Overview of Australia's aid program to Vanuatu

How we are helping

2014/15 Bilateral Outcome
$41.5 million
$50 million in cyclone-related assistance

2015/16 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$41.9 million

2015/16 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$60.5 million

Australia has a direct interest in a prosperous and stable Vanuatu. Australia is an important economic partner for Vanuatu, providing the country with the majority of its tourists, foreign direct investment and aid. Over the last decade Vanuatu maintained strong economic growth compared with other countries in the region. Economic and social stability have helped attract investment and tourists.

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $60.5 million in total Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Vanuatu in 2015–16. This will include an estimated $41.9 million in bilateral funding to Vanuatu managed by DFAT. In addition, Australia provided $50 million in cyclone recovery support in 2014–15.

Australia is Vanuatu’s largest development partner. In recent years our aid has comprised more than 60 per cent of total ODA to Vanuatu (excluding China which does not publish ODA figures). Our aid promotes Australia’s national interests by supporting economic growth, stability and poverty reduction in Vanuatu. In recent years, Australian aid has helped lift school enrolment rates to 87 per cent; reduce malaria incidence from 7 per cent to 1 per cent; and increase access to counselling and support services for thousands of women and children affected by family and sexual violence. Australian aid has also helped maintain priority rural roads; increase government revenue, reduce electricity costs for low-income consumers; and deregulate the telecommunications sector, lifting mobile subscriptions from 4.8 per cent of the population in 2004 to more than 71 per cent in 2011.

Vanuatu has a population of around 263,0001. Seventy per cent of people live in rural areas across 65 of the country’s more than 80 islands. One-third of Vanuatu’s population lacks access to basic services and more than 12 per cent live below the national basic needs poverty line. Vanuatu’s widely dispersed population increases the service delivery challenge. In this context, key development indicators such as literacy and numeracy, immunisation and nutrition are stagnating and, in some cases, declining. Violence against women and children is the most common and widespread crime (72 per cent of women experience physical and sexual violence in their life time).

Tropical Cyclone Pam

Between 12 and 14 March 2015, Tropical Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu as a category five cyclone, causing 11 deaths and severe damage to housing, health centres, schools and other critical infrastructure. The cyclone has affected the livelihoods of around 195,000 people across four disaster-affected provinces – Tafea, Shefa, Malampa and Penama. Vanuatu’s key industries of tourism and agriculture were also damaged.

Australian personnel arrived in Vanuatu within 36 hours of the cyclone’s impact. Australia has been the largest international contributor to the cyclone response so far, providing $50 million in support for humanitarian and early and long-term recovery needs. Our assistance was developed in consultation with the Vanuatu Government and addresses critical needs.

Australia can make an important contribution to Vanuatu’s development and long-term cyclone recovery. Our aid and economic diplomacy can strengthen the conditions for sustainable and inclusive economic growth and stability, and help reduce poverty. Investing in women’s economic empowerment and leadership, disability inclusion and the elimination of violence against women are priorities in our program.

Tropical Cyclone Pam highlighted Vanuatu’s extreme vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change. Australia will continue to ensure that our aid investments in infrastructure (e.g. roads, school buildings) are climate and disaster resilient to safeguard their longevity and ensure value for money. We will also help build disaster resilience in government and communities.

Vanuatu is an active participant in the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP). In June 2015, the Australian Government announced an expansion of the SWP, improving people-to-people links, by removing the annual limit on the number of seasonal workers who can participate in the program. The expansion of the program to the agriculture and accommodation sectors will benefit ni-Vanuatu.

The Aid Investment Plan, 2015–16 to 2018–19 (AIP) for Vanuatu proposes a strategic framework for the provision of Official Development Assistance to Vanuatu over the next four years. The purpose of the AIP is to provide a basis for discussions between Vanuatu and Australian governments to develop an aid partnership between Australia and Vanuatu. The AIP proposes four strategic objectives:

Objective 1: Build resilient infrastructure and an environment for economic opportunity

We can help the Vanuatu Government provide the right conditions for business and investment by supporting Vanuatu’s reform agenda and economic management improvements, including through policy dialogue and technical assistance. We will also support Vanuatu to improve economic opportunities for ni-Vanuatu through technical vocational and education and training and university scholarships; by expanding women’s income-earning opportunities and leadership; and through ni-Vanuatu participation in seasonal labour opportunities in Australia. Revitalising key infrastructure, focusing on rural roads and Port Vila’s urban infrastructure, will improve the movement of people, goods and services.

