The very nature of what it means to be Australian, the essence of Australian-ness, is respect, passion, warmheartedness and ensuring all are given a fair go. 

But Australia's aid budget — money used to fight extreme poverty, enhance stability and promote prosperity around the world — hasn't always reflected the Australian people's spirit of generosity. Since 2014, a series of dramatic cuts have seen the nation's aid spending fall to an all-time low, with the current budget being the least generous in Australia's history. 

While the pandemic has seen Australia massively step up, with billions pledged to help countries in the region respond to COVID-19, calls by activists and campaigners for permanent increases to the aid budget have been ignored.

In fact, Australia’s most recent federal budget revealed official aid spending would be cut by $44 million, with major decreases in funding going to South and West Asia, Pakistan, the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

Alongside organisations like Global Citizen and Campaign for Australian Aid, calls for aid increases have come from some of the nation’s most famous faces. Over the years, these iconic Australians have talked about how aid saves lives, the power it holds to make real change and why continuous cuts go against what it means to be Australian.

Below, we’ve compiled some of the most inspirational quotes about Australian aid.

Whether they reveal just how much people do care about helping others, speak to the power of collective action or reignite hope for the future — check them out now. 

Julian Burnside

Burnside, an Australian barrister, human rights and refugee advocate and author, gave his thoughts on Australian aid as part of a 2019 public forum in Melbourne on foreign policy, climate change, asylum seekers, and refugees. Burnside said Australia has a moral duty to help support those living in extreme poverty during a passionate speech.  

The world is facing three major problems. The first is climate change, the second is the treatment of refugees, including climate refugees, and the third is poverty across parts of the world. These parts of the world need help from rich nations like Australia. Are we going to watch the world drown and fail, or are we going to help people survive and flourish in the land of their birth?

Eloise Wellings

Alongside being an Olympic long-distance runner, Wellings is also a big supporter of Campaign for Australian Aid.

Australian aid saves lives. I’d love to see Australia stand up and be a leader in tackling global poverty and align our aid budget with our long standing values as Australians — equality, giving people a fair go and showing compassion and generosity toward people who are doing it tough near or far.

Charlie Pickering 

Television presenter, author, producer and one of the nation’s most loved comedians, Pickering once gave a scathing, and at times hilarious, seven-minute take on the significance of Australian aid during his weekly news satire television show, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering

The reason cutting aid is so easy is because the people it affects don't have a voice.

Brendan Crabb 

If you don’t know the name, you’ll know the face. Crabb, an infectious disease expert, has been one of the most prominent public commentators during the pandemic, lending his voice to call for tighter lockdown measures, mandatory face masks and for all Australians to get the COVID-19 vaccine once available to them.

Crabb knows that the pandemic can only be over for all if wealthy nations like Australia offer support to those in need. 

Foreign aid is 10% of defence spending and in decline in Australia. Through the friendships it forges, the health, security and prosperity it promotes and as a safeguard for ourselves, foreign aid is way more important than this.

Judith Lucy 

As an actress and iconic stand-up comedian, Lucy has brought laughter into the homes of people across the country when many needed it most. Lucy’s humour is brutally honest and blunt, as is her take on the need to increase Australia’s aid budget. 

I think this nation has really stumbled when it comes to compassion and helping people in other countries who are desperately in need in the last couple of years. I don't think that's what most of us what. I don't think that's who we really are.

Hugh Jackman

Jackman, one of Global Citizen's most loyal supporters, has long signalled his frustration at Australia’s commitment to foreign aid. In an episode of ACTIVATE: The Global Citizen Movement, a six-part documentary developed by National Geographic and Procter & Gamble and co-produced by Global Citizen and RadicalMedia, Jackman highlighted that being born in Australia is the luck of the draw. 

I was lucky enough to be born into a situation with the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing, education … freely available to me. Nothing I did, I just happened to get it. And then there’s a billion people on the planet, nothing they did, and they don’t get it. It seems to me that there is absolutely no reason why these essential basics of life aren't available to everyone on the planet.

Sammy J 

Comedian Sammy J, in his role as an ambassador of Campaign for Australian Aid, explained that while it’s easy to get lost in political debate and seemingly arbitrary numbers and figures, real people are impacted by every decision Australia makes in regards to the aid budget.

To many of us, the Australian aid might seem remote and theoretical. But there are communities whose health and livelihoods are directly impacted by these decisions — and they’re counting on us to make the right call.

You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defeat poverty and defend the planet by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations and philanthropists to make change.

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7 Inspiring Quotes From Famous Aussies on the Power of Australian Aid

By Madeleine Keck