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Community sector’s outcry over historic blow to aid budget

Australia’s Charities and Not-for-Profits across the nation have come out strongly against the proposed changes to foreign aid announced in the 2018 federal budget that would leave the worlds most vulnerable at risk.

The cut of $141 million came after last year’s budget cut of $303 million, dropping the Australian aid program to a historic low and leaving millions of women and children without lifesaving aid.

In a statement from World Vision, Advocacy Director Susan Anderson said the government’s continued broken promises would see more people being displaced as global challenges of climate change continues to escalate.

“Every year this government manages to outdo its own record for the lowest aid budget in Australia’s history. It’s showing lack of leadership and character,” Ms Anderson said.

“These cuts keep coming, despite Australian people being the most generous in the world.”

Foreign aid for the Pacific has risen to $1.3 billion, but almost every other country and regional program remains static with no notable variation from last year.

With this new round of budget cuts there is an absence in the budget for funding towards new initiatives, leaving Not-for-profits and Charities to adjust.

“With the aid budget effectively cut, new projects in the aid budget amount to a raid on existing programs, displacing funding for critical work aimed at alleviating poverty,” said CEO of the Australian Council for International Development Marc Purcell.

“Now is the time for the government to acknowledge that, as the ninth economy in the world, Australia has the economic capacity to increase its investment in inclusive and equitable development overseas,” Mr Purcell said.

This year has already seen Australia fall behind in international obligations, dropping from 17 to 19 out of the 28 OECD aid-giving countries. Effective and long-term programs are being cut back globally.

Oxfam’s Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said Australia’s aid programs were seeing very little recognition in their roles to address the growing risk of disasters.

Although the small increase to the Protracted Crisis fund of $8.8 million was welcome, the absence of an increase to the Humanitarian Emergency Fund is at odds with the federal governments vision of a peaceful region.

“Overall, it is simply not enough given current multiple humanitarian crisis,” Ms Szoke said. “It shouldn’t be a case of either or. Long-term development to reduce poverty, inequality and build resilience is as important a part of the equation as funding for humanitarian crisis response.”

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