Date of Award

2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Communications Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Communications, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Lelia Green

Second Advisor

Alan McKee

Abstract

Communication, in the form of diplomatic discourse between nation-states, has long been considered an effective tool of foreign affairs and international relations. The management of international government communication (whether it is through the foreign affairs department of the government of a nation-state, or by the embassies and high commissions that represent that nation) comes under pressure from various internal and external forces acting in the international political environment such as impending war, economic and financial crises, natural disasters, political instability and the approaching millennium. Arguably, it is possible that an alternative method of communications management could be considered to ensure nations remain proactive in this developing era of instability and uncertainty. The methodology evaluated here comes from a body of knowledge dealing with public relations and communications management theory, a shift from the traditional methods or communication management stemming from international relations and political theory. Through quantitative and qualitative analysis, the researcher attempted to provide possible explanations for the reasons behind the poor media and public image of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The researcher argues that these reasons lie in the Department's apparent closed, mechanical and authoritative organisational culture and that the principles of public relations and diplomacy could provide a means to turn around this negative image. The DFAT is vital to the success of Australia as an economically secure and politically stable trading nation with close ties with major trading blocs and nations around the world, in particular, ASEAN (the Association of South-East Asian Nations), the largest and most influential trading bloc in the Asia-Pacific region of which Australia is party to. The researcher argues changes need to be made to the structure and processes of the DFAT if it is to change and grow with Australia and ASEAN. The results of the study provided initial evidence that the principles or both public relations and diplomacy arc similar and can he converged in theory to develop a generalisable model of excellent international diplomatic communications management for foreign affairs departments, such as the DFAT, to follow. The model would provide continuity to the practices of public relations and diplomacy to aid in the effective achievement of foreign policy objectives by the DFAT, which have come under fire from academics, political analysts and the political media in the past.

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