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heading foldHow we are helping

2013/14 Estimated Outcome

$30.5 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate

$30.3 million

Carpentry students work on a class project at the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology

Carpentry students work on a class project at the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology (credit: DFAT).

Australia and Tonga enjoy close people-to-people links and a common interest in supporting Tonga’s recently established democratic system of government. Australia is one of the largest sources of remittances to Tonga, due in part to increasing numbers of Tongan migrants to Australia. Tonga is also by far the most successful participant in Australia’s Seasonal Workers Program with over
80 per cent of participants in the programme so far.

Australian aid supports Tonga to pursue effective governance—including prudent economic management and debt reduction—and private sector development, by linking aid payments to mutually agreed reform benchmarks. Support for Tonga to pursue appropriate fiscal and economic policy settings will be the centre-piece of Australia’s aid to Tonga in 2014-15. Australia will also support further reforms to improve the business environment and encourage more private investment, including through privatisation of key government-owned enterprises and reforms to make it easier to start a business.

Detailed records of Tongan customs kept at the Nuku?alofa port office
Detailed records of Tongan customs kept at the Nuku'alofa port office (credit: DFAT).

Australia will invest in improved infrastructure, including working in partnership with the World Bank to repair critical infrastructure, such as airports, roads and ports, in Ha’apai damaged by Cyclone Ian, and to improve the management and condition of Tonga’s road network. Joint Australia-World Bank assistance for road maintenance is being undertaken in a way that has helped to create a locally owned road contracting industry, by tendering maintenance work in small packages and by providing training and business advice to small contractors. A new renewable energy project co financed by Australia and the Asian Development Bank will also install on and off-grid solar energy equipment in Tonga’s outer islands to reduce vulnerability to oil price shocks and increase energy efficiency.

Members of a road works team repair roads around the main island of Tongaptu, Tonga
Members of a road works team repair roads around the main island of Tongaptu, Tonga (credit: DFAT).

Australia will also continue to invest in Tonga’s human capital through health and education investments. Support to improve primary and preventative health care in Tonga to reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases and improve the quality and efficiency of the health system will be continued. A broader assessment of Tonga’s health sector challenges will also be undertaken in collaboration with the Tongan government. Australia is working closely with Tonga and New Zealand to improve the standard of curriculum and teaching in primary schools to help Tonga achieve improved education outcomes.

Australia will also fund a new, high quality technical vocational education and training programme to lift workforce standards and provide employment opportunities to Tongans at home and abroad. In 2014-15, Australia will offer 44 new Australia Awards. Australian aid to Tonga will also support measures to reduce violence against women, increase women’s leadership opportunities and promote women’s economic empowerment, including by supporting women’s increased participation in business and offshore worker schemes.

Students with a disability take part in activities at Ngele'ia Primary School in Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Students with a disability take part in activities at Ngele'ia Primary School in Nuku'alofa, Tonga (credit: DFAT).

Lola Koloa'Matangi, a counsellor at Tonga National Centre for Women and Children, talks with a woman who has been the victim of abuse by her partner
Lola Koloa'Matangi, a counsellor at Tonga National Centre for Women and Children, talks with a woman who has been the victim of abuse by her partner (credit: DFAT).

Archived details of expenditure for this program for 2013–14 can be found here.

Archived details of expenditure for DFAT’s aid program, following the Government’s announcement on 18 January 2014 to revise the aid budget, can be found here.


Recent results

  • Upgrades to three health centres in 2011 improved health facilities and services for around 2,280 households. Five health centres also received  upgrades of medical equipment to allow those facilities to deliver enhanced medical services.
  • Non Communicable Disease (NCD) specialist nurses were placed in five health centres in 2011 as part of a pilot scheme to work closely with communities to help prevent and control NCD-related illnesses. 
  • The national Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) Screening and Prevention Program screened 1,129 children in 2011. Since 2008, over 14,000 children have been screened, and as result of this early detection program, RHD has declined from 72 cases per 1,000 people in 2008, to 37 per 1000 in 2011.  
  • Australia is funding specialist medical positions to directly deliver vital medical services. A senior surgeon funded under the health program conducted 205 surgeries, and an anaesthetist provided 520 procedures during 2011.

