Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Australia turns its back on a world in need

  • 12 December 2014

An extraordinary gathering of survivors and Catholic leaders occurred last week in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for the 10th anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami, the most devastating natural disaster in modern history.

We gathered to commemorate a decade since the Tsunami that killed over 230,000 men, women and children and left many millions displaced and whole communities torn apart.  

We listened to the stories of devastation from those who had survived, and we listened to the stories of hope. We also listened to some alarming news from home. 

Last week the Australian media reported Juie Bishop's confirmation that Australia's overseas aid program is in line for further budget cuts as the Government seeks to find savings for the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

This news is deeply concerning. Between September 2013 and May 2014 our Government cut the aid budget by close to $8 billion over the next five years. Australia’s overseas aid program only makes up 1.3 per cent of the Federal Budget.  The 20 per cent of total savings the aid budget absorbed in May was more than a fair share of the budget burden. 

Australia prides itself on being a fair country. But how is it fair to have the world’s poorest people to shoulder more cuts? As the tenth wealthiest country on earth, this trend damages our reputation and undermines our ability to be taken seriously as a global leader. 

It was upsetting for me to hear news of potential cuts to Australia’s global compassion while witnessing the successes of Australian aid. There was Faridah, a young woman from a village in the East Coast of Sri Lanka, whom I met with her three children. Faridah lost her parents and other relatives. Her husband, a fisherman, also disappeared. Faridah’s life, stability and support network was destroyed by the Tsunami. She lost all hope for her children’s future. Yet, with the support of Australian aid, she was slowly able to re-build her life. Following the Tsunami, Faridah and her children were able to access life-saving assistance in the form of food, water, shelter. She also received psychosocial support on an ongoing basis. Faridah went on to become a community leader and role model. All three of her children are now in school. 

Faridah’s is just one of the powerful stories of hope made possible with the support of Australian aid. 

Australia was the largest per capita contributor to the Tsunami recovery effort. Our Government committed