Just weeks after announcing an initial aid package to Ukraine, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put forward an additional AU$30 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, with a further $10 million pledged specifically for children’s education, people with disabilities and those facing gendered violence.
Excluding the $10 million package, Australia’s official humanitarian aid contribution to Ukraine now sits at $65 million.
"The Morrison Government will expand its support to Ukraine and impose further punitive actions on Russia in response to its unrelenting and illegal aggression against Ukraine,” Morrison said in a statement alongside six other federal ministers. “These additional measures will help ensure Russia pays a high price for its … disregard for international humanitarian law.”
The federal government is also providing $8 million to the United Nations Population Fund to ensure women and girls who become displaced retain access to sexual and reproductive health services.
A further $10 million will go to the World Food Programme to “help address increasingly severe food shortages.”
Morrison added that Australian materials used to make aluminium would no longer be exported to Russia — effectively hindering the trade of one of Russia’s most critical commodities. Meanwhile, an additional $21 million in military aid will go to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, bringing Australia’s total support package for defensive military assistance to $91 million.
Russia is targeting civilians, causing immense suffering. Today Australia commits a further $30m in emergency humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, focused on protecting women, children & the elderly & takes our total commitment today to $65m. @dfathttps://t.co/9y4p15qLi9— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) March 20, 2022
Among additionally announced measures are amendments to Australia’s aid donation rules.
In an effort to encourage citizens to give generously to those in need, the government has included Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary to its Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme — meaning donations made to organisations supporting Ukrainian refugees within these Eastern European countries will now be tax-deductible.
Morrison also pledged $2 million to the Emergency Action Alliance (EAA) Ukraine Appeal: a group of Australian charities.
"We welcome the support of the Australian Government through this $2 million contribution. This funding will be used to help attract matched private donations — thus helping to increase the impact,” EAA Executive Director Kerren Morris said in a statement. “The crisis in Ukraine is of such a scale that the Australian charities involved will leverage efforts together to raise more funds to assist those affected by this crisis.”
Earlier Ukrainian assistance packages saw Morrison promise to fast-track temporary and visitor visa approvals for those forced to flee. While initially welcomed, many within Australia’s refugee rights sector were quick to highlight that employment opportunities and access to Australia’s free health system would not be available for most under the two visa titles.
Their concerns seem to have been heeded, with a new temporary humanitarian visa for Ukrainians announced.
"This visa will be valid for three years and allow people to work, study and access Medicare,” Morrison explained. “The government will continue working closely with the Ukrainian-Australian community to ensure those arriving from Ukraine will be provided support throughout their stay in Australia. We have provided a grant of $450,000 to community groups to facilitate their ongoing work.”
Almost 4,500 visas to Ukrainians have been issued thus far, with over 600 people already touching down in the country.