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About Australia's aid program

Smiling mother and child. 

Faithon and Mum Regina at the Well Baby Clinic in Port Moresby. The Australian Government is supporting the PNG Government to address infant mortality by training more midwives and health workers. Photo: Jacqueline Smart.

The purpose of the Australian Government’s aid program is to promote Australia’s national interests through contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction. The best way to reduce poverty is to promote sustainable economic growth. The aid program will have a much stronger focus on promoting economic growth than it has in the past. We will use more of Australia’s aid funding to expand trade in our region, create jobs, build skills, boost incomes, reduce economic insecurity, and empower women and girls. The aid program will contribute to Australia’s broader economic diplomacy efforts to deliver greater prosperity for Australia, our region, and globally.

The Government is committed to an effective and efficient aid program with a strong culture of accountability and performance. Making performance count involves better linking performance assessments with aid funding decisions. With a stronger emphasis on promoting economic growth, private sector development and trade, and delivering value for money, we will build an aid program that is effective in reducing poverty in our region and improves the lives of millions of people in developing countries. 

Where we give aid

Australia's aid program focuses on the Indo-Pacific region. We are internationally recognised for our leading role in the region, particularly in PNG and the Pacific. Our aid is even more important given two-thirds of the world’s poor—some 800 million people—live in the Asia Pacific, yet they receive less than one third of global aid. Australia also provides assistance to Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Poverty and aid

Despite a rapidly growing global population, the world has made solid progress in the fight against poverty. Over the past 40 years:

  • a woman’s chance of dying during or after childbirth has dropped by 50 per cent
  • the chance of an adult not being able to read has halved
  • the average life expectancy in developing countries has increased by 20 years.

Australian aid has contributed to these achievements, making a difference to the lives of our neighbours and boosting growth and stability in our region.

Australian aid also improves our regional security. We help our partner governments to improve law and order. We help them to prevent and recover from conflict. We help them manage threats such as people trafficking, illicit drugs, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our own economic and security interests are better protected because we’re helping to build stronger communities and economies, and more stable governments.

Poverty remains a global challenge, however, with 1.24 billion people still living on less than $1.25 a day.  A lack of clean water, food, housing, health care, education and economic opportunities remain obstacles for large numbers of people in neighbouring countries and in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Management of the aid program

On 18 September 2013, the Prime Minister announced the government’s intention to integrate AusAID and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, enabling the aid and diplomatic arms of Australia’s international policy agenda to be more closely aligned.

On 1 November the associated Machinery of Government changes took effect and the responsibility for Australia’s aid program was transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Other government departments and agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police, help deliver the aid program.

How the aid program works

Smiling child washing hands under outdoor tap. 

A Laotian school boy washes his hands with clean water from a water tank. Photo: Bart Verweij.

Australia works with the governments of neighbouring countries to help them improve the way they deliver economic and community services.

Our aid is delivered through a variety of methods:

  1. goods and services (e.g. humanitarian relief, building health clinics and schools, immunising children)
  2. building local institutions through training of staff, improving management systems and institutional cultures
  3. policy dialogue and reform through ongoing discussions between Australian development advisers in the field and their local counterparts in government civil society and business.

Increasingly, we use partner government systems. This way our aid helps to strengthen those systems and eventually they won’t need our support. We also fund not–for–profit organisations, also called non–government organisations, such as World Vision and Oxfam, to deliver aid programs directly to people in need.

Some projects are very large and complex and need to be managed by Australian or international companies. These companies are selected through a rigorous and competitive tender process.

Some aid is delivered by Australian–funded advisers in developing countries, who share their knowledge and skills with local counterparts.

In disaster emergencies—when communities are devastated by cyclones and earthquakes or are recovering from conflict—our staff travel to affected areas to provide immediate support. We also contribute funding to Australian and international organisations that help people in emergencies, such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Australia provides funding to United Nations organisations, including UNICEF and the World Food Programme, and other international organisations such as the World Bank. Our funding, along with contributions from other countries, helps these organisations to operate and run projects in developing countries.

Millennium Development Goals

In September 2000, member states of the United Nations, including Australia, agreed to work towards eliminating global poverty and hunger, to improve health, gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability and to create a global partnership for development. This commitment produced the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Australia has helped many countries to make progress against the MDGs.

Last reviewed: 15 April, 2014