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About Australia's Aid Program

The Australian Government's overseas aid program is a federally funded program that aims to reduce poverty in developing countries.

The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) manages the program.

The aim of the program is to assist developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia's national interest.

What is International Development?

International Development, also called development assistance, international aid, overseas aid or foreign aid, refers to the efforts of developed countries to reduce poverty in developing countries - those countries with low average incomes compared to the world average.

The term 'development aid' often refers specifically to Official Development Assistance (ODA), which is aid given by governments through their individual countries' international aid agencies, like AusAID.

See Aid Activities - slide show for examples of Australian aid projects.

Why Australia gives aid

Australia gives aid because we want to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Nearly one billion people live on less than US$1 a day. Two billion people have no access to clean water, while 150 million children never get the chance to go to school. Australians believe that giving aid is the right thing to do; it makes a real difference to other people's lives.

Australia gives aid to other countries because it improves our regional security. Australia helps partner governments improve law and order, prevent and recover from conflict, and manage a range of transnational threats such as people trafficking, illicit drugs, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. By helping to build stronger communities and more stable governments we improve our own economic and security interests.

How much Australia spends

In 2009-10 Australia will provide $3.8 billion worth of official development assistance.

All Australians contribute to Australia's aid program. Every week, each of us puts in around $3.30 to pay for our aid program - about the cost of a cup of coffee. This amounts to around 1% of Federal Government expenditure compared to the 33% spent on social security and welfare.

The ratio of Australia's aid to Gross National Income (GNI) for 2009-10 is estimated at 0.34 per cent, an increase from 0.32 per cent in 2008-09.

Where we give aid

Australia's aid program focuses on the Asia Pacific region. The international community recognises Australia's leading role in the region, particularly in PNG and the Pacific.

The geographic focus of Australia's aid progam also makes sense given that two thirds of the world's poor, some 800 million people, reside in the Asia Pacific, yet receive less than one third of total aid flows.

Australia continues to provide selective assistance to Africa and the Middle East, primarily working through international and non-government organisations.

See Where We Give Aid - world map

How the aid program works

The Australian Government, through AusAID, competitively contracts aid work to Australian and international companies. These companies use their expertise to deliver aid projects and often train local people to continue the projects long after the end of the contracts.

AusAID funds not-for-profit organisations, such as World Vision or Oxfam, to deliver aid programs at the local community level in developing countries.

In response to emergencies, AusAID staff travel to affected areas to provide immediate support. This can include communities devastated by cyclones and earthquakes, or those recovering from conflict.

AusAID works with the governments of neighbouring countries to improve the way they deliver economic and community services. For example, Australia is working in partnership with the Solomon Islands community to improve the delivery of essential services including economic policy, prisons, law and justice, and functioning schools and hospitals.

AusAID contributes funding to international organisations that help people in emergencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. We also provide funding through the United Nations to UNICEF and to the UN Development Programme, for their work in developing countries. AusAID contributes to global and regional poverty reduction programs set up by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

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).

Through working with partner governments to develop effective poverty reduction strategies relevant to their circumstances and priorities, Australia is helping build the growth and stability essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

See also Millennium Development Goals

The Global Recession

The global recession has profound implications for developing countries and the poor. The Australian Government is committed to responding effectively to this crisis. AusAID has developed a strategic Action Plan for responding to the Global Recession which sets out the agency’s priorities. The Action Plan is the result of detailed country by country analysis conducted by AusAID to determine the needs and most appropriate response of the aid program to the global recession.

AusAIDs approach to the Global Recession

Achievements of Australia's aid program

Australia's aid program leads the way in the fight against preventable disease in our region.

Our aid effort has wiped out polio from the Pacific. Australia has also funded measles and polio immunisations for more than 1.5 million children in Papua New Guinea.

AusAID works to improve the quality of basics services. Water supply and sanitation programs are providing fresh water for nearly 500,000 people in Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

We fund projects that make a difference to millions of lives, such as building the My Thuan Bridge in Vietnam's Mekong Delta region.

The bridge now benefits more than three million people living below the poverty line.

Over the past 40 years:

  • average life expectancy in developing countries has increased by 20 years
  • adult illiteracy has almost halved and
  • maternal mortality has decreased by 50 per cent.

Most importantly, despite a rapidly growing world population, the number of people living in poverty has fallen by 200 million since 1980.

Australian aid has contributed to these achievements. By promoting sustainable development Australia continues to improve the lives of our neighbours as well as make a major contribution to growth and stability in our region.

The Australian Civilian Corps

The Australian Civilian Corps will enable the rapid deployment of trained civilian specialists to countries experiencing or emerging from natural disasters or conflict.

These specialists will contribute to Australia’s efforts to assist stabilisation and recovery in affected countries.

The initiative is expected to be fully operational in 2011. A register of up to 500 civilian specialists will be created.

Deployments will be managed by AusAID in cooperation with other government agencies.


Above: Aid activities include food security, water and sanitation, education, and rural development.

Last reviewed: 5 January, 2010

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