The chart below shows how Australia’s bilateral aid is divided by region–Papua New Guinea & the Pacific and East Asia have traditionally been the largest recipients of Australian aid.
Australia provides much less aid to countries outside of the Asia-Pacific, though some Australian aid is provided to countries in Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. During the scale-up period of Australian aid, these regions benefitted from increased attention and funding. However, they faced the largest percentage cuts in the scale-back from 2014 onward.
Because the aid allocated to countries in these regions is such a small amount compared to our contributions in the Asia-Pacific, it is (with a few exceptions) only divided into sub-regions rather than countries. The chart below shows how these regional allocations have fluctuated.
Bilateral aid is foreign aid that is given country to country--Australian aid is also provided to multilateral organisations, which work across many countries. Learn more about these differences on our Aid 101 page.
As the chart above shows, the vast majority of Australia’s bilateral aid goes to countries in East Asia and the Pacific region. On the map below, you can see which countries in these regions have received Australian aid since 2001-02, and how our levels of support have changed over time. Key events like the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and other natural disasters, civil unrest, such as that which occurred in Timor-Leste in 2006, and political deals (such as the agreements with Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Cambodia in 2013 and 2014 to accept asylum seekers who had attempted to arrive in Australia by boat), can influence our aid flows. Another recent example of a change that led to our bilateral aid to a particular country increasing was the end of military rule in Myanmar. Australia also increased aid to Fiji following the country’s return to democracy. Aid to some countries has declined or stopped as they have reached, or are working towards, ‘graduation’ from Australian aid–see more details in the section below.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Indonesia are the two largest recipients of Australian aid. This is unsurprising given their size and proximity to Australia. Yet aid to these two countries tells two different tales.
Aid to Indonesia was significantly scaled-up following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in December 2004, and continued to increase throughout the aid scale-up period. Aid to Indonesia overtook aid to PNG for the first time in 2007-08. Aid to Indonesia was then cut substantially in 2015-16, by some 40 per cent, leaving PNG as our biggest recipient once again.
Australia has always provided a high level of aid to Papua New Guinea since its independence in 1975, but adjusting for inflation, we are giving PNG less than one half of the aid we gave it at independence. Aid to PNG was only slightly reduced in the 2015-16 aid cuts.
The chart below shows how aid to Indonesia and PNG has changed over time, adjusted for inflation using 2018-19 prices.
Some countries that used to receive Australian aid have now graduated–this means that Australia and the recipient country decided that they no longer need significant amounts of bilateral aid from Australia, and that the bilateral relationship should shift to a focus on trade and diplomacy. These are some of the most recent Australian aid graduates (since 2001), and their year of graduation. (Note that in some cases, small amounts of assistance, such as scholarships or embassy direct aid grants, do remain, but large-scale bilateral aid has been phased out).
On the Comparisons page, we saw the relative size of Australia as an aid player, compared to other major OECD DAC country donors. Yet in one part of the world, Australia outperforms all other donors: the Pacific.
To illustrate the importance of Australia’s aid to this region, the chart below shows how much Australia contributes compared to other OECD DAC donors to the Pacific. As you can see, Australian aid counts for between 50 and 60% of the total, and it has grown over time. (Note that China is a significant non-DAC donor to the Pacific–an interactive map showing Chinese aid the Pacific is available here).
In some Pacific island countries, Australian aid constitutes a large part of the country’s Gross National Income. The chart below shows Australian aid as a percentage of the recipient country’s Gross National Income, for Pacific island countries that had OECD DAC data available.