JULIE BISHOP:           Thank you Jamie, Emma, Chris - thank you for taking part in our event today. To my Ministerial colleague Minister Fierravanti-Wells, the Minister for International Development in the Pacific, to my many Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues, thank you for being here for the launch of what is a very important initiative in our aid program.

Senator Wong and Senator Moore sent their apologies. They are in Senate Estimates but I am assured of the Opposition’s support for this initiative.

When I become Foreign Minister in 2013 I took responsibility for Australia’s aid program. It needed to be refocused, it needed to be more effective and it needed to have bigger impact and over the last few years we’ve set about achieving that.

Throughout the course of working on the aid program it was evident to me that there was an untapped resource. The Australian people are exceedingly generous and many of them want to give, and do give, their time and energy and resources to support communities in our region in the Indian Ocean Asian Pacific Region. I acknowledge the presence of so many diplomats from our region here today, particularly the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Guterres.

They had skills and expertise and resources that will be deployed to communities throughout the region outside of the Australian aid budget. For example, a group of women in Victoria have come together to provide access to small loans for women in Nepal so that they can build up livestock businesses and for the very first time enter the labour market in Nepal. A group of health professionals in Western Australia came together to train nurses and midwives in PNG to address the very issues that Emma spoke so passionately about. The group of retired teachers in Queensland came together to support educational outcomes for children in Cambodia. A group of doctors in South Australia are providing lifesaving surgery to people with disabilities across the Pacific. In Tasmania, a group of volunteers are working on ways to make crops in the Philippines yield more and be more nutritious. I note Andrew Campbell the head of the Australian Centre of International Agricultural Research is here today, so you know what I am talking about, that kind of support to farmers in the Philippines.

When I looked at our aid budget, which is now very focussed, very effective and very innovative, I knew that there were other resources that we should tap. And that not all expertise lay within the aid program, nor within the partnerships that we have developed to deliver aid across our region. Yes, we make a significant investment at the multilateral level, at the regional level, and in bilateral partnerships with other countries but there are so many Australians who are doing so much in our region I knew that we should be able to leverage this is a way that would have an even bigger impact.

That is why I am so delighted today to announce this new initiative, the Australian Aid: Friendship Grants which will provide small grants to organisations with whom DFAT does not currently have a partnership arrangement, to enable them to provide even more assistance and building on the work that they have been doing.

This will apply to charities, and professional groups, the diaspora communities, volunteer groups. The program will be managed grants. We have set aside $10 million over three years and eligible organisations will be able to apply for grants between $30,000 and $60,000. They will then provide support through a partnership that the organisation, the charity, the group, will put up funds, whether it be in-kind or actual dollars, then the Australian Government will match it. Every dollar put in by the organisation, the Australian Government will put in up to $5 within the envelope up to $60,000.

Many of you in this room know how far a small grant can go if it is applied in the right way. Within our aid program we already have the grants that our Embassies and High Commissions can provide but I think there is so much more we can do if organisations who are high performers, who already have a track record of working overseas and given a grant by the Australian Government.

I am delighted that Lions, and Rotary, and Send Hope Not Flowers and other organisations are represented here today. They are the kinds of organisations that we will be able to assist with this grants program.

The model of the grants program will be familiar with the Members of Parliament where the organisation finds the resources and then we partner with that organisation to leverage the dollars available. We announced it on Budget night and since Budget there have been over 200 organisations that have registered an interest on our website. 

The Round One will open on the 18th of June and I know my colleagues will recognise the opportunities that this will provide within their electorates.

We have put together a pack to support the Australian Aid: Friendship Grants so you can spread the message far and wide across your electorates, that there is now an opportunity for those organisations, as registered charities or registered companies, they will be able to apply for more funding to assist them in the amazing work that they carry out in their region in improving livelihoods, in reducing poverty, in providing access for much needed services - providing that helping hand for which Australians are renowned.

This makes our Foreign Aid Budget less foreign for it is all directed to our region, our neighbourhood, where we can make the biggest difference but it is Australians doing what they best, opening up their hearts, providing support to those in need with the support of the Australian Government.

With those words, I am delighted to officially launch the Australian Aid: Friendship Grants. This is about building deeper, closer friendships with countries in our region and I know that the Australian people will be happy to continue to support such initiatives.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555