In 2015-16, our diplomatic missions in Colombo, Chennai, Dhaka, Islamabad, Kabul, Kathmandu, New Delhi and Mumbai supported 106 projects worth $3.091 million in South and Central Asia.
The Australian High Commission in Colombo provided $390,000 for 14 projects across eight provinces in Sri Lanka and Maldives. The projects, funded by the Direct Aid Program (DAP), focused on education, health care, sanitation, small-scale infrastructure and support for people with disability.
DAP funded the construction of a vocational training centre for disadvantaged women in Batticaloa District and the delivery of English language and computer training for children from low-income and chronic kidney disease-affected families in Polonnaruwa District.
DAP funding was also used to build a physiotherapy and speech unit for the Sith Sewana Mentally Handicapped Children's Development Society. The new building will benefit children with disability in 14 villages in Monaragala District.
The Australian High Commission in Dhaka provided $441,000 to 12 projects in Bangladesh. Direct Aid Program (DAP) projects placed emphasis on women's empowerment, education, health, water and sanitation, and people with disability.
DAP funding helped women with disability from Barguna District receive training in garment production and the marketing of their products. Another DAP project in Dinajpur District promoted the rights of survivors of acid attacks and the improvement of their livelihoods.
DAP also funded the revamp of Dhaka University's clinical service centre to upgrade its psychological services towards international standards, and the provision of educational support materials to children with disability.
The Australian High Commission in Islamabad provided $450,000 for 14 projects across Pakistan, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh provinces and the northern regions of Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. The projects, funded under the Direct Aid Program (DAP), focused on human rights, education, health, water and sanitation, capacity building and disaster relief.
Through Inspire Pakistan, a non-profit NGO, a DAP project helped raise human rights awareness among university students in Islamabad by supporting young 'Human Rights Ambassadors' and disseminating information about the rights of women and children through a radio campaign.
DAP also funded the upgrade of an operating theatre at St Elizabeth's Hospital in Hyderabad and the purchase of a dialysis machine for the Ameer Welfare Dialysis Centre in Punjab. Another DAP project engaged the Pakistani youth on climate change issues through a media campaign and debates, ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Change negotiations.
The Australian Embassy in Kabul provided $150,000 to five projects in Kabul, Baghlan, Ghazni and Bamyan provinces of Afghanistan. Funded by the Direct Aid Program (DAP), the projects focused on health, small-scale infrastructure, economic empowerment, youth, gender equality and poverty alleviation.
To help young people find jobs in construction-related industries, DAP funding was used to provide training in wiring and electrical work for students above the age of 18 from an orphanage. The skills, which they can use throughout their lives, are in high demand in Kabul.
In Bamyan, DAP funded the production of a three-part play, which highlighted the harmful consequences of early and childhood marriages. The project applied performing art as a medium to raise the awareness of domestic violence and the disadvantages of early and forced marriages and their negative impacts on the society.
The Australian Embassy in Kathmandu provided $600,000 for 17 projects in Nepal. Funded under the Direct Aid Program (DAP), the projects gave priority to healthcare, capacity building and the empowerment of women and people with disability.
DAP funded the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation Nepal to provide training in basic psychosocial counselling to community members in the three earthquake-affected districts of Sindhupalchowk, Kavre and Okhaldhunga. Such counselling services were very limited in these areas.
DAP funding also helped the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal update and publish new Nepali sign language books, posters and dictionaries, which were distributed at schools for the deaf across the country for free. The publications had not been updated for over a decade.
The Australian High Commission in New Delhi provided $552,000 to support 20 projects across northern India and Bhutan. The projects, funded by the Direct Aid Program (DAP), focused on the empowerment of women and people with disability, health and hygiene, sanitation, and education.
In Odisha State, DAP funded the Indian NGO Divya Jyoti Mahila Vikash to set up a compostable sanitary napkin production unit. By training local women in its management and operation, the project seeks to develop their entrepreneurial skills along with delivering an essential feminine hygiene education program.
DAP also sponsored a two-day workshop designed to build the capacity of NGOs to support people with mental health disorders and raise the awareness of mental health challenges, services and facilities. Representatives from 20 NGOs across New Delhi and Rajasthan and Uttarakhand states attended the workshop.
Live rock giving life to India's reef
Along the southernmost tip of India in Tamil Nadu State, a project supported through the Direct Aid Program (DAP) is helping revitalise the coral reef through the implantation of live rock made a long way from home.
The project, run by Participatory Learning Action Network and Training (PLANT), is using innovative technology developed by the Australian company Baba Marda to revive threatened ecosystems.
The man made limestone rocks are modelled off formations occurring naturally along Western Australia's coast. The rocks are placed in areas of unhealthy reef and over time algae forms and produces coral growth.
'Three tons of live rock has been purchased from Baba Marda for this purpose,' said Dr John Suresh, Executive Director of PLANT. The project is also building the technical know-how of the local fisherman.
'PLANT has conducted an awareness program and trained fishermen on making and deploying live rock in the near-shore waters,' said Dr Suresh.
There are five fishing villages and up to 500 families living along the coast who will benefit from the regeneration of the reef and Tamil Nadu's bourgeoning coastal tourism sector. Ultimately the hope is that these rocks will transform into vibrant reef ecosystems, boosting fish stocks and coral growth, and improving the livelihoods of local villagers.
The Australian Consulate-General in Chennai provided $209,000 for nine projects in southern India. Funded through the Direct Aid Program (DAP), the projects promoted women's empowerment and economic diplomacy objectives, and supported disaster recovery.
DAP funding was used to purchase emergency relief supplies following severe flooding in southern India. DAP projects also provided optical assessments and equipment to disadvantaged children and essential health services to low-income women.
Through Single Teacher Schools, a non-profit organisation, DAP funded a project to establish local community schools to provide basic education to children, who are unable to access mainstream schooling. The majority of them are children with disability. DAP also sponsored breast cancer screening checks at Penn Nalam Hospital on International Women's Day.
The Australian Consulate-General in Mumbai provided $300,000 for 16 projects in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. Funded by the Direct Aid Program (DAP), the projects covered water management, sports, education, health and support for people with disability.
Apnalaya, a non-profit organisation, used DAP funding to implement a sports intervention program for disadvantaged girls residing near Mumbai's dumping ground. The project encouraged the girls to compete in a professional tournament of Kabaddi, an indigenous sport, to enhance their self-esteem, promote gender equality and reduce school dropout rates. The tournament was broadcast across India.
Through the NGO Society for Nutrition, Education & Health Action (SNEHA), DAP funded a child health and nutrition program focused on reducing malnutrition among children up to three years old from Mumbai's slums. The project held nutrition awareness workshops for mothers on International Women's Day.