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Reflections on #AAC2023

Panel 4f from the Conference: Georgia Davis (WWF-Australia), Dr Sarah Milne (Crawford School of Public Policy), Alex McClean (Nakau), and Ellis Mackenzie (Sustineo)

The 2023 Australasian AID Conference (AAC2023) may have passed, but we are still buzzing from the excitement! Sustineo was proud to be a sponsor of AAC2023, held last week on 5–7 December at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.

AAC2023 brought together the academic, policy, and practitioner communities from across Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and the Pacific region to share insights on the region’s most pressing development challenges in pursuit of enhanced collaboration, greater impact, and better evidence-based policy and programming. It is crucial that dialogues in development are informed by a diverse range of stakeholders from across the region.

A keynote panel with a full audience at AAC2023.

We had a blast connecting with so many people working in the development sector. It was eye-opening to hear about the work people have been doing. And while we acknowledge the challenges that global development is facing, including climate change, gender inequality, and more, we are hopeful to see so many people who are passionately driving our world towards a better future.

Two stars from our team – Ellis Mackenzie and Kate Lanyon – took to the stage at AAC2023 to present our recent research. Ellis presented Sustineo’s research on the state of voluntary carbon markets in the Pacific in Panel 4f, while Kate presented findings about the current status of evidence about social protection in the Pacific and Timor-Leste in Panel 5c. If these topics are of interest to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Ellis ( and Kate (

Besides Ellis and Kate, many of our team members also had a chance to participate in AAC2023. Here are some of their highlights and favourite moments from this inspiring conference:

Tom Sloan, CEO: It was a privilege for Sustineo to support to this year’s AAC as a sponsor. The AAC is unique among annual events in the Australasian aid sector in its explicit focus on the nexus of research, policy, and advocacy. This year’s conference was especially important in this regard, coming so soon after the launch of the Australian Government’s new international development policy in August. The conference provided a timely opportunity for discussion, and at times robust debate, of the central themes in the new policy, including locally led development, climate change, social inclusion, and development effectiveness. These exchanges have given us much to think about for our ever-evolving practice at Sustineo and how we can best align our work with the tenets of the new development policy. As always, this year’s AAC not only provided an important forum for the exchange of research findings, lessons learned, and new ideas, it has also prompted all of us who work in the sector to reflect upon our values, and to renew our shared commitment to sustainable development and the elimination of poverty in the Indo-Pacific region.

Matt Allen, Principal Consultant: It was terrific to reconnect with so many friends, former colleagues, collaborators, and partners, and to have the opportunity to make some new connections. The conference was once again extremely well planned and organised, with careful thought given to the coherence of the various parallel sessions. The opening address by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Professor Biman Prasad, was a real highlight for me. It was wonderful to have the proceedings kick-off with a strong Pacific voice and perspective. Professor Biman’s call for greater integration of Australia, New Zealand, and the Blue Pacific via an open visa system was thought provoking and well argued, especially in terms of its potential for making our shared region a world leader in approaches to climate change and the energy transition.
You can watch Professor Biman’s address on the Development Policy Centre’s YouTube channel here.

Ellis Mackenzie, Senior Consultant: A highlight of the fantastic conference was the presentation by Alex McClean from Nakau on the role that the Australian development sector can play in using high-integrity carbon markets to bring about positive change for local communities and ecosystems in the Pacific. A key takeaway for me was that if offsetting your organisation’s emissions through cheap carbon credits seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Instead, high-integrity credits should be expensive. In the Pacific, we need development actors to employ a rights-based approach that prioritises social outcomes for local communities.

Panel 4f (L–R): Georgia Davis (WWF-Australia), Alex McClean (Nakau), Dr Sarah Milne (Crawford School of Public Policy), and Ellis Mackenzie (Sustineo).

Kate Lanyon, Consultant: I had a ball at my first AAC! It was fantastic to have a chance to meet so many people working in the aid and development space, and to hear from people across all stages of their careers. A key takeaway for me that emerged across several panel sessions was that we should be working to have our own organisations reflect the positive values we are seeking in development projects. This applies to many areas, including pursuing gender equality, ensuring good monitoring and learning processes, and making space for marginalised voices to be heard.

Ngoc Trinh, Graduate Consultant: I was very impressed with the quote from Dr Andrew Leigh in his keynote speech about impact evaluations of development programmes and policies. He advised policymakers to stay passionate about the results that they are working towards, but remain objective about the policies that have been put forward to achieve those results.

Thank you to everyone who helped make the conference and exceptional experience over the three days. We look forward to the next AAC! In the meantime, be sure to connect with us on LinkedIn and Facebook to stay up to date on events, projects, publications, and our team!