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Bishop launches $10m Indo-Pacific grant scheme for aid organisations

Julie Bishop launches a new grant scheme aimed at expanding support to the Indo-Pacific region

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has launched the $10 million Australian Aid: Friendship Grants scheme for aid organisations operating in the Indo-Pacific.

A joint statement from Bishop and the Minster for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, said Charities and Not-for-Profits have a record of providing critical developmental assistance in the Indo-Pacific region.

“These organisations have unique, on-the-ground experience in international development and have forged strong relationships and people-to-people links with local communities overseas.”

The Friendship Grants program will build on this experience by supporting eligible organisations to extend and support long-term security, prosperity and growth.

This comes as ChildFund Australia reports that women in PNG are more than 35 times more likely to die during pregnancy than women in Australia and have no choice but to give birth at home, a move that puts them at further risk of complications.

CEO of ChildFund, Nigel Spence, said: “No woman should die giving birth. Yet in a country just 160km north of Australia, women are losing their lives every day during childbirth due to unsafe conditions and causes that are completely preventable.”

A report by the group found an extreme shortage of healthcare workers. Spence said that Australia has the ability to aid the country in preventing the deaths “through simple interventions like improving basic healthcare at the village level.”

The three-year Friendship Grants scheme will see $10 million be distributed through a range of activities, including education, healthcare, water supply and sanitation, rural development and projects that promote economic sustainability through the empowerment of women and girls.

“There are so many Australians who are doing so much in our region, I knew we should be able to leverage this in a way that would have an even bigger impact,” Bishop told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

The program will be awarded to organisations through a competitive, merit-based process. The first round of applications will open 18 June with the winners of the first grants to be announced in November 2018.

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