ActionAid Australia, the Australian division of ActionAid International, is a rights based anti-poverty agency addressing the root causes of poverty and injustice. Formerly known as Austcare, the organisation was established in Australia in 1967.
ActionAid Australia is a rights based anti-poverty agency addressing the root causes of poverty and injustice. It is part of an international anti-poverty agency active in over 40 countries across Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. First established in 1967 as a national association dedicated to the rights of refugees called Austcare, the organisation's initial goal was to raise awareness among the Australian community and government of the needs of the growing number of displaced people around the world.
In the 1980s, Austcare began to select, fund and administer its own projects through a global network of partner agencies in the field. Following the deadly legacy of war in Cambodia, Austcare broadened its focus to landmine action. It was also in Cambodia that Austcare established its first permanent overseas office in 2001. By 2008, Austcare had established offices in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and the Middle-East. Austcare's work also broadened in scope to initiatives such as income generation for rural communities, agricultural support as well as education and health programs.
Working in partnership with global anti poverty agency ActionAid in 2005, Austcare started responding to the South Asian earthquake in Pakistan and the Boxing Day Tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Austcare also partnered with ActionAid to provide emergency relief in response to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, floods in Pakistan, Uganda and Nepal and Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh. After four years of working together around the world, in April 2009 Austcare formalised its relationship with ActionAid by becoming a full affiliate of the global network.
Finally, on 1 June 2009 Austcare changed its name to ActionAid Australia, thus completing the transition. The organisation formerly known as Action Aid Australia became Partners in Aid. Partners in Aid had operating in Australia for more than 20 years prior to 2009 under the name of Action Aid Australia Limited. This organisation was first provided with the opportunity to become a member of the ActionAid International group, but elected to not join the global network.
ActionAid uses a rights-based approach to development. It works off the premise that every person is entitled to the same basic human rights and that securing these rights is the key to poverty reduction. ActionAid works to inform people living in poverty that their situation is not a result of their own failings but is a violation of their human rights. ActionAid helps to organise and mobilise people, give them a voice and develop their power to negotiate.
Working on a grassroots, national and international level, ActionAid is improving women’s rights to end poverty. ActionAid assists poor women and girls so that they can exercise their rights – socially, politically and economically. ActionAid challenges discrimination law, policy and decision making, and discrimination embedded in culture and tradition. ActionAid funds women’s and girls’ rights projects around the world including India, Nepal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
In tsunami affected India, ActionAid provided small loans to women in fishing communities to help them re-establish themselves. In Nepal, ActionAid supports a community forestry project run by rural women to help preserve the forest and grow fruit and vegetables. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, ActionAid is providing medical care and trauma healing to thousands of women who have suffered from sexual violence. In Kenya, ActionAid supports teachers in primary schools to run safe and supportive after-school forums for girls. In Pakistan, ActionAid has helped the national campaign to challenge the Hudood Ordinance, which criminalises women who have been raped. In Ethiopia, ActionAid is working on raising awareness of the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation.
ActionAid works with poor people at all levels to secure their right to an education. ActionAid promotes education as a fundamental human right that also helps people gain access to other human rights. The organisation supports excluded groups in gaining access to quality education as well as advocating for policies that promote the right to education. ActionAid has been awarded the UN International Literary Prize for the conception and dissemination of the Reflect approach to adult learning. ActionAid develops teaching and learning materials, provides in-service teacher training, introduces new teaching methods, works with children clubs and builds parents associations. ActionAid co-founded the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) in 1999.
HIV and AIDS
ActionAid has been working on HIV/AIDS since 1987 and currently works in 23 countries to provide people with life and dignity in the face of the disease. It also offers free treatment and other essential care and support. ActionAid supports teachers to use STAR, a HIV/AIDS specific approach to education children. The organisation supported the development of Stepping Stones by the Strategies for Hope Project, (series editor Australian Glen Williams) and written by Alice Welbourn, a training program on gender, HIV, communication and relationship skills. Over 2000 organisations in 100 countries worldwide use the program.
