18 May 2023


Foreign Aid: Future Directions and Challenges


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UniSA Video

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Top: AVI (Australian Volunteers International)-Empower Pacific
staff member provides disaster Psychological First Aid services to a client in Fiji.
Bottom: AVI (Australian Volunteers International)-SIMPLER medical laboratory services

Does foreign aid truly make a difference?

Join us for an important discussion on the future direction of foreign aid policy with former Foreign Affairs Minister, Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC KC FASSA FAIIA and former Director of Australian Volunteers International, Bill Armstrong AO.

Bill's career has been devoted to grassroots community development, while Gareth's focus has been on program and policy development and advocacy at the highest levels of global governance. Drawing from their diverse and complementary lived experiences, they will share their hopes and concerns for global development, particularly in a world marked by the escalation of arms and defence spending, widening wealth disparities within and between nations, and the increasing gap between countries with access to education and those without, which disproportionately affects girls. 

As part of the conversation, they will consider the impact of foreign aid and the challenges for the future, with a particular focus on the role of Non-Government Organisations that are already overwhelmed with responding to catastrophic weather events and displacement of peoples. Additionally, the discussion will explore what the future holds for our neighbours in the Oceania region.

Gareth Evans served as Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister from 1998-1996 and CEO of the International Crisis Group from 2000 to 2009. Bill Armstrong was the Director of the Overseas Service Bureau later known as Australian Volunteers International from 1982 to 2001. 

The book Everything and Nothing - The Life and Development Work of Bill Armstrong, written by Peter Britton, provides an in-depth account of Bill's career in community development. If you are interested in learning more about the book or how to purchase it, please refer to the information provided below.

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre




Gareth Evans AC KC was a Cabinet Minister throughout the Hawke– Keating governments, including as Foreign Minister from 1988 to 1996. In his 21-year parliamentary career, he served as both Leader of the Government in the Senate and Deputy Leader of the Opposition. After leaving politics, he was President of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group from 2000 to 2009, and Chancellor of the Australian National University from 2010 to 2019, where he is now Distinguished Honorary Professor.

As part of the Hawke Centre's 2022 program, Gareth presented Good International Citizenship: The Case For Decency. He also delivered the 2003 Annual Hawke Lecture: Waging War and Making Peace.

 Gareth Evans website


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bill armstrong ao
former Director of Australian Volunteers International

Bill's career in international development began in 1964 when he joined the newly formed OSB (Overseas Service Bureau), later renamed Australian Volunteers International (AVI), which had just launched the Australian Volunteers Abroad (AVA) program. In the 1970s, he served as the National Coordinator of the Churches International Development Education Program, Action for World Development (AWD).

In 1982, Bill was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of AVI, a position he held until his retirement in 2002. Under his leadership, AVI grew from a small team of 12 to a national workforce of 130, with an annual budget exceeding A$20 million. By 2001, AVI managed 1000 volunteers in placements across 45 countries.

Bill has been actively involved in international development and served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) for 20 years, including a term as President from 1993-1997. In 2011, he was elected as the Convenor of ActionAid International's Assembly held in Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania.

Since his retirement in 2002, Bill has continued his contributions to various organizations. He served as a member of the National Committee of Caritas Australia from 2002-2009, a Board member and Vice-President of ActionAid Australia (formerly Austcare) from 2003-2012, a member of the Board of Community First Development (formerly Indigenous Community Volunteers) from 2000-2019, and Co-Chair from 2009-2019. He also chaired the City of Port Phillip's Friends of Suai/Coalima (Timor Leste) from 2003-2017, a country he has been associated with since 1975, and served as a Board member of YCW Holdings (Melbourne).

In recognition of his significant contributions to international relations, social justice, and human rights, Bill has received several prestigious awards. He was presented with a Friendship Award by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts, People's Republic of China in 1995, and in 2000, he was the recipient of the Sir Edward Weary Dunlop Asia Medal.

In 2003, Bill was made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) for his service to the international community and overseas aid relief through AVI, as well as his efforts in fostering a greater understanding of different cultures and raising awareness of social justice and human rights issues. He is also a life member of AVI, ActionAid Australia, and ACFID, and Community First Development has established an annual Human Rights Award in his name, recognizing his enduring legacy in the field of international development.

 Australian Volunteers International

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Purchase the book

Being everything and nothing? it's an old community development technique. Done right the critical work you do looks like nothing, it's invisible, it's in the background. But it can also change everything, it can catalyse people and communities to take their own action for change.

This book is about Bill Armstrong's life in international and community development. It's about the people and events that influenced him and the social, political and economic issues he has worked to change. Long known as a critic of traditional aid programs, Bill's approach crystallised around support for self-determination, most evidently with the people of Timor-Leste and the First Nations people of Australia.

Everything and Nothing - The Life and Development Work of Bill Armstrong  is written by Peter Britton. Peter joined the staff of Australian Volunteers International (AVI) in 1984 where he worked closely with Bill Armstrong for 18 years. After 32 years at AVI, he undertook to write a history of this iconic organisation.

Everything and Nothing - The Life and Development Work of Bill Armstrong is available to purchase directly via the book website.

Presented by
The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre


While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.