The Government’s Foreign Policy White Paper promised a new direction, but tonight’s Budget heralds more of the same for Australia’s beleaguered and declining aid program, say representatives of CBM, Australia’s leading disability-focused INGO.
Jane Edge, CEO of CBM, said, “With 30% excised from the aid budget over the last five years, tonight’s budget has set out the Government’s plan to reach new lows for our region’s poorest and most vulnerable people. By cutting over $140m over the years to come, the Government has stuck to its cold-hearted plan to sink aid to its lowest levels ever via ‘freezes’.”
“This is hardly the ambitious, proactive or strategic plan the Government flagged with its own new Foreign Policy White Paper.”
Ms Edge said Australians believed in a fair go and rallying behind those who needed their help.
“Right now around the world, women, men, girls and boys with disabilities are being left behind and we have a chance to make a real difference in their lives. People with disabilities often face a cycle of inequality, isolation and exclusion that leads to the most extreme forms of poverty, leaving them most vulnerable,” she said.
“For example, in Vanuatu, only 15 per cent of girls with disabilities complete primary school, compared to 72 per cent of girls without disabilities.
“Research in Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Tonga found that women with disabilities experienced higher rates of intimate partner violence and different forms of violence, including the withholding of assistance or forced sterilisation.
“Census data across Asia, from Timor-Leste to Mongolia, suggests that people with disabilities are up to four times as likely as people without disabilities to be employed in the informal sector – if they are employed at all.”
Ms Edge said Australia’s aid program was crucial to tackling the heightened barriers faced by people with disabilities in the world’s poorest places.
“Changing the social, environmental and policy barriers faced by people with disabilities is a long-term exercise. This is just one reason why real leadership and real growth in our aid program is needed over the years to come,” she said.
CBM Australia is an international Christian development organisation, committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in the poorest countries of the world.
CBM Australia is an ACFID member and part of the Campaign for Australian Aid coalition.