Overview of Australia's aid program to Vanuatu

How we are helping

2017-18 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$64.3 million

2018-19 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$41.9 million

2018-19 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$62.3 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 $62.3 million in total Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Vanuatu in 2018-19. This will include an estimated $41.9 million in bilateral funding to Vanuatu managed by DFAT.

Australia is Vanuatu's largest development partner. In recent years our aid has comprised 54 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 272,0001. 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).

Vanuatu is an active participant in the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP). Vanuatu's participation in the SWP is growing rapidly, with 2150 ni-Vanuatu workers coming to Australia in 2016-17 (up from 1198 the previous year). Ni-Vanuatu workers represented 35 per cent of total SWP workers in 2016-17, also up from 27 per cent the previous year.

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 affected 195,000 people across four disaster-affected provinces – Tafea, Shefa, Malampa and Penama – and affected tourism and agriculture which are key industries in Vanuatu.

Australia has been the largest international contributor to the cyclone response, committing $50 million in support for humanitarian and early and long-term recovery needs. Our assistance was developed in consultation with the Vanuatu Government and is delivered through Vanuatu Government systems, supporting national leadership in recovering from a large scale disaster.

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.

Australia's aid and economic diplomacy  strengthens the conditions for sustainable and inclusive economic growth and stability in Vanuatu, and reduces poverty. Investing in women's economic empowerment and leadership, disability inclusion and the elimination of violence against women are priorities in our program.

Australia's aid partnership with Vanuatu

The Australia Vanuatu Aid Partnership Arrangement 2016-2019 establishes a shared vision of the Vanuatu and Australian governments to ensure development cooperation contributes as effectively and efficiently as possible to sustained and inclusive economic growth and reduced poverty in Vanuatu. The Partnership Arrangement builds on Australia's Aid Investment Plan, 2015–16 to 2018–19 (AIP) for Vanuatu. The Partnership Arrangement sets out four strategic objectives:

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

We are helping the Vanuatu Government provide the right conditions for business and investment by supporting Vanuatu's reform agenda and economic management, including through policy dialogue and technical assistance. We are also supporting Vanuatu to improve economic opportunities for ni-Vanuatu through technical vocational and education and training and university scholarships, both by expanding women's income-earning opportunities and leadership, and through ni-Vanuatu participation in seasonal labour opportunities in Australia. Revitalisation of key infrastructureand improvements to rural roads and Port Vila's urban infrastructureare improving the movement of people, goods and services.

Investments for building resilient infrastructure and an environment for economic opportunities

Objective 2: Improving early education and essential health services

Early education and essential health services are areas where Australian investment makes the biggest contribution to human development in Vanuatu. Australia works 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 aim to improve access to resilient, quality essential health services, with a focus on workforce development and primary care. We are prioritising improvements in maternal and reproductive health.

Investments for improving early education and essential health services

Objective 3: Improving community safety and resilience

We 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 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 are also helping Vanuatu to strengthen its resilience and response to natural disasters.

Investments for improving community safety and resilience

Objective 4: Supporting cyclone recovery and reconstruction

Vanuatu's recovery from Tropical Cyclone Pam is ongoing. Australia provided $35 million for long-term recovery in Vanuatu, and our support is helping Vanuatu to recover economically and return to a sustainable development trajectory.

Investments for supporting cyclone recovery and reconstruction

Our results

Key achievements in 2016-17 attributable to Australian aid include:

  • routine maintenance on 1,181 kilometres of rural roads, linking towns, markets and communities
  • support for drafting legislation addressing deficiencies in counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering systems, preventing Vanuatu's inclusion on the Financial Action Task Force's dark grey list
  • implementing the new Language of Instruction policy in 438 primary schools across Vanuatu, promoting teaching in mother tongue to increase participation of children in the early years of school
  • skills training to 834 people (42 per cent female; 4 per cent with a disability; 21 per cent youth)
  • supporting 72 ni-Vanuatu students (30 men, 42 women) to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia and the Pacific region
  • supporting long-term recovery from Tropical Cyclone (TC) Pam, including provision of 54,000 coconut seedlings and 68,000 crop-replanting materials delivered to 1,000 households and 500 farmers, completion of three health centres and eight tourism bungalows; and rehabilitation of 14 rainwater or gravity fed systems.
  • 1 Vanuatu 2016 Mini Census

Last Updated: 8 May 2018
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).