THE GOLD STANDARD AWARD FOR DIPLOMATIC ENGAGEMENT

Sponsored By: 21ST CENTURY FOX

Winner: The Australian Office Taipei – “Land Down Under”, Working Holiday Makers’ Photography Competition

The Australian Office Taipei (AO) represents Australian interests in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations. In light of this unusual diplomatic status, public relations has an increased importance to bilateral relations. In recognition of this, the AO initiated a social media presence in late 2014.

One aim was to connect with an untapped audience and bilateral resource: the roughly 150,000 Taiwanese who have spent time in Australia as working holiday makers (WHMs). With many of the attributes of an ‘alumni’ group — strong experience of Australia, warm feelings towards Australia, understanding of the Australian culture and business environment — but none of the formal ties with institutions, the almost complete lack of connection with this community was identified as a major missed opportunity.

In light of budget constraints, a low-budget option was required. The AO decided to initiate a photography competition for current and former Taiwanese WHMs in the “Land Down Under”. The photographs were to be of their time in Australia, but could be submitted from either Australia or Taiwan. The competition was run over 12 weeks, with weekly winners selected by different guest judges representing various stakeholder groups, adding interest and expanding the audience for the competition through the additional exposure brought by each judge’s own personal social media following.

After twelve weeks, the resulting 34 winning photographs were shared as a collection on Facebook, with the public invited to ‘like’ their favourites in order to directly select winners of the ‘people’s choice’ awards. This resulted in the prize winners sharing the page and album to their own personal networks, which included many other former working holiday makers, expanding the AO page’s following from this community.

Throughout the competition, prize donations were sought from various relevant providers – English courses, 4WD tours, surfing lessons, hotel nights, free meals in Australia, as well as Australian gifts such as tea tree toiletries, luxury food items and Indigenous crafts. Each time a prize was secured, a Facebook post was published which tagged the company, again increasing exposure for both the competition and the partner company. The major prizes went to the people’s choice award winners and were announced on Facebook in February 2016.

The photographs were then professionally printed and mounted, and displayed as an exhibition. The opening, at an Australian café/gallery in Taipei (Woolloomooloo Xinyi), was a catered VIP event to which all 34 winners were invited. VIP artistic and cultural contacts, media reporters, diplomats and government officials were also invited. A media strategy saw significant coverage in local media, given an unexpected boost by the decision of one of the prize winners to propose to his girlfriend, a fellow WHM and the subject of one of the photographs, at the end of his speech!

The exhibition has travelled Taiwan almost continuously since, opening in ten cities, often utilising university or public galleries and with viewership exceeding 120,000 visits. Besides the opportunity to project positive images of Australia, each new city/town opening function has presented an opportunity for AO staff to visit that city, make brief opening remarks and interact with the returnee and prospective WHM community there. It was also the centrepiece exhibit for an event celebrating 20 years of Brisbane–Kaohsiung sister city relations in September 2017 and a prestigious alumni networking event in April 2016.

The result has been considerably strengthened relations with the returnee and prospective WHM community in Taiwan, including face-to-face interaction all around Taiwan that would never have occurred without this initiative.

AO has established relationships with the various organisations that offered prizes or guest judges throughout the competition phase, and strengthened relations with a range of regional towns and cities that have hosted the exhibit. AO has also deepened its understanding of the WHM community and the issues faced both in Australia and on return, and has taken steps to address these including presentations on Fair Work Australia entitlements.

Shortlist:

  • The Australian Office Taipei: “Land Down Under” – Working Holiday Makers’ Photography Competition
  • The EU Mission to ASEAN: People of ASEAN – Celebrating human joy, bringing public diplomacy to the ground (working with Edelman)
  • Kurt Tong and The US Consulate General in Hong Kong