Tumultuous Times: Aid Cuts & Partnership Impacts – Event Summary

Dave Husy (left) and Adam Valvasori (right)

Dave Husy (left) and Adam Valvasori (right) taking questions from the audience. Photo by Dan A’Vard – Opencage Photography

Tumultuous Times: Aid Cuts & Partnership Impacts

Tuesday May 5th, 6-8pm, Donkey Wheel House Melbourne

Event summary by Kelly Rae

Disproportionate cuts to the Australian aid budget announced last December mean that Australian NGO’s are already starting to axe international programs, with a devastating impact on their partner organisations and communities in which poverty alleviation programs have been operating. With further aid cuts expected to be announced this May, NGO’s are in limbo, many starting to alert partner organisations that programs may have to be scaled down or ceased all together. The impact on partnerships, long term programming, and the people that they work with, will be profound.

Speaker:          Adam Valvasori, Project Manager, Campaign for Australian Aid.

  • $11.3 Billion in Aid has been cut since the Abbott government has got into office. It is the least generous we have ever been in the history of Australian Aid.
  • ‘Every budget is a moral document, an opportunity to fulfill our promise to help the world’s most promising people’.
  • We need a united voice to improve broad-based community literacy and support for Australian Aid; how much, how it is used and where. To generate a movement of people who will become engaged with public advocacy ‘to support more and better aid’.
  • The narrative needs to be changed from problem-based story telling to focus on progress and sustainable change (self-sufficiency, autonomy) that is occurring. Here are some of the ways that the language is changing:
    • It’s what we do because we are Australian. Not foreign Aid. Australian Aid
    • Plays on concept of fairness, Aid is the part we can play
    • Repositions on ‘the world’s most promising people’ to focus on capacity and strengths.
  • Campaign clip
  • Communications handbook
  • Launched Feb 2015. Used VoteCompass Survey to target engagement to most likely supporters: 18-30, Tertiary educated, Left of centre.
  • Digital supporter journeys and conversation starters:
  • What’s to come? Sustainable Development Goals, 2016 Election, 2017 budget.
  • Campaign For Australian Aid Public Research / Resources


Speaker:          Dave Husy, Program Director of Plan International Australia

  • Exploring how Aid Cuts filter down into NGO practice and implications for agencies working primarily through in-country partnerships.
  • Plan Australia is part of a global federation, a child right’s organization, using community development approaches. Work through local partnerships in 15 countries. The Australian office provides; program expertise, developing good practice models, technical support, leadership (early childhood care and development, sanitation and hygiene). Australian Government funding is seen as a mechanism through which this identity has been able to be expressed.
  • Importance of a diversified funding portfolio to reduce risk. Plan uses both publically raised and institutional funds.
  • Seen as a partnership between Plan, Government and community. Funds are matched (20% on the ANCP grant, but often higher).
  • ANCP grant ‘Partnership Grant’ which influences practice:
    • 2010-2013: First partnership agreement between AusAID and number of larger NGOs to engage in a four year partnership. Focussed on common goals, principles and characteristics, way of working together. This was to be flexible, affirmative recognizing differing roles, and to have predictability of funding to enable longer-term work. Effectiveness was also a feature. There was an openness to invite engagement around policy formation and review, along with ability to allocate funds to build NGO capacity to do this effectively.
    • 2014-2017: Value of grants was planned around a predictable flow of funding with modest growth. This would have enabled Plan to engage with confidence with their partners around typically 3-5 year programming. Cuts in FY2014 (mid-stream to approved and committed funds) and FY2015 (late), FY2015 expecting further 25% cut. $11.4 million cut (31%) over four years.
    • What has this meant? Plan already making deep adjustments to programs and staffing. Cut across all programs. Retaining minimum effectiveness level in each of the programs. Lean and efficient agency, so cutting further means contracting scope / reach, and cutting programming: Four good programs have been cut. Very painful. Next year, 9 large programs will be cut.
    • Impact on programming? Very complex and time-intensive planning. Ethical and respectful approach to work and partnerships – implications for way that decisions are communicated. Reputational damage.
    • For partners: Loss of income, skilled staffing, and impact on their relationships with their communities and peers. Agreements has had to be done through the re-negotiation of agreements with partners, communities and government (local, state, national). E.g. Bangladesh partnership agreement indicates that if funding is insufficient that projects can be terminated, it may not be legal grounds to terminate a partnership.
    • Strong value and focus on effective partnerships: Both with in-country partners and also with AusAID / DFAT. The way cuts have been introduced has undermined the underpinning principles and partnerships.
  • Key message: Maybe we are seeing the end of a good era of partnership and effectiveness? New language is about value for money; efficiency, delivery, payment on results, numbers (not understood terms of effectiveness and impact). Practice principles have been swept aside and difficult to see this in the new rhetoric any affirmation of partnership.


If you have any additional insights / reflections on the event, please share using the comments function below