Where does Australian Aid funding go?

People often wonder about the use of Australia’s overseas aid program. What is it used for, and is it effective? I had the opportunity on my recent visit to Myanmar and Indonesia to see a number of important aid projects.

The visit to Myanmar included a UNICEF development program and a school funded by Australia. 3,000 pupils attend the school each day, in two shifts of 1,500 in the morning and the afternoon. The students were bright and bubbly, interested in learning and a better future for themselves. Along with vital infrastructure, education is the key to Myanmar’s future.

We also visited two other projects at Lake Inle. Most of the country’s tomatoes are grown on extensive floating gardens along the lake’s edge. The removal of trees from the surrounding hillsides for heating and cooking by the local villagers has led to significant silting of the lake. One aid project helped villagers to plant crops, removing their need to harvest trees. As a consequence, the villagers have been able to afford electricity for the village, improving their standard of living and enabling children to study in the evening.

Another project involved the replacement of open fires in village houses with enclosed brick stoves. Not only are the stoves more efficient, increasing the income from the production of rice crackers, the chimneys have had a significant health impact, as smoke is now removed from the premises. Using the additional income generated by the stoves, the villagers have built another 25 ovens themselves. Both these projects have intergenerational benefits for some of the poorest people in Myanmar.

A project in Malang in East Java has provided running water to hundreds of houses in one of the poorest parts of the city, improving sanitation and health for the residents. Another project involved significant improvements to another very poor area of the city.

In both Myanmar and Indonesia, the projects are making a real difference to the lives of many people.