40 years on, the 40 Hour Famine has helped millions

Still want to change the world? You can help the projects supported by the 40 Hour Famine by donating.


Long before ​she was known for gold hot pants, Australia’s own Kylie Minogue was known for something else – giving up her time and food for the 40 Hour Famine. 

But she wasn’t alone. Kylie and sister Dannii are just two of the millions of Australians who have done the 40 Hour Famine to raise money for World Vision.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the event, a charity campaign that has become so ingrained in its home country it’s made its way into both popular culture and family life, while raising roughly $200 million for programs in developing countries.

In 1975 there were a lot of changes for Australians. It was the year colour television first made it to air, Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam stunned the nation with The Dismissal, Saigon fell in the Vietnam War, Picnic at Hanging Rock was released, and Graham Kennedy got quickly shuffled off a live TV broadcast for his “crow call”. It was also the year 16,000 Victorians signed up for the first 40 Hour Famine, and raised $570,000 in the process.

One participant was to become particularly well known, especially to World Vision supporters. Future CEO Tim Costello signed up at the urging of his younger brother – and future federal treasurer – Peter. Like so many others, they spent the weekend with nothing but barley sugars to eat. 

Lalu and Sarita six years on

We first shared Lalu and Sarita's stories with the Australian public in 2009, when their community in Nepal was struggling with the effects of hunger and poverty. Six years on, we're sharing how funds raised through the 40 Hour Famine have made a difference in their lives.
Donate Help set up a hungry and struggling family with a reliable and lasting source of nutrition and income.

40 years of the 40 Hour Famine – thanks to you!

Remember when you wanted to change the world? We’re looking back on what the past 40 years of the 40 Hour Famine has meant for people like you.

By 1978 the event was national, and now 400,000 people across 20 countries take part – or pretend to; Aussies and our Kiwi counterparts prove it’s tougher Down Under, with other countries holding 30, 24, 20, 12 and even eight hour famines!

But when the cast of Neighbours joined the Famine in 1994, they committed to the full 40 hours, and in 1997 ABC hit Heartbreak High even staged a school sleepover for its characters as they swapped three square meals for barley sugars and water.  

Over the years millions of participants have either signed up to do their bit, or donated to someone doing the Famine.

Actors Hugh Jackman, Rowena Wallace, Rebecca Gibney, Craig McLachlan, Jason Donovan, Andrew Daddo and Garry McDonald have all put their empty stomachs where their mouths are, as have sportsmen Dennis Lilley, David Boon and Andrew Gaze, and musicians Angry Anderson, Marina Prior and James Morrison.

While the 40 Hour Famine has become a rite of passage for young people in Australia’s own community, changing young people’s lives by giving them what is often their first taste of activism and engagement in social justice.

A lot of things have changed since 1975; hairstyles (thankfully), and fashion (phew), but nothing has changed as much as the lives of people helped with the money raised.

In the early 80s, drought gripped Ethiopia, and famine followed in 1984-85. Images of the barren landscape and dying children flooded into living rooms and jolted the world to action.

More than 15 people a day were dying in the Antsokia Valley when 40 Hour Famine funds were directed to the emergency work being done to save lives.

Today, the same region is unrecognisable from the heartbreaking wasteland that galvanised the public to act all those years ago.  



World Vision first began work in Ethiopia in 1971. By the time famine struck, it was well-placed to respond across the country, including in the devastated Antsokia Valley.

Located in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, the Antsokia Valley was a focal point of the response after drought ravaged the area, putting millions of lives in danger and ending tens of thousands more across the country. A massive relief operation began in response, with World Vision joining the fight to save lives.

After the drought ended, World Vision trained farmers in resilience and disaster preparedness.

“Our work training farmers in better ways to manage forests, running small-scale farms and connecting households to local resources, has proven that communities can become more resilient and withstand shocks over time,” says Margaret Schuler, World Vision Ethiopia National Director.

Today, children thrive in what has become the lush landscape of Antsokia, one of the areas hardest-hit 30 years ago.

“[…] Children and their families no longer suffer from food insecurity. This is an amazing accomplishment. We regularly hear of farmers producing surplus [food,] as crop production in the region has increased by 100 percent in the last five years alone,” says Ms. Schuler.

The Government of Ethiopia has been a longstanding development partner. Local government bodies have been actively involved in project planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, contributing hugely to this success.

TOP LEFT: The barren and dusty Antsokia Village, ravaged by drought in 1984–85. TOP RIGHT: Thirty years later, the Antsokia Village is now a lush landscape. BOTTOM: Farmer Adebe, 50, experienced the famine of 1984–85 firsthand, helpless as his daughter starved and his crops died.

In 1984, you would never see something like a big farm. Even trying to grow seedlings would have been impossible [...]. [Now,] I am able to provide fruit and vegetables to my children and see that they are healthy

Adebe, one of many farmers who benefited from World Vision’s training programs

Conditions in the Antsokia Valley have dramatically improved over the past 30 years as a result of a concerted effort between local governments, organisations ​such as World Vision and donors like you.



Of progress in the Antsokia valley, saving millions of lives


million trees

Planted (with the community’s help) in the area


percent increase

In crop production over the past 5 years alone

The 40 Hour Famine has helped to reduce hunger and malnutrition for millions of people living in poverty around the world, and it’s all possible thanks to the generosity of Australians over the past 40 years.

In 1975, then Communications Director, David Longe, decided to hold a fundraising event to help feed hungry children.

Thus, the 40 Hour Famine was born. David’s vision turned into hundreds of thousands of Australians taking a stand and going without food for 40 hours to raise money for hungry people throughout the world.

By going without something as basic as food, Australians are supporting World Vision’s work. The 40 Hour Famine has since been one of Australia’s biggest youth events.

In August, World Vision Australia celebrates 40 years of kindness and sacrifice. We’re thanking the millions of Australians who have fought poverty and hunger, and for inspiring their friends and family to do the same.