Australian Aid

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Australian Aid
Australian Aid logo.jpg
Agency overview
Preceding agencies
  • AusAID (cancelled in 2013)
  • Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID, 1995)
  • Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB, 1987)
  • Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB, 1976)
  • Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA, 1974)
HeadquartersCanberra, ACT, Australia
Employees1,652 (at April 2013)[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
WebsiteDFAT, Australian Aid

Before the creation of this entity under the title 'Australian Aid', the Australian government's agency for the delivery of foreign aid was the separate entity known as AusAID, which indeed had formally been the Australian Agency for International Development, where AusAID was until 2013 the Australian organisation responsible for delivering most non-military foreign aid. It was an autonomous Commonwealth agency within the portfolio of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and was an independent agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act, yet 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 was based in the national capital, Canberra, and had representation in 25 Australian diplomatic missions overseas. However, on the 1st of November 2013, AusAID ceased to exist, with its substantial body of work re-evaluated and integrated into 'DFAT' (The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). Since that time, DFAT maintains responsibility for the Australian Aid programme, which is the streamlined version of the former agency.


As a public service agency, AusAID's role was to provide policy advice and implement the overseas aid policy of the Australian government of the day. Among the stated subsidiary goals were 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 worked 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 saw a variety of names and formats.[2] 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 renamed AusAID 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.[3] 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.[4]

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.

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 was untied (i.e. open to international firms) except for the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (AIPRD).


Girls dancing Dabkeh (Palestinian National Folkloric Dance) during the celebrations of the newly built WASH facilities by UNICEF and funded by AusAid, Al Shioukh elementary girl’s school, Hebron, 2011.

It operated 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 ran 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 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 was the left-wing NGO Aid/Watch. Aid/Watch argued 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 included allegations that it services Australian commercial interests through its procurement policies; promoted particular economic and trade policies that Aid/Watch regards as detrimental to the poor; lacked transparency; and saw aid been misused to support foreign policy, such as promotion of the so-called Pacific Solution for processing people seeking asylum in Australia.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Jack Corbett, 2017, Australia's Foreign Aid Dilemma: Humanitarian aspirations confront democratic legitimacy, Abingdon Oxon: Routledge.


  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. ^ A detailed review of the history of the Australian aid program, including details of the organisational changes, is in Jack Corbett, 2017, Australia's Foreign Aid Dilemma: Humanitarian aspirations confront democratic legitimacy, Abingdon Oxon: Routledge.
  3. ^ Corbett, op.cit., p.85.
  4. ^ Contributor Information to the William J. Clinton Foundation Archived 27 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]