Grant program guidelines

Version: 1 February 2016


1. Australia-ASEAN Council

1.1 Introduction

The Australia-ASEAN Council (AAC) is an advisory body for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The Council consists of:

  • an Advisory Board consisting of not fewer than five members, all of whom are prominent members of the Australian community with strong links and experience in the region and/or AAC priority areas; and
  • a Secretariat provided by DFAT.

The AAC’s activities are an integral element of Australia’s foreign, trade and aid policy strategy. Its mission is to broaden and deepen the relationship between Australia and the countries of South-East Asia and to undertake and support programs that strengthen next‐generation links between Australia and the region.

More information on the Council is available at  

2. Australia-ASEAN Council (AAC) grants program

2.1 Purpose and Scope of AAC Grant Funding

AAC grants are intended to provide seed funding for innovative proposals relevant to the aims and objectives of the Council. Wherever possible, the AAC will seek to expand people‐to‐people and institutional links through partnerships with organisations and seed funding of projects to catalyse ongoing impact extending Australia’s reach and reputation. The Council’s mandate is to cover the ten countries of ASEAN: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Applicants should demonstrate the potential for the development of sustainable links between individuals and institutions in Australia and their counterparts in South-East Asian countries. Note that applications for Indonesia-Australia bilateral projects should apply for grants through the Australia-Indonesia Institute.

Applications are open to individuals who are Australian citizens or permanent residents and to Australian entities with an ABN or ACN.

Applications are assessed against the Guidelines contained herein. All applicants should carefully read the Guidelines before submitting an application for funding under the AAC Grants Program.

2.2 AAC Objectives

The objectives of the Council are:

  • Initiate and support influential persons and groups in Australia and South-East Asian countries, with activities that encourage a greater interest in the development of cooperation and collaboration between the countries, including trade and economic relations and people-to-people links;
  • Promote cooperation between individuals and institutions in Australia and South-East Asian countries which enhance learning, teaching and research in areas of mutual interest;
  • Broaden awareness and understanding in Australia and South-East Asian countries of each other’s culture, values and traditions through increased people‐to‐people capabilities, strengths and opportunities;
  • Promote the Australia‐ASEAN region relationship and foster relations through media and alumni activities in order to facilitate long‐term bilateral links between Australia and the countries of South-East Asia; and
  • Wherever possible the AAC seeks to expand people‐to‐people and institutional links through partnerships with other organisations and seed funding of projects.

2.3 AAC Funding Priorities

The Council will prioritise funding for activities which:

  • Increase people-to-people linkages between Australia and South-East Asian countries, particularly between people and institutions that have the capacity to influence others;
  • Increase knowledge and understanding in Australia of South-East Asian countries, and the opportunities they present; and
  • Enhance awareness and understanding in Australia and South-East Asia of each other’s cultures, values and traditions.

In 2016-17, the AAC priority countries are:

  • The Philippines (70th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Australia, 2016), and
  • Malaysia (60th Anniversary of Independence and Diplomatic Relations with Australia, 2017).

2.4 Priority Sectors

Knowledge development is the overarching theme for the AAC. Funding priorities will focus on women in leadership, collaboration and innovation across three key sectors:

  1. Trade and economic development
  2. Technology and entrepreneurship
  3. Culture and education

A key consideration for the AAC Board is the community outreach and connectivity of your project.

Before submitting an application, applicants should contact the Australian Government diplomatic mission in the countries they are proposing to work to provide an overview of their project. Contact details for Australian embassies and consulates overseas can be found at: Our Embassies and Consulates overseas

2.5 Selection criteria

Applications will be selected on how well they demonstrate that the project meets the selection criteria below. To be eligible for selection, each score must receive a minimum score of 3 on a 5 point scale.

Selection Criterion 1 – Innovation

Applicants need to demonstrate that the proposal is either a new idea or an adaptation from another similar project and is not already being developed or carried out within the target area by any other organization. The proposal must demonstrate how it will address the goals and objectives of the AAC. The application should articulate the need or issue being addressed by the proposition, and provide relevant background or contextual information.

  1. Aligns with the AAC’sgoals and objectives
    For example:
    • How will your project align with the AAC objectives?
    • How will your project promote a positive and contemporary image of Australia?
    • How will your project strengthen relationships with key regional partners and/or improve sector access and development?
  2. Demonstrates innovative ideas and/or approaches
    For example:
    • Is the proposal a new idea or an adaptation from a similar project that is not already being developed or carried out within the target area by another organisation?
    • How does it show innovation, conceptually or in its delivery?
  3. Demonstrates why there is a need for the project
    For example:
    • What is the need to be addressed by the project?
    • What will be the audience reach of your project?
    • What marketing and publicity tools will you use to reach a wider audience?
    • How will you engage with and involve the community in Australia and/or particular country in the region?
    • What relationships with local partners do you already have or intend to build as part of your project and how will you do this?

