CANBERRA — Australia’s aid program will soon be open to applications for its new, community-focused “Friendship Grants,” as part of an initiative encouraging diversity in partners supporting the development goals of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Announced in the May federal budget, Friendship Grants will support Australian-based charities, professional groups, diaspora communities, and volunteer groups working on initiatives for developing countries outside of the aid program.
At the launch of the program at Parliament House in Canberra on May 30, Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop told the audience that during work on the aid program, an “untapped resource” had become evident — particularly from members of the Australian community volunteering their time and expertise to support developing countries outside the aid program.
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“For example, a group of women in Victoria have come together to provide access to small loans for women in Nepal so that they can build up livestock businesses and for the very first time enter the labor market in Nepal,” Bishop said.
“A group of doctors in South Australia are providing life-saving surgery to people with disabilities across the Pacific. In Tasmania, a group of volunteers are working on ways to make crops in the Philippines yield more and be more nutritious.”
And these were resources she felt could both be better understand and support the Australian aid program if they received small grants that would help support work.
“When I looked at our aid budget — which is now very focused, very effective and very innovative — I knew that there were other resources that we should tap,” Bishop said.
“And that not all expertise lay within the aid program, nor within the partnerships that we have developed to deliver aid across our region. Yes, we make a significant investment at the multilateral level, at the regional level, and in bilateral partnerships with other countries but there are so many Australians who are doing so much in our region — I knew that we should be able to leverage this is a way that would have an even bigger impact.”
Who can apply?
DFAT is not handing out grants to organizations that are simply interested in development. Applicants will need to demonstrate a history of supporting development assistance in the Indo-Pacific. This includes demonstrating existing relationships with in-country partner organizations as well as submitting a letter of support from an in-country authority for the organization.
And they need to be organizations — individuals are not eligible to apply, nor are for-profit organizations and community organizations not registered in Australia.
To be eligible for a Friendship Grant, applicants need to be Australian-based community organizations currently outside of the aid program.
The projects seeking financial support will need to demonstrate their value to achieving the development goals and objectives of the Australian aid program. This includes projects that focus on gender equality, basic education, protection of human rights, economic development, climate change, and disaster preparedness.
Applications for funding that seek support to attend a conference or event will be thrown out.
What is on offer?
A total of $10 million Australian dollars ($7.6 million) will be available for Friendship Grants over the next three years. The eligible organizations will be able to apply for grants between AU$30,000 and AU$60,000.
But there is a catch.
The contribution from DFAT will need to be matched by in-kind or actual dollars from the organization. For every AU$1 contributed, DFAT will provide AU$5 — with the money capped at AU$60,000.
It is a model common in Australia’s grant space.
How to apply
There will be three opportunities to apply for a Friendship Grant over the next three years. The first round will open on June 18 and close on August 27, with recipients announced from November.
Applications can be submitted through the Friendship Grants website.
For many organizations, this will be their first foray into the Australian aid program, and it is important to understand how Australian aid operates and what it aims to achieve if grant applications are to be successful. Contacting DFAT or even existing partner organizations that are members of the Australian Council for International Development, will be an important resource for information and knowledge.
For Bishop, there is a need for applicants to show more of what they do with the grants.
“Many of you ... know how far a small grant can go if it is applied in the right way,” she said.
“Within our aid program we already have the grants that our embassies and high commissions can provide — but I think there is so much more we can do if organizations who are high performers, who already have a track record of working overseas are given a grant by the Australian Government.”