Investments for building resilient infrastructure and an environment for economic opportunities

Objective 2: Improve early education and essential health services

Early education and essential health services are areas where Australian investment can make the biggest contribution . Australia will work with the Vanuatu Government and communities to increase access to and the quality of early education to improve literacy and numeracy. Working with the Vanuatu Government, we will aim to improve access to resilient, quality essential health services, with a focus on workforce development and primary care. We will prioritise improvements in maternal and reproductive health.

Investments for improving early education and essential health services

Objective 3: Improve community safety and resilience

We will aim to strengthen key legal and justice institutions (informal and formal) including the police, with a focus on access to justice for women, children and youth. We will do this by working with a range of partners to reduce the prevalence of violence against women and children and to increase access to counselling support and legal services. We will also help Vanuatu to strengthen its resilience and response to natural disasters.

Investments for improving community safety and resilience

Objective 4: Support cyclone recovery and reconstruction

Vanuatu’s recovery from Tropical Cyclone Pam will take a number of years and require strong support from all donors. Australia has provided $35 million over three years for long-term recovery projects in Vanuatu. Our support aims to help Vanuatu maintain stability and build the conditions for economic recovery and a return to sustainable development. Australia is working closely with the Vanuatu Government and other partners to help implement recovery.

Investments for supporting cyclone recovery and reconstruction

Our results

In 2014–15, Australia’s aid program recorded the following results:

  • 1,062 ni-Vanuatu were provided with technical and vocational skills development through Australian assistance, supporting agriculture and tourism industry development.
  • More than 500 ni-Vanuatu participated in the Seasonal Worker Programme, bringing the total number of ni-Vanuatu participants to over 800 since 2012.
  • Australia supported the Vanuatu Public Works Department to deliver 147km of routine maintenance of priority rural roads linking towns, markets and communities.
  • In 2014, 13 ni-Vanuatu were awarded an Australia Award Scholarship to study in Australia and 14 to study in the Pacific region.
  • In April 2015, 91 ni-Vanuatu (59 per cent women) graduated from the Australia Pacific Technical College with internationally recognised qualifications, bringing the total number of ni-Vanuatu APTC graduates to 1,230 since 2007.
  • Between 2003 and 2014, with Australian funding, malaria incidence has reduced from 7 to 1 percent and there have been no deaths from malaria since 2012.
  • Our funding helped Vanuatu lift the measles immunisation coverage rate from 53 per cent in 2013 to 91 per cent by end 2014 and improved collection and use of health information data.
  • Australian aid supported delivery of literacy and numeracy kits to all 460 Vanuatu Year One classrooms and trained 1,923 teachers to use them.
  • Our aid program assisted 4,685 women and girl survivors of violence to access support services and 1,292 men and boys receive information on related issues. The aid program trained 932 police and law and justice officials on effective law enforcement approaches.

Our changing program

Australia’s recovery support for Vanuatu following Tropical Cyclone Pam represents a major new expansion of our aid program. We will work closely with the Vanuatu Government to implement our support for recovery and reconstruction over the next three years, building on our experience from our continuing program. Recovery challenges will create significant additional pressures on Vanuatu Government resources and capabilities and may affect the delivery of our broader aid program activities. We will continue to help where possible.

  • 1 IMF World Economic Outlook database (April 2015)

Prawn farming training in Vanuatu is reaching remote communities and bringing skills for development (credit: DFAT).
A young girl reads a booklet on domestic violence in the Port Vila vegetable markets (credit: DFAT).
Philip Masing fixes a Public Works vehicle at the municipality on Malakula Island, Vanuatu (credit: DFAT).
Constables Jack Kanas and Noelline Saksak patrol the streets of Port Vila, Vanuatu (credit: DFAT).
A prawn farm in operation, Vanuatu (credit: DFAT).
First grade students during class at Norsup Primary School (credit: DFAT).
Perry Louis a lab assistant at the Norsup Hospital, Malekula Island, Vanuatu (credit: DFAT).