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Increasing public generosity to overseas aid organisations belies reports of 'compassion fatigue'

Donations from the Australian public to non-government organisations (NGOs) involved in overseas aid and development increased by 20 per cent over 1999, according to the results of an annual statistical survey conducted by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA).
"The increase exposes as a myth claims the Australian public are suffering from so-called compassion fatigue," said ACFOA Executive Director, Ms Janet Hunt. "Instead, these figures reveal the generosity of spirit which we have always known has existed within the Australian community towards those in less fortunate circumstances overseas."

"This generosity continues to be in stark contrast to that of our current Government, which in the last budget allowed foreign aid to shrink to its lowest level ever as a percentage of GNP."

While the Australian Government was forced to increase its actual aid expenditure above the 1999-2000 budgeted level, mainly to deal with East Timor and Kosovo, the Government has given no clear commitments about what will happen in the future."

"In a few months time, the Government will bring down the first budget of the new century," said Ms Hunt. "We would urge the Government to use this as a chance to further increase Australia's aid budget."

"Not only is this economically achievable given the strength of our economy, but the kindness of ordinary Australians demonstrates there would be significant support for it."

The Australian public donated over $259 million in 1999, compared to $216 million in 1998, an increase of just over 20 per cent.

The period covering the increase includes the refugee crisis in the Balkans, appeals relating to the devastating cyclone which hit Orissa, India and the severe flooding in central and south Vietnam, and some but not all of the funds given by the public for the reconstruction of East Timor.

"As of February 2000, a total of almost $12 million had so far been given by the public to Australian NGOs involved in the reconstruction of East Timor, and donations are still coming in," Ms Hunt said.

"This does not even count the considerable number of direct initiatives to assist East Timor being undertaken by individuals and the community," she said.