Speech at the launch of Australian Aid Friendship Grants

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JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Jamie, Emma, Chris - thankyou for taking part in our event today. To my Ministerial colleague Minister Fierravanti-Wells,the Minister for International Development in the Pacific, to my manyMinisterial and Parliamentary colleagues, thank you for being here for thelaunch of what is a very important initiative in our aid program.

Senator Wong andSenator Moore sent their apologies. They are in Senate Estimates but I amassured of the Opposition's support for this initiative.

When I become Foreign Ministerin 2013 I took responsibility for Australia's aid program. It needed to berefocused, it needed to be more effective and it needed to have bigger impactand over the last few years we've set about achieving that.

Throughout the courseof working on the aid program it was evident to me that there was an untappedresource. The Australian people are exceedingly generous and many of them wantto give, and do give, their time and energy and resources to support communitiesin our region in the Indian Ocean Asian Pacific Region. I acknowledge thepresence of so many diplomats from our region here today, particularly the Deanof the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Guterres.

They had skills andexpertise and resources that will be deployed to communities throughout theregion outside of the Australian aid budget. For example, a group of women inVictoria have come together to provide access to small loans for women in Nepalso that they can build up livestock businesses and for the very first timeenter the labour market in Nepal. A group of health professionals in WesternAustralia came together to train nurses and midwives in PNG to address the veryissues that Emma spoke so passionately about. The group of retired teachers inQueensland came together to support educational outcomes for children inCambodia. A group of doctors in South Australia are providing lifesavingsurgery to people with disabilities across the Pacific. In Tasmania, a group ofvolunteers are working on ways to make crops in the Philippines yield more andbe more nutritious. I note Andrew Campbell the head of the Australian Centre ofInternational Agricultural Research is here today, so you know what I amtalking about, that kind of support to farmers in the Philippines.

When I looked at ouraid budget, which is now very focussed, very effective and very innovative, Iknew that there were other resources that we should tap. And that not allexpertise lay within the aid program, nor within the partnerships that we havedeveloped to deliver aid across our region. Yes, we make a significantinvestment at the multilateral level, at the regional level, and in bilateralpartnerships with other countries but there are so many Australians who aredoing so much in our region I knew that we should be able to leverage this is away that would have an even bigger impact.

That is why I am sodelighted today to announce this new initiative, the Australian Aid: FriendshipGrants which will provide small grants to organisations with whom DFAT does notcurrently have a partnership arrangement, to enable them to provide even moreassistance and building on the work that they have been doing.

This will apply tocharities, and professional groups, the diaspora communities, volunteer groups.The program will be managed grants. We have set aside $10 million over threeyears and eligible organisations will be able to apply for grants between$30,000 and $60,000. They will then provide support through a partnership thatthe organisation, the charity, the group, will put up funds, whether it be in-kindor actual dollars, then the Australian Government will match it. Every dollarput in by the organisation, the Australian Government will put in up to $5within the envelope up to $60,000.

Many of you in thisroom know how far a small grant can go if it is applied in the right way.Within our aid program we already have the grants that our Embassies and High Commissionscan provide but I think there is so much more we can do if organisations whoare high performers, who already have a track record of working overseas andgiven a grant by the Australian Government.

I am delighted thatLions, and Rotary, and Send Hope Not Flowers and other organisations arerepresented here today. They are the kinds of organisations that we will beable to assist with this grants program.

The model of the grantsprogram will be familiar with the Members of Parliament where the organisationfinds the resources and then we partner with that organisation to leverage thedollars available. We announced it on Budget night and since Budget there havebeen over 200 organisations that have registered an interest on ourwebsite.

The Round One will openon the 18th of June and I know my colleagues will recognise theopportunities that this will provide within their electorates.

We have put together apack to support the Australian Aid: Friendship Grants so you can spread themessage far and wide across your electorates, that there is now an opportunityfor those organisations, as registered charities or registered companies, theywill be able to apply for more funding to assist them in the amazing work thatthey carry out in their region in improving livelihoods, in reducing poverty,in providing access for much needed services - providing that helping hand forwhich Australians are renowned.

This makes our Foreign AidBudget less foreign for it is all directed to our region, our neighbourhood,where we can make the biggest difference but it is Australians doing what theybest, opening up their hearts, providing support to those in need with thesupport of the Australian Government.

With those words, I amdelighted to officially launch the Australian Aid: Friendship Grants. This isabout building deeper, closer friendships with countries in our region and Iknow that the Australian people will be happy to continue to support such initiatives.

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