Foreign aid freeze leaves Australia’s neighbours out in the cold


Vision 2020 Australia is deeply disappointed that Australia’s aid budget, while appearing to modestly rise over the next two years, will in reality be cut over four years of Federal Budget forward estimates. 
The Australian Government announced it will ‘pause’ its commitment to grow the aid budget in line with the consumer price index, resulting in $303.3 million in cuts over 2019-20 and 2020-21. 
Australia’s aid contribution will reach historic lows, of just 0.2 per cent of gross national income by 2020-21. 
Carla Northam, CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, says: ‘It is disappointing the Australian Government, with its increased focus on vulnerable people at home, has turned its back on our neighbours who would benefit immensely from our assistance. 
‘Without a large future investment of funds into our aid program, Australia will not meet the Sustainable Development Goals target by 2030.’
Although the Indo-Pacific region remains the priority of Australia’s aid program, where more than 90 per cent of aid will be invested, funding across the region has been cut, including in Papua New Guinea, East Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia. 
This is particularly bad news for people who are blind or vision impaired. Globally, 90 per cent of people who are blind or vision impaired are located in developing countries, and two-thirds live in our region. 
It’s also made worse by a decrease in funding for disability inclusive development, from $13.1 million to $12.9 million. 
Ms Northam says: ‘While people in developing countries who are blind or vision impaired face significant disadvantages, eye health and vision care programs have the power to lift them out of poverty.
‘But the Government has failed in its international development obligation to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people.’ 
In good news, health has received a $22.4 million increase in Australia’s remaining foreign aid program, reaching $495.7 million, with approximately a third of the funding allocated to the Pacific region. 
The Government has also placed gender equality and empowering women and girls at the heart of its aid program. The Government will provide $55 million to the Gender Equity Fund, including $5.4 million for the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative.
Ms Northam says: ‘We hope the Government’s focus on gender equality has flow-on benefits to women and girls who are blind or vision impaired. Women with disability face an increased burden, and experience even greater exclusion and marginalisation.’

See our full 2017-18 Federal Budget analysis.


For more information: Adam Sawell at Vision 2020 Australia

03 9656 2020, 0401 096 507 or

About Vision 2020 Australia

As the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, Vision 2020 Australia represents over 50 member organisations involved in: local and global eye care; health promotion; low vision support; vision rehabilitation; eye research; professional assistance; and community support. Established in October 2000, Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).