In Zimbabwe, ActionAid has supported vulnerable people living with HIV and AIDS who have been affected by the government’s slum clearance program. They have also helped improve nutrition and income through organic farming in the region. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, ActionAid works with abused women to overcome the stigma they face and to increase acceptance of them in their families and communities. In Asia, ActionAid is helping trafficked women and girls who are forced into prostitution receive treatment.
Emergency and conflict
ActionAid works in emergency situations providing immediate relief and setting up long term projects that help communities rebuild their lives and reduce their vulnerability to future disasters and conflict.
The Timor-Leste Armed Violence Assessment (TLAVA) is an independent research project overseen by ActionAid and the Small Arms Survey. The project seeks to identify and disseminate concrete entry points to prevent and reduce real and perceived armed violence in Timor-Leste.
ActionAid works with people in poor countries to give them the power and resources to change their own lives for the better and a cruicial aspect to this is ensuring everyone has the right to food. In 2007 ActionAid launched a five-year campaign- HungerFREE which is driving change by pushing governments to introduce laws that bring an immediate end to all deaths by starvation and to ensure basic social security.
One of ActionAid’s programs is to provide seeds, technical advice and information to increase small farmers' production in many countries in Asia and Africa. ActionAid has also helped empower Kenyan sugar cane growers with funds and information to enable them to get a fair price from sugar factories. ActionAid has worked with women’s rights networks in India to ensure women have the same legal right to land as men do.
ActionAid works to hold governments and institutions accountable. At a local level, ActionAid has worked in Ethiopia to support a network of women who are training and improving the chances of women candidates to be elected into parliament. This has helped double the number of women representatives at the last elections. In Brazil, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, the Gambia, and Cambodia, ActionAid provides training on monitoring and tracking budgets.
On a national level, ActionAid undertakes a wide range of work to hold those in power accountable for their impact upon poor people. ActionAid has completed projects such as surveys in India to help the government assess whether families have enough food. This information was used to help draft an Act that guarantees every rural household has 100 days of employment a year. In Nigeria, ActionAid has completed a Public Finance Analysis project to help poor communities analyse their local state budgets. In Kenya, ActionAid has supported the Women’s Agenda Network to provide a voice for Kenyan women in national politics.
At the international level, ActionAid has formed an International Financial Institutions team that includes members from Africa, Asia, North and South America and Europe. Members use ActionAid’s international perspective and research to influence policy and practice of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank within their own countries.
Child Sponsorship ActionAid Australia launched its child sponsorship program in late 2009 with sponsored children in Cambodia and Uganda. Money raised goes towards education, access to clean water and food.
ActionAid Activists ActionAid raises funds for programs helping poor children to build a better future. By joining, ActionAid Activists receive reports from the field to see where their money is going.
Project TOTO ActionAid launched Project TOTO (The Overseas Training Operation) in June 2009 to find someone to blog in a developing country. The aim of Project TOTO is to teach locals how to blog and is the first of its kind. The first blogger, Stilgherrian, went to Tanzania in July 2009. There are currently nine finalists competing for the second outreach blogger post.
HungerFREE HungerFREE is a global campaign forcing governments to deliver on their commitment to halve hunger by putting the issue of hunger at the top of the political agenda. To emphasise the number of deaths that hunger leads to, ActionAid Australia set up an empty classroom in Sydney’s Circular Quay to highlight that a classroom of children die every three minutes.
1GOAL: Education for all ActionAid Australia was a founding member of the Australian arm of 1GOAL – the official campaign for the FIFA World Cup. Its aim is to ensure that people of all ages around the world get access to quality education, classrooms, teachers and the future that education provides. Rather than asking for money, 1GOAL asks for you to sign your name for those that cannot. Launched in Australia on 6 October 2009 by Australia Minister for Sport Kate Ellis, Socceroo Vincenzo Grella, Matilda Sarah Walsh and ActionAid Australia, 1GOAL is led by the Global Campaign for Education and support by ActionAid International. Thierry Henry, Rio Ferdinand and David James have all supported the campaign.
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