Selection Criterion 2 – Impact

Tangible, positive results for end users or target communities are an essential requirement of the proposal. The application should describe the anticipated outcomes of achieving project objectives, and how the success of the project will be measured. It should also describe the future sustainability of the project outcomes post-completion. The applicant must also demonstrate an understanding of the end users or target communities, their demographics, the difference this project will make, and any flow-on effects for the broader industry or community.

  1. Achieves tangible positive results for end-users or target communities
    For example:
    • How have you taken the local context into account in the design of your project?
    • Have you consulted with DFAT missions overseas or local partners about what is appealing, appropriate and acceptable to local audiences and/or participants?
    • Does the proposal demonstrate an understanding of the target communities?
    • Which groups in the community will benefit and how will this be sustained?
    • Are there flow-on benefits for the broader sector, other sectors or communities?
  2. Demonstrates what outcomes will be achieved and how these will be measured
    For example:
    • What measures will you have in place to measure success and effectiveness of the outcomes?
  3. What measures will you have in place to support sustainable and ongoing links between Australia and the people of your focus country/region?
    For example:
    • What measures will you have in place to support sustainable and ongoing links between Australia and the people of your focus country/region?

Selection Criterion 3 – Approach

The approach needs to be clearly described, showing the path to achieving the project objectives. Applicants must demonstrate that the project proposal is supported by a thorough planning process. The application should include key elements of the project plan, including a high-level work breakdown detailing major project activities, budget, schedule and milestones, and information about how the project will be managed and governed.

  1. What activities are you undertaking to deliver your project? For instance, seminars, workshops, functions, etc.?
    For example:
    • Are the activities identified the most effective way to achieve people-to-people and institutional links?
    • Is there a clear project plan with appropriate timeframes to achieve the project deliverables?
  2. Is the proposal financially viable and are the requests for funding reasonable in the context of the overall project?
    For example:
    • What are the other sources of funding?
    • What impact will AAC funding have on your ability to deliver the project?
    • How does the project deliver the best value for money in the context of the AAC’s goals and objectives?
  3. How do you intend to communicate before, during and after your intended activities to reach a broad audience and strengthen people-to-people links, including through the use of digital platforms.

Selection Criterion 4 - Team

The proposal must detail the organisations and people that will be involved in the project team, including any sub-contractor arrangements. Applicants need to demonstrate that the team has the right balance of skills and expertise required to develop the project and deliver the outcomes, and a track record in managing a project that delivers outcomes at an operational level. The applicant must also provide evidence of a partner in South-East Asia.

  1. What is the capacity and experience of the individual/project team to deliver the proposed outcomes?
    For example:
    • Does the team proposed have the right balance of skills and expertise to develop the proposal and deliver the outcomes?
    • Is the proposal conducted by an applicant with a partner in the region?
    • What experience do you have delivering projects overseas, or comparable experience delivering similar activities in Australia?
    • Were these projects successful? What outcomes did they achieve?
    • What experience does your partner have with implementing projects in the region?
    • Were these projects successful? What outcomes did they achieve?
  2. Has a letter of support/confirmation been provided from your partner in the region?

2.6 Assessment committee

The AAC Board evaluates applications and makes recommendations based on contemporary Government policies. DFAT’s First Assistant Secretary, South-East Asia Maritime Division, or his/her delegate, is responsible for approving board spending proposals and ensuring all spending proposals recommended for approval are consistent with grant program guidelines and the Department’s financial management and accountability requirements.

2.7 Funding

2016-2017 grant round funding will be $250,000 to $300,000, with around 8 – 10 projects funded. Project funding will normally be a range from $10,000 to $40,000 per application per year. Applicants are strongly encouraged to carefully consider their project costs and should demonstrate how the project provides value for money. Multiyear funding may also be available for up to 3 years.

Preference will be given to multilateral projects. Very strong bilateral proposals will also be considered.

Funding for activities is intended to encourage partnerships with other areas of government, corporate sponsors and private donors both in Australia and in South-East Asia, and applicants will normally be expected to demonstrate that they are seeking assistance from other sources. Full budget details for the project are required in the complete application form and applicants must declare where they are seeking other sources of funding for the same project, including all Commonwealth, State/Territory and local government funding.

