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Senate Question Time – Rakhine State, Myanmar

June 24, 2013

Australian aid at work in Rakhine State

Australian aid at work in Rakhine State

Senator BISHOP (Western Australia):

Can the Minister update the Senate on the situation in Rakhine State, Myanmar?

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales – Minister for Foreign Affairs):

In June and October last year, communal violence broke out in Rakhine State between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya.

– The Rohingya are a stateless minority and the vast majority do not have citizenship rights.

The conflict resulted in 192 deaths, the destruction of over 8,000 homes and the displacement of more than 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya.

Australia is encouraging all efforts to find a solution to the situation in Rakhine State – one that respects the rights of all people.

I have stressed in conversations with President Thein Sein and Foreign Minister Wunna the importance of resolving ethnic and sectarian unrest.

Australia has so far committed $5.8 million in humanitarian aid for Rakhine.

We are the third largest donor (behind the US and the UK).

Australia’s assistance is providing:

– food to 100,000 displaced people (through the World Food Programme);
– protection for 37,000 children who have been separated from their families (through Save the Children); and
– tents and emergency shelter to 32,000 people who have fled or lost their homes (through UNHCR).

Our aid is also providing blankets, clothes and mosquito nets for 14,000 people living in temporary shelters (through CARE).

The rainy season is making living conditions harder and poses increased health threats.

Our most recent commitment of $1.5 million (June 4) is helping UNICEF to provide 40,000 people with safe drinking water and better sanitation.

Australia is also providing $5 million to support peace-building in conflict affected regions

– including providing Australian expertise to the Myanmar Peace Centre.

I hope to visit Myanmar again in July to discuss conditions in Rakhine State with Government officials.

Senator BISHOP (Western Australia):

How is Australia supporting development in Myanmar in the long-term?

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales – Minister for Foreign Affairs):

As well as humanitarian assistance, Australian aid to Myanmar is targeted towards long-term development assistance to eliminate poverty.

Recent political reforms have improved the operating environment for donors, making it possible to increase our aid program to Myanmar.

Australia has invested $140 million in Myanmar over the past three years.

Next year alone, we will provide around $82 million in aid to Myanmar.

Australia’s support has so far

– treated 1.9 million people with malaria; 22,000 people with HIV; and 135,000 people with tuberculosis; and
– helped more than 900,000 children go to school including providing text books and stationery.

Our aid has also helped repair 1,100 primary schools and will provide 120 new Australia Awards this year for study in Australia.

Senator BISHOP (Western Australia):

Can the Minister update the Senate on the state of education in Myanmar?

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales – Minister for Foreign Affairs):

Children in Myanmar face the prospect that they will have a lower level of education than their parents.

Successive generations have been affected by low government investment in education and a shortage of teachers.

In 2010, around one million children were not attending school, and only 54% of children completed primary school.

The Myanmar Government is undertaking a Comprehensive Education Review – the first in 30 years.

Australia co-chairs with UNICEF the working group which is overseeing the Review.

The Review will help to better target investment in education.

Australia has allocated $80 million over four years for education. This year alone, Australian funding

– provided 620,000 children with textbooks and writing materials;
– trained 9,000 teachers; and
– fed 37,500 children as an incentive to attend school.

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