Australian Lutheran World Service is the overseas aid and resettlement agency of the Lutheran Church of Australia. It operates under a constitution approved by the General Synod of the LCA, and is consistent with the objects of the LCA Constitution.

Who We Are

ALWS is an agency of the Lutheran Church of Australia.

It’s our privilege to invite the Lutheran family in Australia and New Zealand to reach out to people hurt by poverty, injustice and crisis.

We then work together to support those who are hurt, as they build a better life for themselves and their families

Vision & Mission


We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Jesus said, “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. Naked and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me… Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers or sisters of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me."
(Matt 25:35, 36, 40)


ALWS envisages a world where love comes to life (cf 1 John 4:9-12). A world where all people live in just societies, where we are all empowered to achieve our full potential, uphold our rights and the rights of others for a life with peace and dignity; and where we are all inspired to remember, welcome and support those who suffer from poverty and injustice.
(cf Gal 2:10 & Lev 25:35)


ALWS reaches out in love, for justice. We bring together people willing to work in service to help end suffering. As partners, we work openly and accountably, supporting programs which welcome, respect and bring hope through care to those fleeing from, or hurt by, disaster, poverty and oppression. We add our voice to those of the unheard and the excluded, together crying out for justice so that we can all live in just and sustainable communities.

Strategic Plan

Each of the following principles is important to the work of ALWS. Collectively they shape and determine the work of the organisation.


We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Jesus said, “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. Naked and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me… Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers or sisters of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me (Matt 25:35, 36, 40).”


ALWS envisages a world where love comes to life (cf 1 John 4:9-12).

A world where all people live in just societies, where we are all empowered to achieve our full potential, uphold our rights and the rights of others for a life with peace and dignity; and where we are all inspired to remember, welcome and support those who suffer from poverty and injustice (cf Gal 2:10 & Lev 25:35).


ALWS reaches out in love, for justice.

We bring together people willing to work in service to help end suffering.

As partners, we work openly and accountable, supporting programs which welcome, respect and bring hope through care to those fleeing from, or hurt by, disaster, poverty and oppression.

We add our voice to those of the unheard and the excluded, together crying out for justice so that we can all live in just and sustainable communities.

Guiding Principles

Each of the following principles is important to the work of ALWS. Collectively they shape and determine the work of the organisation.


We serve all people who are poor or marginalised, expecting nothing in return.
1 John 4: 19; 1 John 3: 17; Matt 25: 35-46


We work to ensure that people have the opportunity to be included in the planning, implementation and assessment of the work which is designed to support them. Particular effort is taken to ensure that those who are marginalised by age, gender, disability, ethnicity, social class, religion, political opinion or other characteristics are included.


Our intention is to enable people to determine and control their own development, guided by a focus on long-term sustainability.


We uphold human value and dignity which have their basis in God’s act of creation, where all people are made in God’s image, and in the redemptive love that is won through Jesus Christ.
Gen 1:27; Gen 9:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19


Consistent with the church’s prophetic vocation, we express our solidarity with people who suffer from poverty and marginalisation through advocacy for justice – aspiring to speak out with courage and enabling others to speak out and be heard.
Isaiah 1:17; 58:6


We seek alliances with others who share a commitment to alleviating poverty and promoting justice. Our partnerships are marked by mutual respect, interdependence, and learning from and with each other so all are transformed.
Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:16


We recognise what we are able and unable to do as an organisation and are honest about what support and resources we can provide and why.
Matt 25:14-23


We are accountable to those we seek to assist, working with them to ensure the best use of available resources. We will be transparent with those who support our work, enabling them to experience the joy of sharing in such a partnership.


We work collegially for the good of the organisation and each other. We recognise the dedication and talent of those who work with us and promote their well-being. We welcome the commitment, interest and generosity of supporters.


We do not have absolute knowledge and seek to learn and improve so that our work for others will be the best that we can offer. In doing this, we also recognise what our limitations are as an organisation.


ALWS’ understanding and preferred approach towards the realisation of the change that we seek to achieve through our Strategic Plan is articulated here. This document explains ALWS’ approach and includes:

1. Our understanding of poverty and injustice 

2. Contributing to an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for people 

3. Informing and inspiring the Lutheran family about poverty and injustice 

4. Improving and strengthening our work

5. Assessing what we do.


The ALWS guiding principles provide the foundation for ALWS to manage its work across the next six years, within the dynamic context of international development and aid. For further information about ALWS’ context, refer to page 4 of the Strategic Plan.

