Overview of Australia's aid program to Kiribati

How we are helping

2017-18 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$27.7 million

2018-19 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$20.2 million

2018-19 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$29.4 million

Australia has a longstanding relationship with Kiribati based on shared development and security goals. Australia is the largest aid donor to Kiribati; our aid comprises about 33 per cent of total ODA to Kiribati. Australia is committed to improving Kiribati's economic prospects, and strengthening its economic and environmental resilience.

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $29.4 million in total Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Kiribati in 2018-19. This will include an estimated $20.2 million in bilateral funding managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Kiribati has significant marine resources, the exploitation of which has produced a growing revenue stream, underpinning its modest economic growth. However, geographic isolation, a narrow resource base and limited private sector activity have contributed to Kiribati remaining one of the least economically developed countries in the region. Youth unemployment is high and the increasing population density in the capital, South Tarawa is placing significant pressure on basic services and aging infrastructure. Climate change impacts are an ongoing concern for the low-lying atoll nation.

In line with Australia's aid policy and the Kiribati Development Plan, Australia is working with the Kiribati Government in support of two objectives.

Objective 1: Implementing Economic Reforms

Australia's support for the implementation of the Kiribati Government's Economic Reform Plan assists Kiribati to maximise the benefits flowing from its resources as well as help to build greater economic resilience against external shocks. Key reforms include supporting greater transparency in managing fishing license revenue, increasing tax revenues, reducing debt servicing costs and reducing the need to subsidise state owned enterprises. We are also supporting extension of the reform agenda to the major spending ministries, education and health, to improve efficiency and service delivery.

Investments for implementing economic reforms

Objective 2: Building a better educated and healthier population

Building a better educated and healthier population will help improve Kiribati's economic prospects and resilience. We are working with the Government of Kiribati to improve the knowledge, skills and opportunities of young I-Kiribati, enabling them to contribute to a productive and resilient community as well as to pursue employment in areas of domestic and international demand.

The Seasonal Worker Programme, managed by the Department of Jobs and Small Business, connects I-Kiribati and other Pacific island workers with Australian employers experiencing labour shortages, typically in rural and remote areas. In addition, the five-year Pacific Microstates — Northern Australia Worker Pilot Program provides up to 250 multiyear visas for workers from Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru.

The new Pacific Labour Scheme will also enable citizens of Kiribati and other Pacific island countries to take up low and semi-skilled work opportunities in rural and regional Australia for up to three years.

These initiatives allow workers to build their skills and send remittances home to support their families.

We are also working with the Kiribati Government to improve access to quality preventive, diagnostic and clinical tuberculosis services, and reduce the incidence of diarrhea and other diseases through better sanitation and the management of potable water supplies.

Investments for building a better educated and healthier population

Cross cutting issues

Australia is working to address issues of gender equality, inclusion of people with disability and climate change resilience across all our investments. The Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Country Plan for Kiribati aims to reduce the incidence of gender-based violence and improve the response services (policing, health, social welfare and judiciary) for survivors of violence.

Australia is working with the Government of Kiribati to implement its disability-inclusive policy, which focuses on improving access to and the quality of disability-specific services. An ongoing component of our support is for the Kiribati School and Centre for Children with Special Needs, which is helping to increase enrolments rates, enhance the quality of teaching as well as to provide pathways to post-secondary technical and vocational studies.

To help strengthen the country's climate resilience, Australia is working with the World Bank to improve: access to fresh water supplies in Tarawa and the outer islands (through building groundwater extraction systems, installing rainwater harvesting systems, and reducing waste in existing systems); and the resilience of coastal infrastructure (by investing in mangrove planting on the outer islands and seawall construction in South Tarawa).

Our results

Australia's aid program has contributed to:

Objective 1: Implementing Economic Reforms

  • Australian technical assistance is helping the Government of Kiribati to progress its Economic Reform Plan. In 2016-17, it progressed a number of important reforms to state owned enterprises, including significant improvements to the management of the Public Utilities Board and reductions to the cost of providing essential services. This included revisions to the electricity tariff to increase affordability for low-income earners.

Objective 2: Building a better educated and healthier population

  • Since 2011, Australia has supported the rehabilitation and re-equipping of facilities in 18 primary schools, benefitting 4,912 I-Kiribati students. Rehabilitated schools are reporting increased enrolment rates. An updated curriculum for years 1-6, together with associated teaching resources and teacher training, has been rolled out to all primary schools. Australia's support has contributed to tangible improvements in the literacy and numeracy skills of more than 11,000 children.
  • Since 2012, Australian support has enabled 842 young I-Kiribati women and men to graduate from the Kiribati Institute of Technology with internationally recognised qualifications. Graduates are finding employment in a growing private sector and in Australia.
  • In 2017, Australia offered 38 university scholarships to I-Kiribati women and men to study in Australia and the region.
  • Australia's support for the implementation of the National Tuberculosis (TB) Program has helped maintain Kiribati's high rate for successful TB treatment (increased to 93 per cent in 2016 from 80 per cent in 2015) and for TB detection (slight increase to 518 cases per 100,000 in 2016 compared to 516 in 2015).
  • Australia supported the construction and equipping of a Family Health Clinic at the Tungaru Central Hospital to provide survivors of violence with privacy and confidentiality when accessing health services. Our support to this clinic has been enhanced by training we are also providing to better equip nurses, medical assistants, police officers and lay magistrates to respond and report cases of domestic violence.

Our changing program

Australia's aid objectives are guided by shared priorities with the Kiribati Government and an assessment of key constraints to economic growth and poverty reduction. They reflect an understanding of where our aid can most effectively support Kiribati's development and strengthen its economic and environmental resilience.

Australia is broadening its support for labour mobility, including by expanding opportunities for I-Kiribati workers under the Pacific Seasonal Workers Programme. The programme, managed by the Department of Jobs and Small Business, connects Pacific island workers with Australian employers experiencing labour shortages, typically in rural and remote areas. Kiribati also has workers in the tourism sector in northern Australia under the Pacific Microstates - Northern Australia Worker Pilot Program. This five-year pilot program enables up to 250 workers from Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru to access multiyear visas to work in northern Australia.

On 8 September 2017, the Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, announced the establishment of a new Pacific Labour Scheme to enable citizens of Pacific island countries to take up low and semi-skilled work opportunities in rural and regional Australia for up to three years. The Prime Minister also signed a Memoranda of Understanding with Kiribati President Taneti Maamau to facilitate Kiribati's entry into the scheme.

Australia is also expanding its support to improve primary level health care. This support will complement the inputs of other partners. The initial focus will be to strengthen our support for ending the tuberculosis epidemic and support for addressing other communicable diseases including leprosy and hepatitis B.

Following the completion of current investments ($48.47 million, 2011-16) Australia's support for infrastructure will focus on strengthening the Government of Kiribati's ongoing maintenance of infrastructure through the Economic Reform Plan. This reflects Australia's comparative advantage in a sector where there are significant and continuing investments by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, New Zealand and Japan.

Under the New Colombo Plan Mobility Program in 2017-18:

  • 30 undergraduate students from the Australian Catholic University will deploy about 30 undergraduate students to undertake a learning exchange with Catholic schools in Tarawa
  • ten undergraduate students from Macquarie University will study the sustainability of human settlements on low coral atolls, and
  • nine undergraduate students from the University of South Australia will participate in a podiatry clinical placement in Tarawa.

Last Updated: 10 October 2018