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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with participants in the Australian aid-funded Pass it Back sports development program in Vientiane, Laos in July 2016. Pass it Back supports young people in disadvantaged communities in Asia to overcome challenges, inspire positive social change and ‘pass it back’ to their communities.
DFAT/Bart Verweij
Finance & Innovation

Most Australians Think Their Country Is 17.5 Times More Generous Than It Actually Is


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Aid saves lives. The time has come for Australia to play its role in reversing cuts and showing leadership. You can join us by taking action on the Global Goals and the issue of Australia’s foreign aid here.

Pop quiz: What percentage of the Australian budget is spent on foreign aid?

If you don't know, don't feel too bad. Most Australians have no idea.

New research from a 2018 Lowy Institute Poll reveals the average Australian believes that around 14% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid, with the majority of Australians believing the nation should be spending 10%.

Australia actually invests 0.22% of gross national income and 0.8% of the overall budget.

Take Action: We Need You to Stand up for Australian Aid

The data from the Lowy Poll, a think tank that conducts research on Australian diplomacy, shows that Australians believe the nation invests 17.5 times more than in reality. Additionally, Australians would like the country to be 12.5 times more generous with aid than it currently is.

Asking Australians the percentage they believed the nation invested in foreign aid is a significant shift from the wording of last year's poll. In 2017, Australians were told exactly how much the country invested, and then asked whether they thought the aid investment was appropriate.

As a result of being told that Australia invests $3.8 billion annually, only 22% supported an increase.

These two results, which are in complete contrast of one another, reveal how contentious polling of foreign aid can be, and it shows the importance of Global Citizens taking action and talking to their networks about why aid matters. 

Related Stories Oct. 31, 2017 New Study Shows Every $1 Spent on Australian Foreign Aid Returns $7.10 in Exports

The reality is, the public is considerably more generous than the government.

The current Australian aid budget is at its lowest ever level as a proportion of the budget. From 2012 to 2021, the aid budget fell by 32% — while all other non-aid spending grew by 31%.

Related Stories May 10, 2018 New Zealand Increases Aid Funding as Australia Cuts It

Mat Tinkler, the director of policy and international programs for Save the Children, stated it was in Australia’s national interest to significantly increase the foreign aid budget.

“When Australians are given the facts about the levels of need and the reality of Australia’s level of investment in overseas aid, which stands at just 20c out of every $100 in gross national income, we believe they support a strong role for Australia’s aid program and certainly don’t support the aid budget being raided again," Tinkler said.

Despite Australia having one of the highest per capita incomes globally, the aid budget comes in 19th place out of the 29 wealthy OECD member nations.

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, the OECD development assistance committee chair, stated in an OECD report that Australia’s reduced aid budget was significantly damaging the nation's ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, particularly in promoting regional stability, economic prosperity and increased development in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Australia uses its voice on the global stage to advocate for responses to challenges faced by small island developing states, in particular to build resilience and mitigate disaster risk,” Petri Gornitzka stated.

“At the same time the decline in aid flows, despite steady economic growth, has affected the scope of development and humanitarian programs, and we encourage Australia to find a way to reverse this trend.”

In response to the OECD review, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told Pro Bono News they will continue to work on creating a stronger relationship between Australia’s foreign aid program and the SDGs.

Related Stories July 3, 2018 What Australia Needs to Do to Achieve the Global Goals by 2030

“DFAT will consider carefully all of the review’s recommendations in the context of ongoing efforts to strengthen the aid program. Our response to the review will be measured by the Development Assistance Committee in a mid-term review which is due around 2020.”