Australian Aid

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Australian Aid
Australian Aid logo.jpg
Agency overview
Preceding agencies
  • Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA)
  • Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB)
  • Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB)
  • Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
Headquarters Canberra, ACT, Australia
Employees 1,652 (at April 2013)[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Ewan McDonald, Acting Director-General (Until 31 October 2013)
Website DFAT, Australian Aid

AusAID, formally the Australian Agency for International Development, is the Australian organisation responsible for delivering most non-military foreign aid. It is an autonomous Commonwealth agency within the portfolio of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. While an independent agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act, it is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the purposes of the Public Service Act which covers human resources and non-financial accountability. It is based in the national capital, Canberra, and has representation in 25 Australian diplomatic missions overseas.


As a public service agency, AusAID provides policy advice and implements the overseas aid policy of the Australian government of the day. The current overall objective - last refined in the Howard Government's White Paper, Australian Aid: Promoting Growth and Stability, but essentially unchanged since 1997 - is "to assist developing countries to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia's national interest."

Among the agency's stated subsidiary goals are improving health and education services, fighting corruption, improving security, engaging in the fight against HIV/AIDS and improving the effectiveness of government organisations through training and other assistance. It actively works with the United Nations and the World Bank, as well as a variety of non-government organisations, such as the Australian Red Cross and World Vision in order to co-ordinate the delivery of aid services.


The agency has seen a variety of names and formats. It was founded in 1974 under the Whitlam Labor government as the Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA) to fulfill a role that had previously been the responsibility of several departments. It was renamed the Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB) and brought under the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio in 1976 under the Fraser Liberal government. It became the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB) under the Hawke government in 1987, before being given its current name by the Keating government in 1995.

It has also seen repeated cuts to aid contributions during its lifetime, as the level of 0.47% of gross domestic product during the Whitlam years was slashed to 0.33% under the Hawke and Keating governments, and has at times been even lower under the Howard government. Cuts have not been limited to aid levels either; in mid-1996, the Howard government slashed the agency's running costs budget by 24% amidst a round of cost-cutting measures.

In 2005 John Howard committed Australia to double Australian aid to about $4 billion a year by 2010. At the time of the 2007-08 budget, the Government announced total aid of $3.2 billion and an expectation "to continue increasing development assistance, to $3.5 billion in 2008-09, $3.8 billion in 2009-10 and $4.3 billion in 2010-11."

On the 18 December 2008, the William J. Clinton Foundation released a list of all contributors. It included AusAID, which gave between US$10–25 million.[2]


The Minister for Foreign Affairs (and hence responsible for AusAID) is Stephen Smith. The Acting Director General is Peter Baxter.

The 2005-06 Annual Report recorded 18 staff in the senior executive service out of a total of 516 public servant staff. 68 AusAID public servants are serving long term postings outside Australia. These figures do not include locally employed staff outside Australia.

Total Australian Official Development Assistance in 2005-06 was A$2,605 million, not all of it administered by AusAID. AusAID administered $1,587 million of expenses in 2005-06 and also had departmental expenses (i.e. under its direct control) of A$78 million.

AusAID's key manual is AusGuide - A Guide to Program Management, which is available on the AusAID website. However, changes in the approach to aid programming that crystallised in the Government's 2006 White Paper have not yet been fully incorporated into a revised version of AusGuide. Many of the changes can be summarised as a move from traditional stand-alone projects managed by contractors to more sustainable, long-term programmes of assistance with untied procurement.

Over most of AusAID's existence, tenders providing services associated with aid programs were generally limited to firms from Australia or New Zealand, or firms doing substantial business in those countries; only in 2005 did the agency liberalise its guidelines to allow firms from the recipient country to apply for some tenders. The agency was considerably more liberal with construction contracts, allowing bidding from any company worldwide, though this has the effect of shutting out many potential bidders from recipient countries.

In 2002, as part of an international initiative, AusAID untied aid to Least Developed Countries. Since the White Paper in 2006, all AusAID procurement has been untied (i.e. open to international firms) except for the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (AIPRD). There have not yet been significant numbers of contracts awarded to international firms.


It is currently operating programs in five separate regions: Papua New Guinea, South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), East Asia (Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam), the Pacific (the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) and the Middle East (Afghanistan and Iraq).

AusAID also runs the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program, a volunteer program allowing Australians aged 18–30 to volunteer for up to a year in countries throughout Asia and the Pacific.

Past Projects[edit]

Past projects have included rebuilding the shattered Cambodian legal system, bridging the Mekong River between Thailand and Laos with the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, reintroducing the Przewalski's Horse (a Mongolian national symbol which had become extinct in the wild) to the nation, and a child health program in the mountains of Laos which slashed infant mortality in the region by 75%.

Controversies and criticisms[edit]

AusAID's most vocal critic is the left-wing NGO Aid/Watch. Aid/Watch argue that "The flow of aid can be constructive particularly in programs of emergency relief and health. However, development projects can have detrimental effects on local communities when the donor country imposes decisions without the appropriate assessment of social, cultural and environmental needs.". Specific criticisms of AusAID include allegations that it services Australian commercial interests through its procurement policies; promotes particular economic and trade policies that Aid/Watch regards as detrimental to the poor; lacks transparency; and has seen aid been misused to support foreign policy, such as promotion of the so-called Pacific Solution for processing people seeking asylum in Australia.

Aid/Watch critiques of AusAID's procurement policy have not been updated to reflect the untying of most aid procurement from April 2006.

AusAID has also been criticised from the right-wing, particularly the Centre for Independent Studies. Helen Hughes of the CIS has argued that "aid has failed PNG and the Pacific" - a criticism of the broad policy and approach of aid rather than the specific administration of AusAID.

There has been media criticism leveled at AusAID over the selection, equality, effectiveness and transparency of its contracts with consultants and advisors. One article claimed that consultants are being paid more than Australia’s Prime Minister.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Australian Public Service Commission (2 December 2013), State of the Service Report: State of the Service Series 2012-13 (PDF), Australian Public Service Commission, p. 253, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 December 2013 
  2. ^ Contributor Information to the William J. Clinton Foundation Archived 27 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ The Australian "Aid workers earning more than Rudd" February 18, 2010

External links[edit]