World Vision thanks Australians for 40 years of giving up for global hunger

World Vision is celebrating 40 years of Australia’s iconic 40 Hour Famine and expects tens of thousands of young people to give up something important to them to help fight global hunger this weekend.

Over four decades, millions of Australians have raised more than $200 million to help people living in poverty in countries like Ethiopia, Nepal, East Timor and Bangladesh.

World Vision Australia’s chief executive Tim Costello said the 40 Hour Famine had become a rite of passage for many young Australians and it was often the first form of social activism they got involved in at school or university.

“Every year for 40 years the 40 Hour Famine has inspired and educated thousands of young Australians to question why poverty exists and what they can do about overcoming it,” Mr Costello said.  

“Three generations of Australians have grown up with the 40 Hour Famine and during this time it has woven itself into the fabric of Australian life.”

Beginning in Victoria in 1975, the 40 Hour Famine grew into a national event in three years. It really hit its strides in the 1980s when it became ‘hip’ among young people and began engaging some of our most popular celebrities, like Rowena Wallace who travelled to Africa to help young Australians see what poverty was like.

During the 1990s and 2000s, the 40 Hour Famine appeared in popular television programs like Neighbours, Heartbreak High and Big Brother and television networks held star-studded telethons that inspired a nation to ‘change the world’.

Many notable Australians have supported the 40 Hour Famine including ex-Prime Ministers – Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser who were national patrons - and countless celebrities including Bert Newton, Garry McDonald, Kylie and Dannii Minogue, Hugh Jackman, Hamish Blake, Craig McLachlan, Melissa Doyle and many more.

Mr Costello said World Vision wanted to thank the millions of Australians who had taken part plus all the friends, family and neighbours who have supported their efforts to create a world without poverty.

“Australians have been there to help the poor during famines, floods, earthquakes and war, and also for the long term, addressing hunger and malnutrition through training and education, healthcare and better livelihoods.”

The 40 Hour Famine evolved in the mid-1990s, so that people could give up something other than food - involving people who felt surviving on barley sugars and water for 40 hours wasn’t an option. While today some people choose to give up the use of a limb, furniture, Facebook or smart phones, food remains the most popular item to give up.

Today the 40 Hour Famine is still as strong as ever and connects with young people through their favourite mediums – social media and online. It is held in more than 20 countries and approximately 400,000 young people take part each year - making it one of the largest youth fundraising and education events globally.

While global hunger is very much a current crisis, with one in eight children going to bed hungry each night, there have been many significant achievements in reducing poverty over the past 40 years.

A concerted effort by the international community since 2000 through the Millennium Development Goals has helped lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty and the number of children dying under-five has declined by more than half.

Mr Costello said the 40 Hour Famine had played an important role in helping millions of people out of poverty.

“Many Australians will remember the devastating famine in Ethiopia during the mid-1980s where half a million people died,” he said.

“Australians rallied and donated more than $10 million over several years of the 40 Hour Famine for emergency food, medicine and shelter. Thanks to World Vision support globally, the area once known as the ‘Valley of Death’ has been transformed into a lush and fertile food-producing region and where most children are adequately nourished.”

This year funds raised by the 40 Hour Famine will go towards World Vision projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor, Laos, Malawi, Nepal, Swaziland and Uganda. Australian’s can join the 40 Hour Famine at or make a donation on World Vision’s website.


Photo Gallery and Fact Sheet containing 40 facts from 40 years of the 40 Hour Famine available here.


Media contacts:

For interviews, images and assistance identifying a school doing the 40 Hour Famine or another pictorial opportunity in your area please contact:

Tamara Blackmore | 0403 894 558|

Jessica Ciccotelli | 0402 971 225 |

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