Dear Joe Hockey: These children will lose out under your foreign aid cuts.

With the aid budget set to face the biggest cut to its programs in Australia’s history — with a total of $1 billion to be slashed next week — World Vision CEO Tim Costello writes for Mamamia about the children, women and men who’ll be losing out.

Ten thousand children and their parents.

That’s a lot of hopes to dash, but that is exactly what has happened last month in South Sudan’s Tambura country, thanks to Joe Hockey’s constant cuts to the Australian aid budget.

Federal Government aid cuts have forced World Vision to cut a $1.32 million education project in South Sudan that would have provided 10,000 children with primary schooling in Western Equatoria. Photo supplied by World Vision.

In October last year, World Vision commenced our much-talked about primary school education project in South Sudan’s impoverished Western Equatorial State with funds long-committed by the Australian Government.

In a nation, where 400,000 children daily go without access to any form of education, the community’s excitement over the project was palpable. The project was not only going to build school buildings, provide equipment and train teachers but also educate and encourage the community to send their girls to school.

Australian aid budget
“You can imagine the devastation of the community, then – the parents, the teachers and the little children – when we had to tell them that their precious schools project can no longer go ahead.” Image via iStock.

You can imagine the devastation of the community, then – the parents, the teachers and the little children – when we had to tell them that their precious schools project can no longer go ahead. That despite all the plans, all the promises made, less than six months after it was started, it is to be stopped dead in its tracks and with it the hopes of the 10,000 children it was slated to benefit.

Sadly, the South Sudanese education project is just one story of more than a dozen sad and devastating tales I now have to tell thanks to Joe Hockey.

Related: Julie Bishop is concerned about budget cuts to foreign aid. 


Last December the Australian Government announced it would slash a further $1 billion from the Australian aid program.

Coming on the back of the aid cuts in last year’s Federal budget — and the ones before that, which were announced just as the Abbott Government was being elected — this decision means more than a dozen projects like the one in South Sudan are having to be shut down in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East and the Pacific.

They are being shut down in order to find the more than AUD 5 million that we expect to lose due to Joe’s constant slashing of the Australian aid budget.

The 2014-2015 Australian aid budget.

They have been near-impossible choices to make and one of the hardest tasks I’ve had as CEO of World Vision, because all the programs were targeted at the most vulnerable communities and the those most in need.

How do you prioritise the importance of existing work in child protection for instance, against creating opportunities for education, or community resilience in the face of major conflict, or life-saving health interventions?

The most recent 20% cut to the Australian aid program is the most unfair of all the Federal budget cuts. In terms of the amount of human suffering it will cause and lives lost, it will harm far more lives than any other budgetary decision the Government made last year.

Eight-month-old Rebecca was living on coconut water following a flood in her village until clean drinking water reached her Solomon Islands community as part of World Vision’s flood response. “We are so happy to see that help has reached us. Water has been a big problem since the flood. We wish to thank those that have the heart for us,” Rebecca’s mother Margaret says. © 2014 Suzy Sainovski/World Vision

World Vision, like several other of Australian’s international development agencies, have been working in partnership with the Australian Government throughout the world but especially across our region – helping to provide basic health, education and water services as well as working with communities to improve the safety of children and women especially against domestic violence.

These programs have very successful, cutting the rate of the two biggest causes of child deaths, diarrheal and pneumonia infections as well as making inroads into the high levels of domestic violence in our region.

Related: “Fomestic violence occurs in every culture, class and community.”

It’s a cruel world where one of the richest men on the planet, Bill Gates is willing to use his personal fortune to back his belief that we are poised to eliminate the most extreme forms of poverty and suffering from the planet — while the leaders of one of the richest countries in the world cannot even see the value in having a modest aid budget.

WVA CEO Tim Costello in Banda Aceh to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami. © 2014 Ilana Rose/World Vision

Let’s hope there is no more bad news for the children of South Sudan and the mothers and babies of the Asia-Pacific region in this year’s Federal budget.

You can Joe Hockey while he is preparing this year’s budget and ask him to think again about the devastation his #AustralianAid cuts are causing around the world.