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THE ROLE OF DFAT IN AUSTRALIA'S INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
SERVICES TO THE AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY
DFAT provides consular services to Australians travelling overseas, and their families in Australia, through its network of overseas missions and honorary consulates (consisting of over 170 points of consular service worldwide), the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra and consular cooperation arrangements with other countries.
Consular services include: assisting Australians who are hospitalised, imprisoned or require welfare assistance overseas; helping family members when Australian travellers go missing or die overseas; and coordinating responses to overseas emergencies affecting Australian nationals. Of the 4.1 million Australians who travelled overseas in 2004-05, the Department provided significant consular assistance to over 25,000 of them. In addition, the Department’s Smartraveller campaign promotes safe overseas travel by Australians, including by providing comprehensive travel advice on 152 countries to help Australians avoid dangers and difficulties.
DFAT provides secure travel documents to eligible Australians in accordance with the Australian Passports Act 2005 (Cwlth), which entered into force on 1 July 2005. The Department issued 1,260,831 travel documents in 2004-05 - an increase of more than 15% over the previous year. For international security reasons, emphasis is increasingly placed on identity verification and fraud prevention in passport issuing processes. A new and more secure passport was introduced in December 2003 and work is continuing to make the passport even more secure through new technology applications.
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 promotes an accurate and contemporary image of Australia internationally, and also provides regular briefings to the media on current international issues. Detailed information about Australia’s foreign and trade policy can be obtained from the Department's web site at <www.dfat.gov.au>. Further information and links are listed in the bibliography.
THE NETWORK OF AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR MISSIONS OVERSEAS
DFAT manages an extensive network of Australian diplomatic and consular missions abroad, supporting Australia's international interests and providing consular and passport services. The Department's central office is in Canberra. It maintains offices in all other state and territory capitals, as well as Newcastle and Thursday Island. Information on the location of overseas embassies, high commissions, consulates and multilateral missions managed by DFAT can be found in the online version of the Department's annual report at <http://www.dfat.gov.au/dept/annual_reports/>.
The Department currently employs just under 2,000 Australia-based staff, of whom around 25% are posted overseas. In addition, just over 1,400 locally engaged staff are employed by the Department’s overseas missions (graphs 31. and 3.2).