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Australian assistance to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Australia's partnership with Papua New Guinea in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville supports peace, stability and economic growth. As a signatory witness to the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, Australia has supported Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville governments to strengthen governance and service delivery, increase economic growth and promote social cohesion through peace building activities.

In 2020-21, Australia's development assistance to Bougainville of approximately AUD47.8 million is being delivered through:

Improving effective governance

Australia is providing comprehensive advisory support to effectively implement Bougainville's autonomy arrangements. This assistance strengthens core functions of government including public sector management, human resources and recruitment, electoral systems, legislative drafting and land management and administration. Australia also provides support to communications and media, government infrastructure, leadership training for senior Bougainville public servants and ministers, and to facilitate the drawdown of powers under the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Contributing to economic growth

Australia's assistance is improving primary industry production, the investment climate, business environment and trade links. Australia is providing approximately AUD4.2 million in grants through the Commodity Support Facility to assist farmers and industry to boost sustainable cocoa production. This includes through annual support to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Chocolate Festival which has boosted market linkages with chocolate makers in Australia and New Zealand.

Supporting peace, stability and community cohesion

The Bougainville Peace Building Program is helping the ABG facilitate the reconciliation of crisis-era dispute and conflicts, including supporting over 3,500 community reconciliations, and mentoring District-level Peace and Security Committees in community reconciliation efforts. Australia also works with NGO Conciliation Resources to build the capacity of local peace builders to analyse and resolve conflicts in their communities. Other programs to build community cohesion and stability in Bougainville include small grants for community-based infrastructure and economic programs s, and training to encourage the participation of Bougainvillean youth in social and economic development.


In 2020-21, Australia is providing a total of AUD10.2 million through working with the ABG Department of Health to respond to COVID-19 and implement programs and reforms with a focus on primary and rural health. This includes training health workers in maternal and child health, and prevention and control of communicable diseases, as well as training government officials in health services planning and administration.

Health infrastructure is being constructed through a partnership between Australia, the Asian Development Bank, the PNG Government and the ABG. Since December 2018, health posts have been completed at Kakusida in Central Bougainville and Ioro, Kodora and Karato in South Bougainville and construction of a health centre at Kunua in North Bougainville is due to commence in coming months.

The ABG Department of Health is a recipient of funding from the governments of Australia and New Zealand, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, through the Papua New Guinea Partnership Fund (PPF) program 'Accelerating Immunisation and Health System Strengthening'. This three-year (2019-2022) program aims at increasing routine immunisation coverage in Bougainville to 80 per cent, ensuring that children under one year of age are immunised against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and influenza type B.


In 2020-21, Australia is providing a total AUD5.5 million through the PNG Department of Education and the ABG Department of Education to support teacher training and to provide materials for foundational literacy and numeracy skills in the early years of elementary school. The PNGAus Partnership Secondary Schools investment, builds capabilities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), English and student agency, and strengthens the links between the next generation of Papua New Guineans and Australians. Through the Australia Awards program, we continue to provide targeted scholarships to Bougainvilleans in key sectors aligned with both PNG and Autonomous Bougainville government priorities. There are also currently five Bougainvilleans scholars on award for the In-Australia Scholarships and 12 Bougainvilleans scholars on award for the In-Papua New Guinea Scholarships.

Transport infrastructure

An efficient transport network is a key enabler of economic growth and social services. Australian assistance to the transport sector in Bougainville is an extension of the Papua New Guinea national program, tailored to Bougainville's specific needs in consultation with the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville governments. In 2020-21, Australia is investing a further AUD8.5 million in Bougainville's roads, with a focus on road maintenance, local employment and sealing of roads along important economic corridors.

Australia's Transport Sector Support Program will continue to maintain 332 kilometres of Bougainville's 600-kilometre main road network. This includes most of the national priority road between Kokopau and Arawa in North Bougainville, and other trunk roads in Central and South Bougainville. Approximately 80 per cent of the population, school and health facilities are within around seven kilometres of the main trunk roads network.

Aviation and maritime safety

Australia also supports improved aviation and maritime safety and security outcomes in Bougainville. Buka Airport will benefit from introduction of Global Navigational Satellite System approaches, which will improve navigation. This builds on previous support to improve aeronautical charts.

Bougainville will also benefit from the National Maritime Safety Authority Small Craft Project, which involves establishing provincial small craft registries to improve safety. An upgrade of the Maritime Radio Communications System has provided complete radio network coverage across Papua New Guinea's Search and Rescue areas through the 15 Maritime Provinces, including Bougainville.

Law and justice

In 2020-21, Australia is supporting law and justice services to a total of AUD2 million. This includes at the institutional and community levels with the re-establishment of all national law and justice agencies a significant recent achievement. Small scale infrastructure projects such as police cells and housing for survivors of family and sexual violence, support access and effectiveness of the services available to Bougainvilleans. Australia continues to support the Bougainville Police Service to strengthen its investigations, prosecutions and custody capabilities through training and capacity building.


In 2020-21, Australia continues to work with local partners to improve gender equality in Bougainville This includes support to the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation (in partnership with the International Women's Development Agency) to reduce family and sexual violence by providing crisis services supporting women human rights defenders, and working with male advocates. A number of other programs focus on: increasing family and community support for women's access to reproductive and maternal health; developing communication strategies to address sorcery accusation-related violence; providing training and ongoing support for women intending to contest local elections; and working to increase women's political participation and leadership, including during the referendum process. Training, experience and networking facilitated by Australia is assisting to increase the leadership skills of young women in Bougainville. Australia’s support is also improving women's economic empowerment through increasing financial literacy and business skills.  

Labour mobility programs

Bougainville has been identified as one of the priority provinces in efforts to increase the participation of PNG workers in the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Workers Programme. Staff from the Australian High Commission, Port Moresby and the Pacific Labour Facility visited Bougainville in October 2019 and met with key stakeholders. It was agreed that there was potential for Bougainvilleans to benefit from the labour programs, especially in the agriculture sector.

Support to the Bougainville referendum

A referendum on the future political status of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea was held from 23 November 2019 to 11 December 2019. The conduct of the referendum was one of three key pillars of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement (the others being 'autonomy' and 'weapons disposal'). The referendum offered people a choice between 'greater autonomy' and 'independence'. The result of the referendum is non-binding, with the Papua New Guinea Constitution requiring the Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville governments to consult on the outcome. The ultimate outcome will be determined by a vote in the PNG National Parliament.

The referendum was conducted by the independent Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC), chaired by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. Just over 206,000 resident and non-resident Bougainvilleans, and eligible PNG citizens who reside in Bougainville enrolled to vote at over 800 polling locations in Bougainville and across Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Australia. The BRC estimates that approximately 85 per cent of voters on the referendum roll cast their vote. The BRC announced the referendum results on 11 December: 3,043 votes for Greater Autonomy; 176,928 votes for Independence and 1,096 informal votes.

Under the auspices of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and at the invitation of the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville governments, Australia provided the following:

  • AUD4 million to the United Nations Bougainville Referendum Support Project, a multi-donor fund that facilitated the work of the BRC to conduct the referendum.
  • Support to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which provided international and local election expertise to the BRC on enrolments, operational logistics, legal advice, training and planning.
  • Three Australian and international specialists through the Australia Assists program to support to the BRC, together with advisors assisting the BRC with public communications and corporate operations and services.
  • Support to the independent National Research Institute to develop, publish, and foster discussion and debate relating to the referendum and post-referendum issues. Seven studies were commissioned, and numerous briefings, forums and road shows were held to strengthen public awareness.

Australia is engaging closely with the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville governments on how Australia can best support the post-referendum consultation period.

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