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8 Common Myths About Australian Aid Busted

Here’s the good news: extreme poverty has already been more than halved, thanks to global efforts and international aid.

However, most Australian’s still aren’t aware of this success and don’t understand the important role Australia’s overseas aid program has to play in ending extreme poverty by 2030.

When speaking to people about Australian aid there are some common misnomers that often arise. We’re here to set the record straight and bust some myths!

Here are the top eight myths about aid that simply aren’t true:

1. Aid doesn’t work, it just creates a dependency on us.

Aid does work and has been proven to save lives and transform communities. In the last two decades, poverty has more than halved. According to the World Bank, the amount of people living in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25-a-day) has reduced from 1.9 billion to 840 million people.

Aid is no longer a hand out, it is about working with communities towards long term self-sustainable change.

2. Overpopulation in developing countries is the problem.

High birth rates among people living in extreme poverty are often due to the high child mortality rates. The Pacific has the second highest probability of children aged 5-14 dying, with 8 deaths per 1,000 children aged 5.

High birth rates can also be an indication of a lack of women’s empowerment. When girls are supported to stay in school, they lead healthier lives, earn more and are more likely to have fewer children later in life when they are better equipped to protect them from disease and malnutrition.

3. The money doesn’t actually get there, it’s all lost to corruption.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has strong policies and procedures around identifying potential fraud and corruption when delivering  Australia’s aid program.  In 2009–10 it’s estimated that only 0.028 percent of Australia’s overall overseas aid budget was lost to fraud

Read more: Former Prime Minister of Denmark Says Australia Should Give More Aid

4. Aid is wasted by NGOs and doesn’t actually reach the people in need.

All notable charities and NGOs are transparent about where and how their money is used. If you are thinking of making a donation to your favourite charity, all it takes some simple research to find out what percentage of their funds go to programs in the field or how the money is distributed. You can check the organisations website or make a phone call to ask questions about how they distribute their donations.

5. Charity begins at home. Australia can’t afford to increase aid and look after it’s own needs.

It’s not an issue of us or them. Australia is a wealthy country and can afford to do both. We can make a difference to the lives of thousands of people. It is also our responsibility, as 18 out of our 20 closest neighbours are developing countries.

Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget is actually at an all time low. Many Australians estimate that our spending is around 10- 12 % of our Gross National Income (GNI). The reality is that Australia’s aid contribution, as a share of GNI in 2017-18 will be just 0.22%. This is a long way from the UN’s target of 0.7%.

Australia can afford to increase aid and give assistance to our less fortunate neighbours now.

Read more: When It Comes to Foreign Aid in Australia, It's Not 'Us vs Them'

6. Developing countries need trade not aid.

Trade is important for improving economic conditions of countries, however trade alone is not enough to reduce poverty. For example, marginalised people living in poverty, particularly in remote regional areas are often not equipped to benefit from trade.

7. Increasing our aid budget can wait 'til Australia's economic circumstances are better.

Australia’s economy has one of the lowest debt levels in the world compared to other developed countries. For many people living in poverty, they cannot afford to wait for assistance. For example, following humanitarian disasters, assistance is always needed immediately and Australian aid is crucial in providing support during these times.

Australia also has a proud history of responding to natural disasters in our region. In the aftermath of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, Australia supplied 13,000 people with humanitarian relief. And 10,000 people were helped following both cyclone Winston in Fiji and the earthquake in Nepal.

8. Australian’s don’t benefit from money spent overseas.

Investing in the Indo-Pacific region through our aid program is vital to ensuring security and stability in our own backyard. It is also important in preventing health epidemics and disease outbreaks in our region, which in our increasingly interconnected world can easily spread to our shores.

A recent reports also shows that when money is spent on overseas aid, Australia benefits financially from an increase in exports.

Read more:New Study Shows Every $1 Spent on Australian Foreign Aid Returns $7.10 in Exports

Global Citizen campaigns on the importance and value of Australian aid. You can take action here.