2.7 Contact details for the AAC Secretariat


Australia-ASEAN Council Secretariat
South-East Asia Maritime Division (SED)
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
RG Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent

Telephone: 02 6261 1333

3. Eligibility requirements

3.1 Applicants

Individuals, groups and organisations may apply for grants. Applicants must be Australian citizens or permanent residents; or an Australian entity with an ABN or ACN.  Joint applications may be accepted from non-Australian citizen/resident individuals or organisations who are working in partnership with Australian individuals, groups or organisations, where this will promote Australian relations with the countries of South-East Asia. Applicants must provide evidence of their partnership with an organisation or individual in South-East Asia.

Applicants should demonstrate an established record of achievement in the development and management of projects relevant to their proposed area of endeavour, and should provide evidence of this.

Groups must nominate in their application either an individual or a legally constituted organisation as the legal entity, known as the grant recipient, which will take responsibility for administering the grant, should one be offered.

To be eligible, organisations must be registered under law or created by law (for example, a government statutory authority). Examples of legally constituted organisations are incorporated associations, incorporated Indigenous associations and companies limited by guarantee.

3.2 Activities

The AAC has a policy of supporting innovative proposals in a broad range of areas.

Grants are not normally available for the following purposes:

  • activities that are commercially viable in their own right
  • business development activities and activities that will be of a commercial benefit to the recipient (e.g. promotion of the recipient's business)
  • activities that are properly the responsibility of other funding bodies or other government agencies (e.g. academic research, assistance to business, development assistance projects)
  • funding of completed activities, or recurrent funding of activities
  • capital expenditure, including purchase of real estate and vehicles
  • purchase of equipment (for example, musical instruments, computers, videos, photographic or printing equipment)
  • administrative costs arising from the day-to-day operations of an organisation (for example salaries, leases of equipment or property)

The AAC does not generally fund travel and accommodation for attendance at conferences or meetings, participation in fieldwork or sporting or other events, unless such activities are considered by the Council to be of direct relevance to its objectives.

In assessing applications for such activities, the Council considers whether:

  • the activity would involve a sharing or transfer of expertise from which institutions or individuals in both countries would benefit, and in ways that would directly advance the Council’s objectives
  • the activity includes a wider program that would directly advance the Council’s objectives
  • the activity would result in an expansion of links in new areas in ways consistent with the Council’s objectives
  • alternative sources of funding are either unavailable, or have been adequately explored.

Regarding funding attendance at conferences or meetings, the Council will normally apply the following additional criteria:

  • only one participant per conference or meeting will be funded
  • the conference or meeting participant should be a principal speaker, and a copy of any paper presented by the participant is to be provided to AAC together with the report on the activity
  • modest accommodation and economy class travel will be funded.

3.3 Activity and reporting timeframes

Activities must commence before June 2017. All grants must be acquitted no later than 60 days after completion of the project. The 2016-17 AAC grant round will open 1 February 2016.

4. Application process

4.1   Online applications

Applications must be submitted online.

Complete applications must include the application form, budget and a project proposal. They must also include a letter of support if the project involves a partner in the region.

The budget is an important part of the application and will be assessed closely. Application budgets must be submitted in Australian Dollars (AUD). Applicants should ensure that budgets are accurate and realistic, and that costs to be covered by AAC funding if the application is successful are clearly indicated. Please note that there is a requirement to acquit all expenditure at the end of the project.

Any support material must be submitted electronically, using the online application form.

Hard copy support material may be submitted in some circumstances, at the discretion of the Secretariat.

Support material in the form of printed photographs, CDs or DVDs will not be returned to applicants unless specifically requested.

Applications that are incomplete do not include the requested documentation or do not address the selection criteria may be deemed ineligible.

Applications must be submitted by the closing date. Late applications will not be considered to ensure equity in the receipt of applications.

Following submission, applicants should inform the Secretariat promptly of any change of contact details or of any other information pertinent to the completion of the project, for example, cancellation of some or all activities.

4.2 Closing dates and notification

Activity Date
Applications open 1 February 2016, 9.00am AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
Closing date for complete applications 18 April 2016, 3.00pm AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
Application assessment notification Early August 2016

5. Acknowledgement and assessment

5.1 Application acknowledgement

All applicants will receive an acknowledgement email when the application has been received. The acknowledgement may be sent out before applications are checked for eligibility. Receiving an acknowledgment does not mean that an application is valid. Please see below for information on the eligibility check.

5.2 Eligibility check

Where an applicant or application is ineligible (see 3.2 of these guidelines and as outlined below) they will be advised and the application will not be considered.

