ChildFund welcomes Labor policy but urges for greater bipartisanship on international aid

ChildFund Australia has warmly welcomed Senator Penny Wong’s announcement that a Labor Shorten government would seek to rebuild the Australian Aid program.

This includes a commitment to increasing aid volumes over the long-term, and focusing on delivering aid programs in the areas of health, education, gender equality, climate change, infrastructure and inclusion.

ChildFund, is encouraged by the recognition given by Labor to the important role that overseas development assistance plays as a central pillar of Australia’s Foreign Policy.

In the light of Senator Wong’s announcement ChildFund CEO Nigel Spence has again urged all sides of politics to find common ground on Australian Aid.

Mr Spence said: “There are enormous challenges for people in poor communities around our region, often exacerbated by conflict and civil unrest, economic volatility, rising inequality, record-breaking numbers of displaced people, and increasing severity and frequency of natural disasters due to climate change. They need Australia’s help.

“Unfortunately, this global uncertainty is also resulting in greater nationalism and populist views.

“The Australian Aid program should reflect our national values of fairness, generosity, and compassion towards our neighbours. We want to see a renewed spirit of bipartisanship on aid among our political leaders.”

As it stands, the next Federal Budget  will see overseas development assistance – which is already at the lowest level in Australia’s history – decline further to just 19c in every $100 of gross national income by 2021.

Mr Spence added: “Australian aid plays a vital role in giving vulnerable children in our region the opportunity to attend school, access healthcare, eat nutritious food, learn vocational skills, participate meaningfully in their communities and, importantly, give them hope for the future.

“For so many children, this has meant giving them back their childhood. The impact of Australian Aid in our region is something we can all be immensely proud of, and something that deserves the support of all of our political leaders.”

Papua New Guinea’s first national toll-free telephone counseling service – 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain (715 08000) – has received more than 15,000 calls in its third year of operation, more than double the calls received in year two.

The hotline was established by ChildFund, CIMC (FSVAC) and FHI 360 as a service for survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV).  It is estimated that over two-thirds of women experience violence in their relationships.

According to the latest hotline report, the highest proportion of calls in the last year came from NCD, Southern Highlands, Hela and Morobe provinces. After the Highlands earthquake in late February, the hotline was mobilised to provide trauma counseling and psychosocial support for people affected by the earthquake, which accounts for high call volumes from these areas.

Over half (56%) of callers were male who called the hotline not as survivors, but mostly as witnesses of gender-based violence or individuals seeking information or relationship advice. A small proportion of male callers identified as perpetrators.

The top presenting issues for callers in the last year were:

  • family violence, both physical and emotional, including intimate partner violence (IPV);
  • safety and security issues;
  • child welfare and child abuse.

The hotline aligns with the PNG Government’s National Strategy to prevent and respond to GBV, with Objective 3 focused on ensuring quality, continuity and sustainability of coordinated responses and service delivery for survivors of GBV.

“Providing telephone counseling and referring survivors of gender based violence to support services over the telephone is a unique service in PNG. The hotline is the first of its kind and has proven to be valuable to people experiencing family and sexual violence,” said Wesh Siku, ChildFund PNG’s senior project officer for 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain.

ChildFund Papua New Guinea Country Director Manish Joshi said: “The hotline has grown from strength to strength. It is remarkable to see how this service has reached across the 22 provinces in just three years despite the challenges.

“Our counsellors have done an outstanding job of helping more than 23,000 people through information, over the phone support and referrals.”

Since its launch three years ago, hotline counsellors have provided:

  • information to over 10,000 callers,
  • crisis counseling to over 4,000 callers,
  • safety planning to over 1,500 callers, and
  • suicide intervention to over 50 callers.

Over 7,000 callers have been referred to on-the-ground services, most commonly police, welfare agencies and face-to-face counseling services.

The 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain is a partnership between ChildFund, CIMC (FSVAC) and FHI 360, supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme and USAID.

Download a copy of the report.