Commitments 2012–2013

  • The pilot of NCD nurses in health centres will be assessed. Depending on the success of the community-based pilot in preventing and addressing NCDs, it may be scaled up to include up to a further 15 NCD nurses, covering all operational health centres in Tonga.
  • A survey undertaken in accordance with World Health Organisation standards, will be completed mid-2012, and will provide much needed baseline data on NCD risk factors  (people’s knowledge, attitudes and practices) and NCD related illnesses.
  • A social marketing campaign will be rolled out, focusing on the four NCD risk factors (alcohol, tobacco, poor diet, and lack of physical exercise) to increase public health education and messages about NCD prevention.
  • Continued funding for critical health service delivery deficiencies in surgery, anaesthesiology, pathology and bio medical engineering will directly support the delivery of medical services.


Recent results

  • 178 students (including 99 women) graduated from the Australia Pacific Technical College with Australian-recognised qualifications between 2008 and 2011.
  • 69 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) trainers received certificate training and assessor training in 2011.
  • The Tonga National Qualification and Accreditation Board (TNQAB) has completed the 'Guidelines for National Qualifications Development and Tonga Qualification Framework Registration'.
  • 20 Tongan training providers (out of 33 institutions in total) were registered by the TNQAB in 2010 and 2011 to provide accredited courses.

Commitments 2012–2013

  • 80 per cent of technical and vocational education providers will be able to provide improved training with standards and accreditation aligned with Australia and New Zealand.
  • Scholarships in 2012 will help Tonga meet its demand in priority training areas. Scholarship areas of study are aligned to the Partnership for Development priorities.

Economic development

Recent results

  • Over 25 local private sector contracting and consulting companies were trained in bidding for contracts in 2011.
  • The first contract ever was awarded to a local contractor in January 2012 to construct 4.2km of road, piloting a road surfacing technology never before used in Tonga.
  • Improvements to safety and security standards to Fua’amotu airport mean it is now on the way to achieving International Civil Aviation Organisation compliance.
  • Completion of maritime, aviation and land sector investment plans concluded in 2012 (some commenced in 2010, but all were completed by 2012), as well as a review of compliance with international standards in the aviation sector over 2009 and 2010.

Commitments 2012–2013

  • One single Ministry for Infrastructure is being created from the nine separate entities previously responsible for maritime, aviation and road maintenance.
  • A costal watch radio system will be implemented, in addition to other maritime investments to improve maritime safety.
  • A new fire station and passenger waiting area will be constructed at the main airport.
  • Approximately 130 km of road will be rehabilitated, maintained or reconstructed over 2012 and 2013.


Recent results

  • Two tax advisors helped the Tongan Revenue Services Department increase annual tax returns by 20 per cent and collect TOP19.7 million (about $11 million) in arrears between 2008 and 2010.
  • The Customs Service increased customs and duty collections by $100,000 in 2011.
  • Australian funded technical assistance helped Tonga to develop a public procurement system in 2010.
  • Code of conduct training has been provided for all government Ministries every year since 2010.
  • A performance grant of $5 million was disbursed to the Government of Tonga in early 2012 on the basis of necessary economic and fiscal reforms being undertaken throughout 2011. The grant was used to fund health worker and teacher salaries to ensure that these services continue to be delivered.

Commitments 2012–2013

  • A further performance grant will provide Tonga with the incentive and ability to implement further public sector management and policy reforms. The grant will again be directed to education and health worker salaries in recognition of Tonga’s ongoing financial challenges.
  • A progress review of the 2010 procurement system will be undertaken. This will inform Australia and the Government of Tonga of how the system is performing and where further strengthening is required.

Research overview

Research funded by our Tonga country program targets the country’s specific development challenges. Research is also carried out on a regional level. Some of the highlights are listed below.

Tonga National Population and Housing Census 2011

This document provides a detailed summary of the 2011 National Population and Housing Census.

Read the census report

Tonga School Grants Report 2010

This report provides the results of the evaluation of the Tonga School Grants Program, which saw a fourth grant payment made to schools in August 2010. A total of TOP1,088,068.43 (approximately AU$600,000) was distributed during this time to Government and non-Government primary schools, Government and non-Government middle schools, and secondary schools.

