It has been almost 10 years since Australia’s last long-term development policy. Our world has changed. The coming decade will be decisive for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. The Albanese Government is committed to making Australia the partner of choice for our region. We recognise that development underpins stability, and that a prosperous and stable region is in our national interest. To ensure Australia’s development program delivers on this objective, we have reassessed our approach. This policy is the foundation on which we will build a program fit for our times.”

Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In light of Senator Wong’s comments, this brief summarises Australia’s key commitments as well as the implications and challenges for the region.

Key commitments

Australia’s development initiatives aim to strengthen local leadership, connectivity, and resilience in the region, demonstrating a commitment to inclusive growth and sustainable development.

  1. Support will be provided for building resilient states in the region as they pursue their development goals, enhancing their ability to withstand external shocks, foster connectivity, and generate collective action on global challenges.
  2. Australia is committed to fostering a local-led approach in its development program through training and capacity building combined with regular updates and improvements to its plans.
  3. The program is geared towards creating opportunities for local engagement through greater participation and leadership in the delivery of its development policy.
  4. It is expected to work closely with and be guided by, its partners to ensure their needs are reflected in country plans.
  5. Draw on labour market and migration pathways, while strengthening trade and business ties with the region, including through Australian banks and superannuation funds.
  6. Australia is expected to take ambitious action on climate change at home and abroad, by harnessing local connections, knowledge and expertise.
  7. Commitment to strengthening social protection systems to accommodate equal gender and people with disability participation is high on the agenda, through data-driven policies.

Implications for the Pacific

Australia’s focus on local-led development in the Pacific region promises greater participation and ownership, signaling a significant shift towards regional advancement and resilience.

  1. Australia is keen on the idea of a local-led approach in its development program, which should foster greater regional participation and ownership of the development strategy.
  2. Data-driven policies for social inclusion are largely lacking in the region and the steps towards that should contribute to informed policy decisions in addressing poverty.
  3. Updates and improvements to its plans in a consultative manner, should encourage the reciprocation of efforts, for better coordination and collaboration in the implementation process.
  4. Australia’s approach to climate change utilises local connections, knowledge and expertise, creating an opportunity for the region to have a greater say on climate action.
  5. Its commitment to strengthening social protection systems to accommodate equal gender and people with disability participation is very much in line with initiatives in the region, albeit stagnant. This is expected to generate greater regional attention and focus.

Key Challenges

Navigating the various demographic and technological shifts, as well as emerging global challenges, presents a series of formidable hurdles for the region. These challenges demand innovative approaches and collaborative efforts to ensure sustainable progress and prosperity.

  1. The demographic and technological changes will continue to remain a challenge for the region even for newer models of development, particularly for the marginalized-rural-majority. Greater decentralisation of efforts should also be pursued to address these growing vulnerabilities. 
  2.  The use of local strategies, will need to be blended with international best practices, particularly in strengthening the region’s efficacy in combating rising threats to community safety from within and abroad.
  3. While Australia is expected to prioritise prevention and risk reduction across its development assistance, strengthening coordinated responses during crisis management is equally vital.
  4. There is a genuine need for a measurable transfer of knowledge and narrowing of the skill gap. Greater local content is also needed for lasting and tangible progress through equal partnership and participation.
  5. International free trade has come under duress from rising restrictive trade practices. As a regional solution, more can be done to widen the trade and investment corridor between Australia and its neighbors as equal partners, without compromising best practices.
  6. Adhering to the principles of quality, accountability and responding to the priorities of the region transparently in the implementation process will be tested, given a lapse in these values in much of the region.
  7. A genuine partnership, through open and frank dialogue will go a long way toward building a peaceful, prosperous and secure Pacific. As stated in its commitment, sustained action is critical throughout the development program and beyond.


Mark Ofoi is undertaking a PhD in Economics at Griffith University and is a Senior Economist at the Bank of Papua New Guinea. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the position of the above-mentioned institution. For more information about Pacific island economies, visit Pacific Island Centre for Development and Policy Research.