There are a range of emerging challenges facing international NGOs:

  • As inequality grows within countries, development efforts will have to be carefully targeted to reach the most poor and marginalised people.
  • There are likely to be more disasters, especially disasters caused by people, and these in turn are likely to be more complex and more enduring.
  • Problems of inequality and poverty will be more complex, and NGOs and others will have to work together to develop solutions.
  • The focus of much of this work will be on enabling and empowering people to work for change and supporting them to address poverty and injustice.
  • By virtue of its location, ALWS’ particular context is Asia/Pacific where climate change is already impacting the people with whom we work. 

Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly East Africa, has also emerged as a geographic focus for ALWS. 

While the context is challenging and ALWS will have to adapt, it can build on its existing strengths. ALWS’ work is highly valued by overseas partners because it is adaptable and flexible in its approach.

The organisation has nurtured several alliances and partnerships with other organisations, including the Church Agencies Network, which enables it to expand its influence and work effectively for change. ALWS’ approach to change is built on many years of learning and practice, enabling it to shape an informed and high-quality approach to change (see Annex A).

ALWS is inspired by a belief in a gracious and loving God, and so plays a unique role in supporting work through churches or church-based partners which have a close relationship with rights-holders and duty bearers. 

ALWS is recognised by both the Australian Government and the Australian Council for International Development as being highly accountable and compliant with standards for government funding. These forms of accreditation are independent verification of the high development standards of the organisation.

ALWS is part of the Lutheran Church of Australia. The ALWS Strategic Plan complements the Strategic Direction of the LCA. ALWS provides the LCA with the opportunity to address poverty and injustice in other countries. It is in turn able to draw upon the support, knowledge and experience of the Church.

ALWS’ Guiding Principles shape the work of the agency as it moves forward in this context. Building on its strengths and addressing the challenges outlined above, the agency has formed specific goals to be addressed over the next six years.


These goals identify the change that ALWS will seek to achieve over the next six years. Each goal is equally important to ALWS. The goals are underpinned by the strategic approach of the agency and guided by ALWS’ principles. Refer to page 5 of the Strategic Plan for more details.

GOAL 1 ALWS will help through partners to ensure people live in more just and sustainable communities through long-term development programs, and that people affected by emergencies receive life-sustaining care.

GOAL 2 ALWS will inspire and enable the Lutheran family and friends1 to reach out in love for justice.

GOAL 3 ALWS will strive to improve to enable it to best serve people, communities and supporters.

GOAL 4 ALWS will strengthen as an organisation to ensure it is transparent and accountable to people, communities, partners and supporters.

GOAL 5 ALWS will partner with others to leverage wider change and increase its impact.

GOAL 6 ALWS will resource its work with the people, funds and time needed to sustain the work of the organisation.

Our History

Our Origins - 15 June 1947

The origin of ALWS can be traced back to 1947 when the local pastor at Albury, New South Wales, Pastor Bruno Muetzelfeldt, commenced a ministry to European migrants and refugees who were being resettled through the Bonegilla Migrant Centre, a short distance from Albury. 


The early days - 1950s

Acknowledging the need to assist these people settle in Australia, the Lutheran World Federation establishes a Lutheran World Service Australia (LWS-A) office at Bonegilla with Pastor Muetzelfeldt as its first representative.

In 1951, the LWS-A office assists in resettling displaced European refugees. 300 families are reunited. Bilingual pastors act as ship chaplains on the voyage to Australia, while loans help grow migrant churches.

By 1955, LWS-A has assisted in the resettlement of 2,350 refugees.

Reaching out - 1960s

A Secondary Purpose Revolving Loan Fund to help families resettle is established. 

In 1966, the Lutheran Church in Australia (LCA) unifies. The head of LWS-A, Sidney Bartsch, directs the LCA’s attention to relief, rehabilitation and development programs around the world, and encourages Australian Lutherans to contribute. 

A year later, LWS-A joins the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACOA, now ACFID) and Austcare, and participates in the Refugee Council of Australia.

Changing times - 1970s

The Australian Government decides to close Bonegilla. Dean Street, Albury is chosen as the site for LWS-A’s office, with a focus on global aid ad especially on refugees.

In 1974, LWS-A receives funds from Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB, then AusAID, now DFAT) for the first time.

In 1978, LWS-A establishes a Resettlement Loan Fund to help refugees from Asia.

