On Tuesday 20th October, Campaign for Australian Aid hosted a panel discussion about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Australian foreign aid. The panel, moderated by ANU Assc. Prof Janet Hunt, included an incredible panel of speakers included Gillian Triggs, the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Ewen McDonald, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fraser and former economics professor at ANU, Marc Purcell, the executive director for Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), and Paul Flavel, Australian Program Coordinator for TEAR Australia. The event gave a positive outlook of world plans on tackling inequality and poverty.

Hunt began with an introduction of the SDG and the current status of Australian aid. The SDG will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which was initiated in 2000 and concluded this year. The newly created goals aim to end extreme poverty by 2030, as well as reducing inequality and tackling climate change.

These goals, as agreed by all the panellists, are achievable through the right approach and “inspires our imagination”, stated Flavel.

Several of the panellists talked about the isolation of Australia due to its recent reduction in aid, commenting that in terms of foreign aid, Australians think that, on average, 16% of the government budget is spent on foreign aid, but in reality, only a minute 0.22% is being invested. Leigh further went on to express his concern of the extremely low aid figure, strongly urging for an increase Australian aid, and commented: “Charity begins at home, but it doesn’t have to end there”.

Triggs and McDonald explained the differences between the two set of goals. The difference between the SDGs and MDGs is that the former is more legitimate and emphasises the use international law, and the former has failed to enforce the rule of law. In order to achieve them, trillions of dollars will be needed, as well as efforts from both the private and public sectors. The Australian SDGs focus is on gender equality and governance, as well as helping neighbouring developing countries to better measure data and report on goal progress.

Campaign for Australian Aid will be hosting several other celebrations and events throughout Australia in the coming months.