During 2015–16, more than 45 foreign VIPs made official visits to Australia. The Directorate of Protocol and Visits is responsible for coordinating these visits by senior foreign military and civilian defence officials who are of two-star rank or above.
The Directorate ensures foreign VIPs who are allocated Guest of Defence status receive appropriate and professional visit management support during their stay in Australia. The Directorate also provides specialist visit advice to non-sponsored Defence visits.
These visits allow Defence to showcase its capabilities to foreign senior defence officials. Areas of interest include all levels of training and operational activities such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counter-terrorism.
All major units were visited by at least one senior foreign defence official throughout the year. Some of the more popular places were Fleet Base East, Headquarters Forces Command, Holsworthy Barracks, the Singleton School of Infantry, Russell Offices, the Australian Defence College, the Defence International Training Centre and the Majura Training Area.
Countries conducting visits during the year included Afghanistan, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Vietnam.
If the visit program allows, cultural activities are organised for foreign VIPs. For many VIPs, visiting the Australian War Memorial and laying a wreath during the Last Post ceremony is a highlight.
Another important role performed by the Directorate of Protocol and Visits is the provision of support to the foreign Services Attachés and Advisers Group in Australia. There are currently 70 members of the Services Attachés and Advisers Group from 40 countries accredited to Australia. Support to the group includes coordinating and arranging Defence briefings, visits and tours; processing requests for information; monitoring security clearance and visit advice for visits to Australia by foreign defence officials; drafting correspondence; and issuing invitations.
A highlight for the Services Attachés and Advisers Group was the major Defence tour to northern Queensland. A five-day program allowed time for visits to HMAS Cairns, Norship Marine shipyard and dock in Cairns, RAAF Townsville, and Lavarack Barracks.