Culture in overseas embassies: Buildings that evoke Australia

Thursday, July 27, 2023 at 05:00 PM



Event contact

Alicia Cerreto

How do embassies engage in projections of culture, sometimes also called 'soft power'? What is the role of Australian Studies in connection with 'official' activities overseas? Recent years have seen increasing attention paid to such questions. For example, a recent co-edited volume (Kate Darian-Smith and David Lowe), The Australian Embassy in Tokyo and Australia-Japan Relations (ANU Press 2023), explores the sociability of diplomacy and the symbolic and architectural importance of the Embassy.  A focus on the Embassy’s occupants— from ambassadors to locally-engaged staff — adds depth to historical understandings of diplomatic work and regional ties, whether these be high level negotiations or soft power cultural influences.  Join us for a panel discussion by three experts in the field on how Australian overseas posts are involved in the task of projecting Australia in other countries.

Professor David Lowe is Chair of Contemporary History and Director of the Centre for Contemporary Histories in the Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University. He has published widely on the history of Australia in the world and on international history and memory, including  Australian between Empires: The Life of Percy Spender (2010), and three edited histories of Australian embassies overseas with ANU Press, Australia Goes to Washington (with David Lee and Carl Bridge, 2017), Rising Power and Changing People: the Australian High Commission in India, (with Eric Meadows, 2022), and The Australian Embassy in Toyko and Australia-Japan Relations, (with Kate Darian-Smith, 2023).

David is co-founder of the Australian Policy and History network ( and was Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at the University of Tokyo, 2019-20.

Professor Anna Johnston is President of the International Association of Australian Studies (InASA) and was the AJF Chair of Australian Studies at the University of Tokyo in 2014-15. Her new book The Antipodean Laboratory: Making Colonial Knowledge, 1770-1870 will by published by CUP in September 2023.

Professor Kate Darian-Smith is Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Arts, Law and Education, University of Tasmania and has published widely on Australia’s history and cultural heritage. A former President of the International Australian Studies Association, Kate has contributed to the promotion of Australian Studies internationally, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, and served two terms on the Board, Australia-Japan Foundation, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She recently co-edited, with David Lowe, the volume The Australian Embassy in Tokyo and Australia-Japan Relations (ANU Press 2023); see


The seminar is part of an ongoing series, Making Public Histories, that is offered jointly by the Monash University History Program, the History Council of Victoria and the Old Treasury Building. Each seminar aims to explore issues and approaches in making public histories. The seminars are open, free of charge, to anyone interested in the creation and impact of history in contemporary society. Click HERE to learn about other events in the series.

We thank the series sponsors, Monash University Publishingthe Monash University History Program and the Old Treasury Building.


Posted by on July 18, 2023

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The History Council of Victoria acknowledges the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria for supply of the archival images that appear on this website.

We acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive for the right to use of the video footage on the home page, titled "Melbourne: Life in Australia (1966)".

Image credits

  • Italian sailors on ship at Port Melbourne 1938, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street 1901, Harvie & Sutcliffe, photographers, State Library of Victoria
  • People’s homes, Aboriginal station Coranderrk 1878, Fred Kruger Photographer, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese nurses at Children’s Hospital under scholarship 1947, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Ladies physical culture class VRI Melbourne c1931, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001, 011/02
  • Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks Day, Flemington Racecourse 1936, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001/4802, 372/30
  • Flinders Street viaduct at foot of Market Street with advertisement for McRobertson’s Chocolate on bridge, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 1342