The Australian government will spend $4.3 billion on foreign aid in 2010-11. Aid spending is often seen as a selfless and philanthropic exercise for the benefit of people in less wealthy countries. In reality, aid is often driven by Australia’s national political and commercial interests.


What is aid? 

In recent years Australian aid figures have been inflated by the inclusion of spending on:

  • controlling ‘irregular’ immigration and upgrading of detention facilities in Indonesia;[1]
  • training Burmese intelligence officers and counter-terrorism workshops;[2]
  • cancellation of debt, which is contrary to international agreements.[3]


The reality of Australian government aid

    Concerns have been raised not only over the amount of aid Australia gives, but also the quality and effectiveness of aid. In particular, concerns have been raised about:

    • the corporatisation of aid, that results in aid money going into the pockets of Australian companies, consultants and advisers instead of the people who need it most; 
    • unfair conditions on aid money that privilege Australian companies and national priorities at the expense of local self-determination; 
    • aid facilitating a trade liberalisation agenda, often at the expense of local livelihoods;  
    • securitisation of aid, which has seen increased Australian police presence in the Pacific in the name of good governance. This has been motivated by Australia’s national security interests rather than the relief of poverty.  
    • Technical Assistance – Technical Assistance (TA) funding often goes to experts (usually from Australia) to assist people in developing countries develop skills in particular areas. Internationally, TA has been a source of considerable criticism due to its high cost and lack of effectiveness in developing capacity.[5]   
    • Aiding Climate Change – The impacts of climate change are being felt most harshly by the poor worldwide, and not least in the Pacific Islands. Australia’s climate aid is not only inadequate, but a large portion is being misspent on controversial carbon offset schemes in Indonesia and PNG. [6]


    Multilateral development agencies


      Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)

        Many people see NGOs as the main agents of development. However only $135 million of Australias $4.3 billion 2010-11 aid budget is allocated to NGOs and community engagement programs, this amounts to a mere 2.5%.[7]

        For most NGOs, it is donations from philanthropic individuals and organisations, rather than government funding, that keep them going.

        Find here some of the key considerations to take into account when deciding which NGO to donate to.

                                                                    Take Action!

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        Last updated 15 November 2010        Next page



        [1] Australian Government, Budget 2010-2011, Budget Paper No. 2, Immigration and Citizenship.

        [2] Goodman, J. (2007) The Australian aid program: Aiding the Burmese Intelligence systems. AID/WATCH, Sydney.

        [3] United Nations (2003) Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development, p10.

        [4] Doran, C. (2007) Determining Their National Interest: Australia’s Economic Intervention in Iraq, AID/WATCH, Sydney.

        [5] ActionAid (2006) Real Aid 2: Making Technical Assistance Work.

        [6] Goodman, J. and Roberts, E. (2010) Australian REDD Aid to Indonesia – Ineffective and Unjust. In Reality of Aid 2010, Aid  and Development Effectiveness: Towards Human Rights, Social Justice and  Democracy, Reality of Aid, Manila. Pp 53-60.

        [7] Australian Council For International Development, Aid Budget Analysis 2010/11, June 2010  p7 , p3