The CEO of The Fred Follows Foundation, Brian Doolan, has warned another round of deep cuts to the country’s aid budget announced as part of the mid-year economic update could condemn millions of people around the world to an ongoing vicious cycle of poverty and poor health.
The $3.7 billion cut to be announced today by the Federal Government means aid – which makes up just over 1 per cent of the entire Federal Budget - is being cut by 20 per cent. It follows an earlier $7.6 billion cut from the federal budget in May which aid agencies are already struggling to cope with.
Mr Doolan said The Foundation would continue working to end avoidable blindness even though the Federal Government had cut its support and he called on Australians to show their true will.
He said the further cut was tantamount to a broken promise in the face of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s commitment to aid as the flagship of Australian foreign policy.
“This decision is a dark day for a nation with a very proud record of helping millions of people around the world,” Mr Doolan said.
“For them Australian aid is the difference between being able to feed a family, having access to clean water, being treated for illness and disease or getting children a basic education.
“There can be no excuse for slashing the aid budget when aid is a tiny part of the entire Federal Budget. These cuts will run very, very deep.”
The Foundation was forced to axe programs in Indonesia, China, Vietnam and within Africa to cope with a $1.9 million shortfall in Federal funding earlier this year. This included a program in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam that would have screened up to 20,000 people and restored sight to up to 2,300 people after the Australian Government suddenly withdrew support.
“The majority of The Foundation’s funding comes from the overwhelming generosity of the Australian public and corporate sector,” Mr Doolan said. “The amount of funding we get from the Australian Government allows us to build on the services we already provide to restore sight and end avoidable blindness.
“Aid agencies always do more with less. That is the nature of our work - there are no luxuries when it comes to helping people meet their basic needs and survive in some of the most challenging environments around the world.
“This will make it harder to do our work but make no mistake – The Fred Hollows Foundation will never shy away from working to end avoidable blindness and restoring sight.”