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The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is the principal source of advice to the Australian Government on foreign and trade policy issues, and is responsible for implementing the Government’s foreign and trade policies. The aim of the department is to advance the interests of Australia and Australians internationally. To this end, the department’s staff work towards the achievement of four primary outcomes:
Location and number of DFAT staff
At 30 June 2004, DFAT employed just under 2,000 Australia-based staff, of whom 27% were posted overseas. In addition, just over 1,400 local staff were employed by the department’s overseas missions.
Graph 3.1 shows the location of DFAT staff and graph 3.2 the number of Australia-based DFAT staff overseas by region at 30 June 2004.
Services to the Australian community
DFAT provides consular and passport services to Australians travelling overseas and their families in Australia through its network of overseas missions and honorary consulates (consisting of 167 points of consular service worldwide), the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra and consular cooperation arrangements with other countries. The services the department provides include: assisting Australians who are hospitalised, imprisoned or require welfare assistance overseas; helping family members when Australian travellers die or go missing overseas; and coordinating evacuations from international trouble spots. The department provided direct consular assistance to almost 13,000 Australians during 2003-04.
The department also provides timely and comprehensive travel advice on 144 destinations for Australians overseas and those who are planning to travel. These travel advisories offer up-to-date information about the security environment in a particular country, including in relation to possible terrorist threats or problems with law and order. They also provide advice on a range of practical issues such as health and medical issues, and legal or cultural differences. These advisories ensure Australians are well-informed about their travel destinations, and help them to avoid dangers and difficulties.
The department provides secure travel documents to eligible Australians in accordance with the provisions of the Passports Act 1938 (Cwlth) and other relevant legislation. For international security reasons, DFAT places a strong emphasis on identity verification and fraud prevention in its passport issuing processes, and introduced a new and more secure passport in December 2003. Online passport services were also introduced in late-2003.
Public information services
DFAT provides a range of information services on foreign and trade policy to the Australian public and media, including through briefings and public presentations, and the production of public affairs material such as brochures, reports and publications. The department also promotes an accurate and contemporary image of Australia internationally. Officials from the department provide regular briefings to the media on topics of interest. Detailed information about Australia’s foreign and trade policy can be obtained from the DFAT web site, <http://www.dfat.gov.au>. The department also produces publications on many foreign and trade issues, and on the history of Australia’s engagement in international affairs. Further information and links are listed in the Bibliography.