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 Vanuatu's largest development partner, providing approximately 39 per cent1 of total ODA to Vanuatu (excluding China which does not publish ODA figures). We work closely with the Vanuatu Government to support economic growth, stability and poverty reduction in Vanuatu.

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 an important economic partner for Vanuatu, providing the country with the majority of its tourists and foreign direct investment. However, economic growth in Vanuatu is constrained by its distance to major markets, infrastructure needs, limited access to financial services and narrow market base. Despite these challenges, Vanuatu has maintained strong economic growth over recent years compared with other countries in the region, with forecasts suggesting GDP growth of around four per cent in 20182. Economic and social stability have helped attract investment and tourists.

Vanuatu has a population of around 272,000. 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. 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).

Positive trends in key human development indicators including life expectancy, years of schooling and Gross National Income per capita have continued since 2005. Gender parity in school enrolment rates has almost been achieved from Kindergarten to Year 63 and women’s labour force participation is high at 61 per cent, although women earn less and are under-represented in tertiary education and skills training compared to men.

In this context, increasing equitable access to services and economic opportunities remains a priority for the Vanuatu Government, as identified in their National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-30.

Australia and Vanuatu also share strong people-to-people links. Vanuatu is an active participant in the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP). Vanuatu's participation in the SWP continues to grow, with over 3,300 ni-Vanuatu workers coming to Australia in 2017-18 (up from 2,150 the previous year). Ni-Vanuatu workers represented almost 40 per cent of total SWP workers in 2017-18. Vanuatu’s involvement in the Pacific Labour Scheme, which started on 1 July 2018, will provide further opportunities for ni-Vanuatu people to work in rural and regional Australia.

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 continue to work closely with the Vanuatu Government to support disaster recovery and reconstruction and help build disaster resilience in government and communities. We have provided $5.55 million to support evacuation and resettlement of over 11,000 people impacted by the Ambae island volcano eruptions since October 2017.

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:

  • building resilient infrastructure and an environment for economic opportunity; 
  • improving early education and essential health services;
  • improving community safety and resilience; and
  • supporting cyclone recovery and reconstruction.

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.

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:

  • support to the Vanuatu Public Works department to conduct maintenance and rehabilitation of 525 kilometres of rural roads; 
  • completion of Year 3 school curriculum development, teacher training and reading material translation (into 59 languages) and distribution to 271 schools;
  • skills training for 836 people (48 per cent women), registration of 33 private sector training providers and accreditation of 36 courses through the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, focused on income generation in key productive sectors;
  • delivery of counselling and support services to over 6,000 women and children survivors of violence;
  • support for drafting legislation addressing deficiencies in counter terrorism financing and anti-money laundering systems, preventing blacklisting of Vanuatu by the international Financial Action Task Force;
  • training of over 100 health personnel, including medical interns, nurses, midwives and village health workers;
  • support for 43 ni-Vanuatu students to study at tertiary level in Australia and the region, and 71 Australian Volunteers to undertake capacity building placements in Vanuatu; and
  • Australia’s $35 million assistance for Tropical Cyclone Pam recovery contributed to the completion of 16 health facilities, 65 classrooms, 33 public buildings, 79 water systems, 28 tourism bungalows and 6 livestock breeding centres.
Last Updated: 10 October 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).