Australia" Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy. DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  9. "Public Diplomacy in Australia" Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy. DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  10. "Tourism Australia." 2007. Australian Government. 26 Jun 2008 <>.
  11. Cousins, Sara. "Contemporary Australia." 2005. National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University. 26 Jun 2008 <>.
  12. GlobalPerspective, "Australian Legislature Concerned over Sparse Public Diplomacy Spending." [Weblog Reinventing Public Diplomacy] 17 Feb 2007. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  13. Cousins, Sara. "Contemporary Australia." 2005. National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University. 26 Jun 2008 <>.
  14. AAP, ""Australia" brand tops the world." 07 Nov 2007 9 Jul 2008 <,26058,20716614-5012678,00.html>.
  15. "Public Diplomacy in Australia" Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy. DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  16. "Public Diplomacy in Australia" Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy. DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  17. "Global Programs." Tourism Australia Online Marketing. 2007. Tourism Australia. 5 Aug 2008 <⊂=0415>.
  18. "Aussie Specialist Program." Tourism Australia Online Marketing. 2007. Tourism Australia. 5 Aug 2008 <>.
  19. "Australian Experiences." Tourism Australia Online Marketing. 2007. Tourism Australia. 5 Aug 2008 <⊂=0429>.
  20. "Consumer Marketing." Tourism Australia Online Marketing. 2007. Tourism Australia. 5 Aug 2008 <⊂=0292>.
  21. "Image and Video Resources." Tourism Australia Online Marketing. 2007. Tourism Australia. 5 Aug 2008 <⊂=0325>.
  22. "An Interview with Maggie White, Business Manager Olympic Games for the Australian Tourist Commission.." International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship 01 Sep 2000 5 Aug 2008 <>.
  23. "Green Games 2000." Sydney 2000 Games Collection. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  24. Australia. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Annual Report 1999-2000. Canberra: 2000. <>.
  25. Cousins, Sara. "Contemporary Australia." 2005. National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University. 26 Jun 2008 <>.
  26. "Sydney Olympic Broadcasting Organization." Syndey 2000. eOlympic. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  27. Olympics TV report
  28. Associated Press, "Samaranch calls these Olympics 'best ever'." ESPN 1 Oct 2000 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  29. Bryson, Bill. "Sydney, Australia, take a bow." The Sunday Times 2000 9 Jul 2008 <>
  30. "Public Diplomacy in Australia" Enhancing and building on Public Diplomacy. DFAT Reconciliation Action Plan. 29 May 2007. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 9 Jul 2008 <>.
  31. Australia. Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee.Inquiry into the nature and conduct of Australia's public diplomacy. Canberra: 2007. <>.
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