Humanitarian preparedness and response
Australia’s Humanitarian Assistance
- 2023-24 total Australian ODA [budget estimate]
- $643.3 million
- 2022-23 total Australian ODA [budget estimate]
- $639.1 million
- 2021-22 total Australian ODA [actual]
- $656.7 million
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) leads the Australian Government's responses to international humanitarian crises.
As part of Australia’s new International Development Policy, a new Humanitarian Strategy will be developed for release in 2024. Focussing on root causes to build durable solutions, the strategy will ensure Australia has an adaptable, responsive and effective framework for delivering results to affected populations and to help reduce humanitarian need.
In the Indo-Pacific, Australia works with partners to deliver timely and effective humanitarian assistance when disasters hit. Australia is committed to working with our Indo-Pacific neighbours to ensure that our region - the most disaster-prone in the world - remains peaceful, stable and prosperous.
Australia’s humanitarian support focuses on gender equality, social inclusion and locally led action, ensuring diverse participation and prioritising those most impacted by disasters.
To build resilience, Australia supports partner governments and communities to lead their own national adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts. To respond effectively, Australia engages proactively in mechanisms to coordinate international humanitarian assistance, such as with Quad and France, Australian and New Zealand (FRANZ) partners.
Australia works globally too, meeting humanitarian needs where they are most acute and strengthening the multilateral humanitarian system to take collective action underpinned by International Humanitarian Law and humanitarian principles. In responding to protracted crises, Australia provides long-term support to focus on humanitarian need and build resilience, including assisting governments and communities hosting displaced populations.
Why we offer assistance
Across the world, humanitarian need is increasing, with violent conflict continuing and a global food crisis unfolding. The compounding effect of climate change is magnifying challenges by increasing food insecurity, water scarcity and displacement.
Humanitarian crises undermine growth, reverse hard-won development gains, increase poverty and inequality, and can result in long-term instability.
Australia's humanitarian action is designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity during, and in the aftermath of, conflict, disasters and other humanitarian crises.
Australia’s assistance also aims to prevent and strengthen preparedness for future emergencies. Under the new International Development Policy, Australia will increase investment in disaster and climate risk-informed development, all-hazards early warning systems, anticipatory action and shock-responsive social protection systems.
Where the impact of a disaster exceeds a country's capacity to respond, Australia stands ready to assist.
How we are helping
The nature of Australia’s response to crises will depend on the scale of the emergency and the needs of the affected population, while considering how Australia can add value to broader international efforts.
Effective preparedness and response, together with disaster risk reduction, build community and government resilience to crises.
Australia’s humanitarian assistance focuses on helping communities and governments prepare for and respond to disasters. This includes investing in inclusive, gender-responsive disaster risk reduction, an effective way of reducing the impact of a crisis, saving lives and limiting the economic costs of a disaster.
For more information see our page on disaster risk reduction.
In coordination with other Australian Government agencies, DFAT monitors the performance of the humanitarian program to maximise outcomes. This assessment, and the identification of lessons learned, is informed by findings of evaluations of humanitarian investments commissioned by DFAT or partners.
Independent evaluations of humanitarian programming focusing on high priority issues are published each year in accordance with DFAT's Development Evaluation Policy. These evaluations and management responses are available on the Humanitarian Monitoring and Evaluation page.
The Australian Government has the capacity to rapidly deploy humanitarian assistance to countries when they ask for help during crises.
While Australia contributes to the international humanitarian system, including by adhering to global standards and principles, it brings a unique approach that is adaptable, flexible and heavily focused on building resilience.
Australia works closely with partner governments and humanitarian partners to ensure the support is practical and tailored to the most urgent needs. While supporting efforts globally, Australia’s focus remains firmly on the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia has a range of specialist capabilities to respond to humanitarian crises which can be grouped into three broad categories:
- Australian personnel deployed to provide humanitarian expertise.
- Lifesaving humanitarian relief supplies and logistics.
- Partnerships with local and international humanitarian organisations that have capacity to deliver support in line with Australia's humanitarian priorities.
The Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) is a specialised medical response team of qualified professionals from Australian state and territory health services who provide emergency medical care in the aftermath of a disaster.
AUSMAT is structured to meet the health needs of disaster-affected communities. DFAT works closely with the Department of Health and Home Affairs as well as state and territory governments to prepare and deploy AUSMAT specialists in response to international disasters.
