27 January, 2015 - Australian aid cuts threaten girls’ education, vaccines, water: new analysis

Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart is available for grabs, interviews, etc. Please call Adam Cathro on 0488 202 945 to arrange.

Girls in the developing world will bear the brunt of Federal Government cuts in Australian aid, with hundreds of thousands threatened with loss of access to education, immunisation and safe drinking water in the next year alone, according to a new analysis of government figures by child rights organisation Plan International Australia.

The analysis shows that aid cuts fly in the face of the government’s repeated commitment to place girls at the centre of Australia’s aid program. The government late last year announced that the aid budget will be cut by around 20 per cent in the next financial year, and last year around $11 billion in aid cuts were announced.

Drawing on data released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Plan’s modelling reveals that in the next financial year alone the latest cut could mean:
220,000 fewer girls will be enrolled in school.
400,000 fewer girls will be immunised.
3,153 fewer classrooms where girls can learn will be renovated or built.
157,000 fewer girls will see improved access to safe drinking water.
750,000 fewer textbooks will be made available for girls.

“There is no doubt that the latest round of aid cuts are brutal and unfair, and will have an enormously damaging impact on the lives of many millions throughout the developing world. But our analysis reveals that it is girls who will be paying the highest price,” says Ian Wishart, CEO of Plan International Australia.

“As a result of the government yet again plundering the aid budget, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable girls in developing nations may miss out on an education, on immunisations and on access to safe drinking water.”

In August, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that “the empowerment of women and girls ... is a priority for our government”.

“Minister Bishop has said more than once that the government’s focus in our aid program is the empowerment of women and girls. But our analysis shows that the government’s commitment is hollow,” Wishart says. “These cuts will hinder the empowerment girls need to escape poverty. And that is deeply dispiriting because we know from experience and research that investing in girls is the most effective way to lead developing nations out of poverty.”

“We have made real and substantial progress in improving the lives of girls in poor countries over the past decade and now the government seems eager to drop the baton and throw all this hard work and investment away in a desperate search for short-term and short-sighted Budget savings,” Wishart adds.

“The reason this is so important is that we know it is girls that are the key to international development. We know, for example, that each extra year of secondary school increases a girl’s potential income by 25 per cent, and research shows that they are most likely to invest that in their communities, their families and their countries, which has a positive and obvious impact on their local economy.”

“Supporting girls can help a developing nation on the path out of poverty, and isn’t that the point of Australian aid policy? Judging by the savage cuts we are seeing, the government has completely lost sight of the point and the effectiveness of foreign aid,” Wishart adds.

Wishart renewed Plan’s call to submit future aid cuts to Parliamentary or legislative oversight. “When it comes to making Budget savings, aid cuts always seem to be the first, last and often only resort. But aid is a key investment and a crucial diplomatic tool and future cuts need to be the subject of genuine scrutiny.”

Editors’ notes:
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.

Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945