Overview of Australia's Pacific Regional aid program

How we are helping

2013/14 Actual:
$107.0 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate:
$196.9 million

Expenditure in this instance refers to the DFAT regional program allocation


Australia’s regional program complements our bilateral program investments to support economic growth and poverty reduction in the Pacific. Many of the Pacific’s challenges cannot be addressed solely on a country-by-country basis. The regional program adds value where it is more efficient and effective to work through regional approaches.

The Pacific region is vast and diverse. There are considerable differences between and within states in terms of ethnicity, culture, population size, land area and economic characteristics. Despite these differences, most Pacific Island countries (PICs) face common challenges that contribute to a complex and difficult development environment.

Pacific challenges include:

  • isolation, both in terms of geography and communications
  • small, often dispersed, populations and markets that limit economies of scale and domestic revenue opportunities
  • limited natural resources
  • rapid population growth that outstrips job creation, income earning opportunities and social services
  • a shortage of critical infrastructure with poor maintenance
  • high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters, and economic shocks such as fluctuating international fuel and food prices.

These challenges are exacerbated by the limited capacity in Pacific island public sectors. They have difficulty managing the requirements of modern business and government, and often struggle to deliver essential functions including providing services such as health, education and policing.

Regional approaches to development can help Pacific governments meet increasingly complex demands. The shared provision of services (for example, tertiary education and statistics) is especially important in areas where individual states may not otherwise be able to afford or access such services. Regionalism also strengthens the Pacific’s cohesion and bargaining power on issues critical to development such as fisheries management. It provides opportunities for policy dialogue and a Pacific voice on global issues.

Effective governance

Australia supports improved regional governance through Pacific regional organisations, of which Australia is a key member and development partner. Regional organisations provide an important vehicle for policy dialogue and for advancing our foreign policy, trade, defence and development interests across the Pacific region. Australia’s diplomatic engagement through regional organisations enhances our relationships in the Pacific.

Australia also supports a number of discrete initiatives for effective governance. These support countries to strengthen Pacific public sector capacities, transparency and accountability and adopt and adhere to regional norms and standards across the region.

Our programs are underpinned by robust research and analysis, supported through partnerships with Australian and regional research institutions.

Read more on effective governance in the Pacific region


Fisheries is a key economic driver in the Pacific region. Australia supports the sector primarily through partnerships with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). Within the sector, increases in GDP, government revenues, exports and the vessel day benchmark price have all been achieved. Appropriate onshore investments in fisheries are increasing, as are exports to key international markets. Our support also helps underpin scientific monitoring and assessments to help ensure the future sustainability of fish stocks. Inshore fisheries assistance will help ensure future sustainability and food security.

Read more on our fisheries assistance in the Pacific region

Economic development

Australia’s investments in infrastructure in the Pacific are helping to support economic growth and jobs and increase access to health and education services.Australia is assisting in the coordination of up to $1.7 billion of donor investments in infrastructure, through our support to the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility. Australia is working with Carnival Australia on issues such as providing assistance on roads and port infrastructure for new destination development and supporting the recruitment of Pacific Islanders (Ni-Vanuatu) on Carnival ships.

In 2013-14 the Pacific Financial Inclusion Program (PFIP) improved access to financial services for over 300,000 poor men and women and to financial education for over 200,000 students. Australia is also establishing new partnerships with ANZ and Westpac, which play crucial roles in the security and stability of the Pacific region’s financial systems and make financial services accessible to small and medium enterprises.

Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) facilitated 923 (828 male, 95 female) workers to access jobs in Australia. The average worker remits around $5,000 - $6,000 for a six-month placement.

Australia provides support to the Pacific islands to negotiate the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus trade agreement, including high-quality technical advice to PICs. The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA) is helping primary producers meet international export requirements.

Read more on economic growth and private sector development in the Pacific region


PICs are exposed to a wide variety of natural hazards (cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, storm surges, tsunami and volcanoes). Climate change and natural disasters cut across sectors, threaten economic gains and exacerbate existing pressures on food, water, infrastructure, health and economies. Australia supports climate-related activities in the Pacific, through its bilateral engagement with specific countries, as well as through contributions to regional and multilateral organisations. Australia also takes steps to protect aid investments that may be vulnerable to future climate risks. The Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac) supports the National Meteorological Services (NMSs) of 14 PICs to provide meteorological services. The Pacific Risk Resilience Program (PRRP) is strengthening the resilience of the most disaster prone PICs to natural disasters and climate change risk.

Read more on resilience in the Pacific region


Australia is committed to enhancing the political, economic and social opportunities of women in the Pacific. Through Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development, a $320 million, 10-year program, Australia provides practical support in partnership with governments, regional and UN organisations, and civil society groups to achieve gender equality. For example, in partnership with UN Women, Australia will work to ensure selected markets in PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are safe environments for women to earn a living.

Read more on gender equality and empowering women and girls in the Pacific region


Australia supports the PIF Secretariat and the Pacific Disability Forum in its work with Pacific governments and disabled people’s organisations to implement disability-inclusive policies and create opportunities for people with disabilities. Under the Pacific Sports Partnership program, people with disabilities are involved in regular cricket, table tennis and football activities that improve their quality of life and increase their participation in the community.


PICs have made significant improvements in health outcomes in recent decades, particularly in maternal and child health and in combatting infectious diseases. However, the Pacific region still faces many varied health issues. Guided by the Pacific Regional Health Program Delivery Strategy 2013-2017, Australia began implementing a new regional health program in 2013-14. Australia’s new approach has a strong focus on health services that necessitate a regional or multi-country approach, taking into account capacity constraints faced by national level health systems. Australia will continue to work closely with regional and international organisations to support countries to address their health challenges.

Read more on our health assistance in the Pacific region


Australia’s Pacific regional education program focuses on those aspects of Pacific education systems that benefit most from supra-national cooperation. Through a regional approach, Australia supports key education programs and partnerships designed to ensure that all young Pacific Islanders have the skills needed to lead a productive life, promoting economic growth in the Pacific and enabling labour mobility. Key objectives include: increasing the percentage of children in the Pacific able to read to national standards after four years of schooling; improving access for young Pacific Islanders to quality technical education and training matched to the needs of the local private sector; and supporting efficiency gains in the financing and operation of education and training systems region-wide.

Read more on education in the Pacific region