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Jubilee Australia grew out of an international movement that was rooted in the principle of global economic justice. Campaigners in the Global South had long been demanding debt cancellation, after being rocked by the 'third world debt crisis' of the 1980s.  

The Australian Jubilee Drop the Debt Coalition was formed in 1997 and had more than 60 member groups from the aid sector, labour unions and church groups. Our Jubilee 2000 petition became the largest foreign policy petition ever tabled in Australia, collecting a staggering 450,000 signatures. Jubilee Australia was founded in 2001. 

The debt campaign saw several successes through the 2000s: 

  • In 1999, the global debt campaign pushed the G8 to reform the Heavily Impacted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative to allow faster and deeper debt relief for countries in difficultly. In 2005, the G8 expanded the program to multilateral and bilateral debt cancellation for all HIPC countries. 
  • In 2004, pressure from Jubilee Australia saw our nation cancel the bilateral debts owed to it of the HIPC countries Nicaragua ($5.4 million) and Ethiopia ($7.9 million). 
  • In 2007, the Rudd government responded to years of advocacy from Jubilee to cancel a proportion ($37.5 million) of Indonesia's debt in exchange for a contribution to the Global Fund programs addressing tuberculosis in Indonesia. 

As the drop the debt campaign was winding down in Australia by the late 2000s, Jubilee Australia started to broaden its attention to other areas. In 2010, it spearheaded the Robin Hood Tax campaign in Australia, which was part of a global push after the 2008 financial crisis to reduce destabilisation of financial markets and make the financial sector contribute to social goods. 

Jubilee has for the past decade been the preeminent civil society watchdog of Australia's export credit agency: formally EFIC, now called Export Finance Australia (EFA). We continue to lead the push to make EFA adopt more appropriate social and environmental policies in its financial support of Australian corporations operating overseas. 

Starting in 2013, Jubilee started to directly address the impact that Australian companies were having on communities in the Asia Pacific region. Through research and targeted advocacy, we look at the impacts that our corporations are having on human rights, the environment and climate change-related impacts in the region.