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A few impressions of an intense two weeks in Australia

September 13, 2013
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Off to New Zealand tonight, after a great two weeks in Australia. More detailed analysis to follow on various issues, but here are a few hurried
under new management....

under new management....

snapshots. First up was teaching a 3 day module on How Change Happens with Chris Roche, to 14 students in Murdoch University’s development studies Masters programme. The students were a brilliant international mix and teaching as a tag team was great fun; after day one we threw away our course outline and improvised from then on – I think we may have the basis for a really useful power and change course – more to follow. Culinary highlight in Perth – emu and chips. Like steak, but subtler flavour. Yummy.

Flew to Melbourne on election day, as the Liberal National Coalition party (roughly comparable to British Tories) won their expected landslide. The mood was reminiscent of the UK election in 2010. Most memorable impression of election night was not Kevin Rudd’s distinctly odd concession speech (he sounded like he’d actually won, and then suddenly resigned), but the horrible car crash fascination (there but for the grace of God etc…) of this earlier interview with Liberal candidate James Diaz. He was virtually the only Liberal candidate to lose votes, which at least shows voters were listening. More to follow on the implications of the change in government for Australian aid.

After various meetings in Melbourne with Oxfam Australia, Chris Roche gave me a good public grilling at a book launch (‘so, you once blogged that you wouldn’t speak on all male panels – why are you here?’) which seemed to amuse the audience and boost sales (book store guy passing me books to sign ‘best sales since Rupert Everett’……). Might make ritual public humiliation a standard sales tactic from now on.

Then off to Canberra for an intense two days with AusAID and ACFID, the Australian development NGO network. Confusion and anxiety over the Liberal decision to cut aid and freeze spending at the same real term levels over the next four years, rather than the previously planned large increase (already twice delayed by the  Labor Party).

Main impression there was just how much thinking they are doing on fragile states, which is where a large part of Australian aid goes – a ring of fragility in the Pacific, with Papua New Guinea perhaps most prominent in the discussions. Australia sees itself as a massive big brother to the Pacific Islands, and is sometimes the only donor.  I was hosted by Steve Hogg, an AusAID governance specialist who was raised in PNG, and who set up the excellent Development Leadership Program with Adrian Leftwich. Steve hosted a series of intense conversations with advisers on the role of aid agencies in fragile states – posts to follow on that.

Final random impressions? Development Studies seems alive and well in Aussie universities – lots of really interesting research going on; don’temu talk about the cricket (or the rugby, or the Olympics, although my Oxfam Australia minder insists I link to this); Aussie birds can’t sing – they just croak or make weird flutey noises (all night) – but they look (and taste) great.

More considered posts to follow on lots of these topics. Great to meet so many FP2P readers while here (including apparently the whole of AusAID) – thanks for all the encouragement.

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