No applicant can hold more than one AAC grant at any given time (except for large institutions such as universities where up to three applications from different faculties may be considered). New grants cannot be provided to applicants that have failed to provide a full and proper acquittal of any earlier grants provided by the AAC. An interim report can be provided where existing grant funding will be expended prior to the commencement of the requested new grant funding.

5.3 Decision-making

Applications will be considered by the Board which will make recommendations to the First Assistant Secretary, South-East Asia Maritime Division, for approval. The Board will competitively assess applications against the selection criteria.

Decisions are made primarily on the basis of the information supplied in the application, budget and accompanying support material. The Board will seek additional input from relevant DFAT overseas missions to assist in the consideration of applications. Applicants are expected to have made prior contact with Australia’s relevant overseas mission.

The Board may also take into account information from other sources that it considers appropriate, such as:

  • advice from sectoral experts;
  • communication with other areas of government, including federal, state and territory government agencies; and
  • previous DFAT grant acquittals (including any overdue or unsatisfactory acquittals).

While an application may meet the selection criteria, a grant is not guaranteed. Successful applications may not be funded to the full amount requested.

Unsuccessful applicants will be advised in writing following the completion of the decision-making process.

5.4 Role of the AAC Secretariat

The role of the AAC Secretariat in DFAT is to:

  • provide information and advice to the Board to assist its determination of policy and its assessment of grant applications
  • provide information to potential applicants
  • administer and monitor the program to enable a flexible, fair and efficient assessment process in the interest of both the decision-makers and applicants.
  • advise grant applicants of Departmental delegates’ decisions, executing grant agreements, and monitoring grant recipient performance, and ensure that all documentation, including acquittal and evaluation information, is received and stored appropriately.
  • ensure that all grants are issued, managed, evaluated and acquitted in accordance with Departmental policy.

AAC Secretariat staff do not make decisions on funding applications.

5.5 Conflict of interest

Board members, the AAC Secretariat staff in DFAT and applicants must disclose any actual or perceived conflict of interest in any matter to be considered in which they are formally involved. Depending on the nature and extent of the conflict, they may be required not to take part in any discussion or decision-making process involving the conflict. Such disclosures will be formally recorded. Board members are required to adhere to applicable requirements of the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines (CGRGs) and are treated as officials for the purposes of the CGRGs.

DFAT employees are required to comply with the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1999 and the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct. DFAT’s Conduct and Ethics Manual ensures that any conflicts of interest, whether actual or perceived, do not influence decision-making. The manual is available online.

6. Grant conditions

6.1 Funding agreement

Grant recipients will be required to sign a simple funding agreement setting out the terms and conditions of the grant and the requirement to provide an acquittal within 60 days of the completion of the project. An example of the funding agreement is available at

The acquittal report will include an evaluation of the project and its outcomes at the time of completion, accompanied by supporting evidence and a financial acquittal.

Grant recipients will be required to provide a tax invoice, in accordance with GST legislation, for each payment of grant funds in accordance with the payment dates set out in the funding agreement. Payment of a grant will be made after the agreement has been signed by all the relevant parties and the grant recipient has submitted an invoice. Applicants should not commit grant funds until the agreement has been signed by all relevant parties.

Funding must be used for the specific activities outlined in the application and only towards those costs indicated in the budget for AAC funding expenditure. Recipients may request changes to the agreement in writing to the AAC Secretariat, but this does not guarantee the request will be approved. The recipient must promptly repay any unspent funds and/or funds spent on non-approved items.

If a grant cannot be taken up within the timeframe set out in the application, it may be withdrawn.  Any changes to the timing of the project, including delays, should be reported immediately to the AAC Secretariat. If required, a request for extension should also be submitted in writing. Requests for extension will be considered but may not be approved.

Sample funding agreement [DOCX 84 KB]

6.2 Reporting

The AAC grants program will assess implementation of the proposals through the following key performance indicators:

  1. Reporting against up to four project-specific results identified in the application.
  2. Innovative approaches/ideas implemented in the South-East Asia region
  3. Most significant change (positive or negative) observed in the bilateral or regional relations as a result of your proposal
  4. Long term formal relationships created or strengthened through the proposal
    • Type of long term relationships created or strengthened
    • The number of these relationships created or strengthened
    • Type of follow up enquiries received
    • The number of these follow up enquiries received
  5. Attendance at and response to project events
    • Type of events
    • Number of events
    • Total attendance numbers for events
    • Type of audience at these events
    • Stakeholder responses to the events
  6. Quantity of media coverage and social media coverage
    • Number of website hits
    • Number of media articles
    • Number of radio broadcasts
    • Number of television broadcasts
    • Number of social media interactions
  7. Quality of social media
    • Quality of social media coverage and social media interest
    • Social media and website addresses relevant to your project including host organisations or locations.