The School Grants Program supports the equitable delivery of services and resources to primary and secondary schools in Tonga, aiming to improve the quality of education for Tongan students. The program was trialled in 2007 in all eligible schools, and after a successful pilot, was continued in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

In 2010, there were a total of 150 participating schools, one down from previous years as a secondary school had been closed down. Grants were used for a variety of purposes, including purchasing texts and resources for a wide variety of subjects, basic teacher equipment, pens and exercise books for students, chart paper, computers, laminators, printers and copiers, musical instruments and sports equipment, as well as providing repairs to floor coverings, toilets, windows, doors, and roofing.

The report evaluates the successes and challenges of the program’s processes. Lessons learned and key achievements are explored, and a list of recommendations for future programs is provided.

Read the Tonga School Grants Report

Australia’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme: Development Impacts in the First Two Years (2011)

Australia launched the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme in August 2008. The program was designed to alleviate labour shortages for the Australian horticultural industry by providing opportunities for workers from Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu to undertake seasonal work. This paper presents an analysis of the development impacts of this program in the first two years, and compares them to those from New Zealand’s seasonal worker program in the same countries.

The research examines Pacific seasonal workers’ employment experience, remittances, and training to determine how effective a seasonal worker program is in contributing to economic development in home countries.

In addition to providing an initial assessment of development impact, this research project develops a base line for future evaluation and analysis.

Read the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme report [PDF 663kb] (external website)

Benchmarking Entrepreneurial Behaviour in the Pacific (2009)

The research outlines policy recommendations that are aimed at providing specific guidance to the Tongan Government, related agencies, external donors and the private sector. They can be used from both policy and programming perspectives to promote positive entrepreneurial behaviour in Tonga.

The report focuses on key policy areas, identified by Tonga’s population and national experts, that have constrained entrepreneurship and become a negative influence on economic development. Recommendations are made with the intention of supporting Tonga’s national vision and objectives, as set out in National Strategic Planning Framework (draft), 2009.

The research was conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and addresses:

  • differences in the level of early stage entrepreneurial activity between countries
  • factors determining the levels of entrepreneurial activity
  • policies that may enhance the level of entrepreneurial activity.

More about this research (external website):

Volume One: Policy Recommendations [PDF 192kb]
Volume Two: Adult Population Survey [PDF 752kb]
Volume Three: National Experts Survey and Qualitative Results [PDF 322kb]

Women in Business in Tonga (2008)

This report assesses the constraints and opportunities that exist for women in Tonga within the market, the economy, and the business environment, in line with the World Bank’s Doing Business indicators.

Tonga’s then Strategic Development Plan acknowledges women as a vulnerable group. The 2001 National Policy on Gender and Development includes a focus on women in the economy. Yet Tonga is not party to the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Despite lobbying from women’s groups, the country has yet to ratify it.

Women’s groups note that gender issues are marginalised in important consultations and their concerns are unable to compete with other national priorities. The Office of Women and local non-government organisations have been struggling to get support for key reforms or to obtain funding for their activities.

Read the report [PDF 170kb]



heading foldWhy we give aid


Tonga is an important regional partner with strong migration links to Australia. It has a small open economy which is vulnerable to external shocks and was hard hit by the recent Global Financial Crisis. Development challenges include increasing levels of debt, declining quality of education, rising levels of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, a limited revenue base, and limited employment opportunities.

Find out more about why we give aid to Tonga


heading foldHow we give aid

Australia is the largest bilateral grant donor to Tonga. Australia works closely with the Government of Tonga to deliver on the strategic objectives of the Partnership for Development. The Partnership is a joint Tonga–Australia agreement to reduce poverty, promote economic opportunities and improve the lives of the people of Tonga. Our aid is delivered in a range of ways from funding the Government of Tonga to deliver its own programs to funding specific projects managed by development partners such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Tonga benefits from Australia’s regional and global programs, including volunteers and global scholarships programs.

Find out more about how we give aid to Tonga

Read the Australia–Tonga Partnership for Development document

Read the Tonga Aid Program Performance Report 2013-14


heading foldProgress Against MDGs

  • Eradicate extreme poverty
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability

Demographic and development statistics for Tonga


Last reviewed: 28 October, 2014