Food insecurity persists, the G20 and COP26 didn't live up to expectations and COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc globally. 

Yet, amid a year of seemingly unending crises and inequalities, there have been glimmers of hope. 

To help lift your mood, we’ve compiled a list of nine of the best things to come out of Australia in 2021. Throughout the year, Australia continued to support important programs and initiatives, bringing us closer to meeting the United Nations Global Goals’ mission to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Check out some of the best moments below. 

Australia to Phase Out Single-Use Plastic Bags, Straws, Utensils Nationwide by 2025

In April, Australian federal, state and territory leaders vowed to substitute bans by individual states for a national, comprehensive plan to phase out single-use plastics by 2025. Australia generated 75.8 million tonnes of waste in 2019, 2.5 million tonnes of which were classified as plastic waste. 

Just 9% of plastic waste was recycled, with 84% sent to landfills.

Australia Vows to Reach Net Zero Emissions by 2050

After years of rallying cries from activists, Australia finally declared that it intends to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The new plan, made just before COP26 in October, will see the nation rely upon an existing $20 billion investment into low emissions technologies like carbon capture. 

However, critics quickly pointed out that the federal government's plan continues to rely upon dangerous fossil fuels and optimistic projections of “future breakthroughs” in climate technology in coming years. Many likewise labelled the plan's unchanged 2030 reduction goal, which has not changed more than six years, as "disappointing" and woefully unambitious.

Australia Pledges $180 Million to Help Children Get Back to School in the Indo-Pacific

During the Global Education Summit in London earlier this year, Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced the country would provide $180 million over the next five years to the Global Partnership for Education — a group devoted to delivering education to children in lower-income countries. 

The funding will prioritise the education of girls and those across the Indo-Pacific affected by COVID-19. 

Australian Court Rules the Government Has ‘Duty of Care’ to Protect Young People From Climate Change

In a world-first, the Federal Court of Australia ruled that Australia's Environment Minister Sussan Ley has a "legal duty of care" to shelter Australian youth from climate change — a ruling that Ley has been fighting to overturn. Under the nation's environmental law, Ley must now consider the "avoidance of personal injury" when deciding whether or not to approve projects like mine expansions.

Experts fear one million young Australians are likely to require hospitalisation from heat stress in their lifetimes. 

Australia Sends Tens of Millions to Fight Hunger in Indo-Pacific Region

This year, Australia sent US$94 million to the World Food Programme, up from US$53 million delivered by the nation the year prior. The majority of the funding will be dispersed throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Australian funds have also been sent to Myanmar and Afghanistan, where 14 million people face acute food insecurity.

Victoria Makes Consent Education Mandatory in All Public Schools

In an Australian-first, Victoria, a state in the country's south-east, has this year introduced compulsory consent classes for students in all public schools. The sessions will build upon a curriculum that previously prioritised conversations around sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases, to include information on power in romatic relationships, the correlation between alcohol and sexual abuse and how to give and obtain consent. 

Australia Redirects Foreign Aid to Myanmar's Most Marginalised People Amid Coup

Earlier this year, conflict between pro-democracy citizens and the Tatmadaw — Myanmar's military — pushed the Australian Government to redirect aid funding to the nation's most marginalised people and out of the hands of the ruling army. Australia likewise suspended a military program between the two countries and began a parliamentary probe into the coup, which saw hundreds die and democratically elected politicians forcibly removed from office.

Australian Aid Helps Rebuild Schools in Fiji following Cyclone Destruction

In December 2020, Cyclone Yasa swept through Fiji, leaving four dead and inflicting widespread structural damage on homes and community buildings. Later that month and throughout early January, Australia responded by helping to refurbish and repair 33 schools. The three-week restoration service also saw 600 Australian Defence Force personnel help clear fallen trees, service damaged homes and remove mangled power lines.

Australia Provides Critical Support Amid Ongoing COVID-19 

For almost two years, Australia has provided essential funding for vaccine research and helped strengthen global health systems in the wake of COVID-19. This year, Australia has made various pledges to share vaccines and assist Pacific countries through the pandemic.

In April, Australia sent 1.5 million masks, 500 ventilators and hundreds of thousands of goggles, gloves and face shields to help India respond to a record-breaking COVID-19 outbreak. That same month, the country sent 10,000 vaccines to Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste amid their respective wave of cases.

Two months later, the nation committed a further $50 million to vaccine sharing partnership COVAX, vowed to give 20 million vaccines to developing countries in the Asia-Pacific and supplied Fiji with an additional 50,000 jabs to aid their COVID-19 response.

Global Citizen Life

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9 of Australia’s Biggest Wins in 2021

By Madeleine Keck