Poverty is still holding Asia’s tigers in a trap
AUSTRALIA and the west are engaged with South- East Asia like never before, as the so- called tiger economies mature and the focus of international business and finance itself shifts east from the traditional centres of Europe and North America.
But it’s not all business: the region is still a part of the developing world and vast swathes of the population still live in poverty.
Subsequently, the opportunities for people who want to make a difference socially are just as great as for those of a more mercantile persuasion, and Austraining International is seeking more and more volunteers and technical professionals alike to join their burgeoning business in this region.
Austraining started life around 15 years ago - with the South Australian state government as major shareholder - in the project management of agricultural projects but is growing from being a niche provider to delivering a rounded business covering education, technical assistance and implementation of governance structure.
Business development director, Tony Vonthoff, believes Austraining’s growing range of services provides benefits to both Australia and the countries it works in beyond what is immediately provided.
‘‘ We contribute a lot more than our relatively modest shareholder return: we provide a lot of political capital and a lot of political goodwill, we are involved in developing skills in developing countries,’’ he says. ‘‘ Geographically speaking, we’re looking at the Indonesian region and the Philippines because the government is focusing on education provision because better education leads to better results in so many areas.
‘‘ We work with women in developing countries and also children - there are so many people living in poverty in those areas and poor education leads to a poor amount of choices and a lack of opportunities.’’
Austraining has managed over 300 bilateral and multilateral projects throughout the Asia Pacific and the Middle East and their specialised project teams are skilled in designing individual programs to meet the social, cultural, industrial and organisational needs of the client.
They manage two of Australia’s most significant and successful volunteer programs on behalf of AusAID: Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development ( AYAD), places skilled young Australians between the ages of 18- 30 into regional countries for assignments of up to 12 months in duration and the Volunteering for International Development from Australia ( VIDA) program places highly skilled volunteers for assignments of up to 36 months.
With strong links to leading educational institutions, Austraining can boast expertise in all key areas of education improvement from policy, systematic reform, schools management, teacher training, curriculum development and monitoring and evaluation.
Austraining also manages the Endeavour Awards, an internationally competitive, merit- based scholarship program, in partnership with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations ( DEEWR).
They deliver projects in a range of health care fields, including maternal and child health, health management, evidence- based advisory services, policy review and risk management and assist client governments to improve governance controls at the interface of the public, private and community sectors. ‘‘ The range of skills we’re seeking is so wide: depending on the technical assistance program we’re pursuing in any one place, it could be education, economic development, financial management, local government budget management, social awareness to aid development projects the list goes on,’’ Mr Vonthoff says.
‘‘ We even have a journalism program, helping local journalists develop skills on both a technical basis and in terms of journalism itself - that would be a six- month program linking technical advisers and those skilled in the delivery of training, and mixing on- the- ground education and a study tour of Australia.
‘‘ We’re seeking both volunteers and professionals. Volunteers can embark on programs with schedules from anywhere between a month and a year, but technical providers can also find themselves in all sorts of countries.’’
Austraining’s head office was established in 1991 and is located in Adelaide, while a fully owned subsidiary was established in Indonesia in 1993 and operates from Jakarta.
Their footprint into the Asia Pacific is further extended via four regional offices located in Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta and Port Moresby with 19 branch offices throughout the region.
Government ownership means that Austraining has access to specialists from the full range of government sectors and functions.
This encompasses effective policy development processes, up- to- date information systems, accountable management and professional human resources administration that is all internationally bench- marked.
With the quality of expertise available, Austraining adopts a cooperative approach to development assistance with an established network of more than 600 partner organisations in Australia, Asia and the Pacific.
In addition to government ministries, the network includes specialist institutes, universities, private sector organisations and NGOs, enabling Austraining to form partnerships with organisations with world class specialists and experience interested in contributing to development assistance.