The data set contains 4937 data points in total, including 880 heads of mission in 158 cities over 47 years. Prior to 1974, consistent comparisons were not possible given the varying reporting conventions for the former Department of External Affairs and its successor the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The methodology below outlines the wide range of sources consulted for this project. The data set represents the best efforts of the researchers based on the available sources. If you have information that will help us keep this resource as accurate as possible, please contact us at


For the purposes of mapping and to enable a consistent annual calculation, the chart adopts a convention that if a head of mission took up a posting before 30 June in the year of observation, then they are counted as being there for the full year. If a head of mission commenced the posting after June in the year of observation, then the posting is recorded as occurring in the next year. This is termed the ‘posting year’ on the map, and is consistent with annual reporting by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), which reports the overseas diplomatic network as at 30 June on the year of publication. This means that the dates showing on the map may not accord with the precise dates of the posting.


Sources of information consulted for this data set include:

  • DFAT Annual Reports 1974–2020. Digital copies were obtained from the DFAT website and TROVE. At the time of recording, reports prior to 1987 have not been digitised. Hardcopies of reports were consulted at state and national libraries.

  • The conventions for counting Australian missions abroad follow those applied in the Lowy Institute Global Diplomacy Index since 2016. These are overseas posts headed by a dedicated, home-based head of mission with accreditation in the host country. Co-located missions are included if they have a dedicated head of mission. Austrade posts with consular accreditation and a home-based head of mission are included. Posts headed by honorary consuls are not included. Special envoys such as ambassadors for the Environment, Women and Children, and Counterterrorism, are not included.

  • For details of individual diplomats, sources include media releases and statements of the Foreign Minister, archives of former foreign ministers, and other sources, available at:

Political Appointments

For the purposes of the data set, ‘political appointments’ were defined as those in which former members of an Australian federal or state parliament were appointed by the Australian government to head a diplomatic mission overseas. Former members of a politician’s staff, officials of a political party, or those with other political connections to a party or politician were not included.


The gender of a head of mission was recorded according to the pronouns used to describe them. When no clear pronouns were available, gender was attributed based on available images. If pronouns and images were both unavailable, gender was marked as unknown.