The number of Australians who support an increase in foreign aid — the money Australia spends on fighting extreme poverty and promoting prosperity around the world — has grown seven points since 2019, according to a poll on international affairs by think-tank Lowy Institute

The annual survey of Australians' attitudes towards the world, released Wednesday, further showed that the cohort of people who believe aid should be reduced has dropped significantly, to 34%. Nearly half of the population, however, want to see aid spending remain roughly the same, an increase from 2019.

There is also strong backing for Australia to "play a role" in supporting the economy and health of Pacific nations.

"While many Australians have been wary of foreign aid in the past, in 2022, Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of Australia providing foreign aid to Pacific Island states,” the poll reads. “Almost all Australians are in favour of providing aid for disaster relief.”

The survey continues: “Aid for COVID-19 vaccines also receives high levels of support, at 86%.”

Eight in ten Australians, meanwhile, say they want aid to go directly toward preventing China’s Pacific influence, while a similar figure favours ensuring aid addresses long-term economic challenges in the region. Three-quarters of the population want to see aid go toward climate change action.

The Australian Governmen’ts aid spending is currently at its least generous level in history, and at the same time, the money Australia does spend on aid — at about 0.21% of gross national income — doesn’t always promote the fight against poverty. However, many believe that the change of government that occurred in May brings renewed hope for more generous funding.

The Labor Party, elected after nine years of conservative rule, has long promised to increase the aid budget. 

"Over recent years, the aid budget has been steadily reducing. Unfortunately, this has happened exactly when foreign aid has most been needed to fight the effects of COVID-19, conflict and instability,” Kirsty Robertson, the CEO of justice organisation Caritas Australia, said at the time of the election. “Labor’s commitment to increase aid spending over the next few years, particularly in our region, will have a positive impact on communities who are in sore need of our support.”

Despite reductions, Australian aid spending has still had a distinguishable impact on the world.

Over the past six months, Australia has responded with $1 million in emergency relief for Afghanistan after the devastating earthquake that took over 1,150 lives. Earlier this month, the country similarly pledged $50 million in aid to support Sri Lanka amid its “worst economic crisis” in seven decades.

In March, Australia upped its aid contribution to Ukraine, which now sits at $65 million.


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Australians Overwhelmingly Support Sending Aid to the Pacific: Poll

By Madeleine Keck