This information will be used to inform the Board’s future decision-making.

7. Other information

7.1 No guarantee of ongoing funding

Unless specified, approval of any grant to an individual, group or organisation does not commit DFAT to any future funding of that individual, group or organisation.

7.2 Insurance

Grant recipients are responsible for all administrative arrangements associated with their project including visa and travel arrangements, visa charges, airport taxes, ground transport, travel and health insurance for project participants, medical and hospital insurance cover for visitors not covered by Medicare in Australia (including evacuation and death cover), any necessary insurance for equipment, and accommodation costs and arrangements. Grant recipients must be covered by appropriate insurance, including workers compensation, as required by law, and professional indemnity, public health and liability insurance as required by the project. DFAT may request evidence of the currency and amount of cover under all relevant policies.

7.3 Administering grants

Groups, unincorporated associations and other bodies with no legal status are required to nominate either a member of the group or a legally constituted organisation to take responsibility for administering the grant, should one be given.

The applicant, the nominated member or an administering body should provide the acquittal once the project is completed. Both the applicant and the administering body will be considered responsible for unsatisfactorily acquitted grants. The administering body is not responsible for the artistic direction or the artistic quality of the project.  Generally, the administering body would be required to sign the funding agreement.

Grant applicants should enter into a written agreement with their administering body, setting out the respective rights and responsibilities of both parties in relation to the grant’s administration and acquittal. The agreement should also contain a dispute resolution clause setting out procedures to be followed in the event of a disagreement between the parties.

An organisation may be the administering body for as many DFAT grants as they see fit. Administering bodies may make grant applications in their own right.

7.4 Access and equity services

AAC Grants Program information is available in large format PDF versions, which can be downloaded from Please contact the AAC Secretariat for assistance if required.

Applicants may speak with the Secretariat in their first language by telephoning the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 (local call anywhere in Australia) and asking to be connected with the Secretariat.

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicants may wish to access assistance in submitting an application where English is not their first language. In these cases, applicants may contact an Indigenous language centre for assistance. A list of Indigenous language centres is provided in the National Indigenous Languages Contacts Directory available from:


The Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages and Culture (Corporation) (FATSILC)
295 King Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Telephone: +61 3 9602 4700
Fax: +61 3 9602 4770

7.5 Taxation and grants

Grants paid by DFAT may be considered part of an applicant’s income in a financial year and may be subject to tax, including the GST. Individual applicants need to be mindful of the taxation obligations of receiving a grant as an individual. It is the applicant’s responsibility to understand their taxation obligations and liabilities. Advice is available from the Australian Taxation Office on 13 28 66 or at

7.6 Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) enables applicants to request documents held by DFAT. If applicants wish to access documents under the FOI Act they must make a formal application. Charges may apply. Access to information under the FOI Act is limited by certain exemptions and an authorised decision-maker will assess any requested documents prior to any release of information. For further details:

Freedom of information

7.7 Privacy

All personal information provided in support of an application is treated in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988. The information provided in grant applications is used when processing and assessing applications. This information may also be used for training and system testing by DFAT staff and for evaluating the program. Further information is available at:  Privacy.

Personal information concerning successful grant applicants may be disclosed to the AAC, to other Commonwealth agencies, State and Territory governments, media representatives, members of Parliament and the general public. DFAT may also publish this information in its Annual Report and on its website.  DFAT is required to publish information about the Grants Program on its website, including details of each grant awarded (for example, the recipient’s name, state, suburb and postcode, the purpose and value of the grant, the date the funding agreement takes effect and the term of the agreement).

7.8 Rights and responsibilities

Funding under the AAC Grants Program does not imply or determine that DFAT endorses the views of the recipients involved in any funded activity. Grant recipients are required to comply with all applicable domestic and international laws, and their activity should not bring DFAT into disrepute.

7.9 Travel safety

In planning overseas travel, it is recommended that applicants refer to DFAT’s travel advisory service, Smartraveller. DFAT maintains travel advisories for more than 160 destinations, which provide accurate, up-to-date information about the risks Australians might face overseas. This information enables applicants to make well-informed decisions about whether, when and where to travel. DFAT encourages applicants and project personnel to register their travel with Smartraveller. This service can be accessed online at Notwithstanding any assistance provided by DFAT in facilitating international travel through an AAC grant, applicants are responsible for their own travel insurance and travel at their own risk.

Last Updated: 4 February 2016