For example, as part of Australia's COVID-19 response in Papua New Guinea, AUSMAT medical specialists and logisticians supported PNG health authorities to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.
Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DART) provide a range of capabilities to save lives following disasters and help communities recover. The teams are drawn from Fire and Rescue New South Wales and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and can deploy quickly to conduct search and rescue activities. The DART teams can also conduct structural assessments, manage hazardous material accidents, and provide general emergency management assistance.
For example, following Cyclone Gita in Tonga in 2018, a DART deployed alongside a New Zealand Urban Search and Rescue Team to conduct structural assessments of more than 340 buildings damaged by the storm.
DFAT maintains a pool of highly trained staff through its Crisis Response Team (CRT) who can be deployed overseas at short notice to support Australian diplomatic posts and/or partners in the field.
The CRT includes staff with high level expertise in humanitarian, consular, policy and technical responses who provide essential support in affected countries.
Relief supplies and logistics
Australia has stockpiles of relief items in Australia and overseas. This includes essential life-saving items, such as water purification tablets, shelter supplies, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and blankets.
Australia has the capacity to provide supplies within 48 hours of a request for assistance by a partner government. Where an emergency response requires other items, DFAT helps fast-track procurement so the right type of relief is provided quickly, ensuring value-for-money.
Australia has developed a set of protocols to mitigate against the risk of transmitting COVID-19 during the delivery of humanitarian supplies in the wake of a disaster. These protocols were adhered to when sending relief items to Vanuatu and Fiji following Tropical Cyclones Harold and Yasa.
Australia maintains a standing agreement with an international logistics company to support all aspects of humanitarian logistics: procurement, freight and personnel. The Australian Defence Force also has capabilities and equipment that the Australian Government can draw on for major crises in the region.
Australia’s humanitarian partnerships, through their reach, leverage and specialisations, play a vital role in responding to disasters and crises, including in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australian Red Cross (ARC)
Australia is supporting humanitarian preparedness and action through a $50 million, five-year partnership (2019-2024) with the Australian Red Cross (ARC).
The ARC is one of Australia's most trusted and effective partners in disaster preparedness and response. It is also part of the largest humanitarian network in the world due to its links with the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.
DFAT’s partnership with ARC focuses on the intersection of humanitarian response with cross-cutting priorities, including gender, protection, disability inclusion, emergency health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), disaster preparedness, climate resilience and anticipatory action.
The Australian Government’s multi-year funding support to the ARC is complemented by supplementary funding in response to sudden onset humanitarian crises. This funding helps alleviate suffering, supporting local communities and partner governments to lead their responses.
For example, through the ARC, the Australian Government supports national societies in Ukraine and surrounding countries to respond to people displaced and affected by conflict.
Australian Humanitarian Partnership
The Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) is a strategic 10-year (2017-2027) partnership between DFAT and Australian non-government organisations (NGOs).
The AHP delivers effective, innovative and collaborative humanitarian assistance by allowing Australia to use its networks and access of Australian NGOs to respond to disasters and protracted crises in our region and beyond.
The AHP supports partner countries, local organisations and communities to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and other humanitarian crises.
Through the AHP's Disaster READY program, $100 million is being invested from 2017-2027 to build the capacity of local organisations across the region to manage disasters more effectively.
DFAT has partnered with six peak Australian NGOs and their consortium partners to deliver on these priorities:
- CARE Australia
- Caritas Australia
- Oxfam Australia
- Plan International Australia
- Save the Children Australia
- World Vision Australia.
Australia Assists is an Australian Government funded program, implemented by RedR Australia that deploys technical specialists to work with governments, multilateral agencies and communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and conflict.
The seven year, $84.7 million program enables the mobilisation and deployment of specialists into geographic and thematic areas of priority in line with Australia's humanitarian responsibilities and national interests.
Australia Assists was pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic when Australia scaled up humanitarian assistance to the Indo-Pacific region. In 2021, Australia Assists undertook its first clinical deployments in response to COVID-19, with two emergency nurses deployed to a field hospital in Bangladesh, and an Infection, Prevention and Control Technical Advisor deployed to Papua New Guinea.
Australia Assists has a stand-by roster of more than 750 technical specialists, reflecting the skills and experience required in the multifaceted contexts of preparedness, response, and recovery.
International and Multilateral partners
Australia provides ongoing humanitarian assistance through trusted international and multilateral partners – including:
- World Food Programme (WFP)
- International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA);
More information: Multilateral Aid Effectiveness