(By 2003, 1,983 families have received loans of more than $1,260,000).

Working together - 1980s & 1990s

In 1985, LWS-A becomes Australian Lutheran World Service. Then, in 1991, ALWS becomes an agency of the Lutheran Church of Australia.

In 1995, ALWS also joins ACT (Action by Churches Together – churches of many denominations worldwide working together).

A time of growth - 2000s

The New Executive Secretary, Peter Schirmer, works on developing closer relationships with the Board for Mission (now LCA International Mission) and Lutheran Education Australia.

In 2004, ALWS begins supporting projects in PNG.

Following the Boxing Day Tsunami in the same year, work begins in Indonesia supporting the HKBP’s (Indonesians’ largest Lutheran Church) response. By 2007, the work in Indonesia has expanded with the Lutheran Laypeople’s League fully funding the program.

In 2009, Burundi is taken on as a new country program.

More help than ever before - 2017

The ALWS family, with Australian Government support, gives $8.6 million – the most help in ALWS history!

Who We Work With

The Lutheran World Federation - World Service

Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of 148 churches in the Lutheran tradition representing over 75.5 million Christians...

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Church Agencies Network

The Church Agency Network is a group of 11 Australian church-based aid and development agencies.   The network is an...

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ACT Alliance

Australian Lutheran World Service is a member of ACT Alliance, and work through ACT Alliance in times of natural disasters...

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Evangelical Lutheran Church Papua New Guinea (ELC-PNG)

Through the Church Partnership Program (CPP) in PNG, ALWS works to strengthen the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG’s capacity to...

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Centre for Disaster Risk Management & Community Development Studies (CDRM&CDS)

The Lutheran churches in Indonesia are strongly committed to living their faith through service to their neighbour.   A key...

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Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA)

The Lutheran Church is the largest Protestant church in the world, with over 70 million members.    The LCA’s tagline, “where...

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International Mission

The Lutheran Church of Australia was two difference arms reaching out across the borders of our community to share Jesus'...

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Lutheran Laypeople’s League (LLL Australia)

ALWS works hard to stretch the value of the funds with which supporters entrust us to help people facing poverty...

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Lutheran Education Australia (LEA)

Lutheran Education Australia (LEA) is committed to the mission and ministry of the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) through supporting...

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Australian Council for International Development (ACFID)

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) is the peak body for Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) involved in international development...

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Why Trust ALWS?

Code Compliant

We are a member of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and a compliant signatory to ACFID’s Code of Conduct.

The Code requires members to meet high standards of corporate governance, public accountability, and financial management.

More information about the ACFID Code of Conduct can be obtained from ACFID.

ACFID logo

Government Accredited

ALWS is accredited with the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)

This means ALWS is eligible to receive funding from the government and must meet strict financial, reporting and project requirements.

More information about DFAT is available on their website.

ACNC Registered

The ACNC Tick of Charity Registration (the Registered Charity Tick) aims to give reassurance to the public that the charity is transparent and accountable by highlighting its presence on the ACNC Charity Register.

Charities must meet ACNC governance standards. These standards set out a minimum standard on how charities should be governed, such as being accountable to members. Charities must also keep records that correctly document and explain their net wealth, performance, and operations. They also have ongoing obligations to the ACNC to continue to display the ACNC Tick.

More information can be found here.

Independently Evaluated

ALWS is regularly and systematically monitored and evaluated by independent assessors.

Jan Cossar, an independent International Development Consultant, said the following of ALWS:

“Although a small NGO in Australia, ALWS is highly regarded in the NGO community. Its contribution to NGO and development work in Australia as well as to the broader LWF community is much bigger than its size. ALWS punches above its weight!

“One of the challenges when an organisation is considered so effective and doing such a good job with limited resources is a tendency to take on more and more work with the same level of human resources. There is a need for ALWS to have the resources to ensure the quality and quantity of work that they do, and I urge Lutheran supporters to assist as much as possible given ALWS’s great contribution to the aid and development sector.”


We are committed to using your gifts as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Therefore, we aim to invest wisely in overheads to achieve maximum impact.

However, possible decreases in funding, maintaining standards, meeting additional compliance requirements, and staff care mean this rate can change.

Over the last 5 years, 86.88% of ALWS income has been used to help and educate people.



We link Relief, Rehabilitation and Development. Our work includes:

  • Disaster preparedness within development work which is crucial to ensuring the eventual self-sustainability of individuals and communities. Environmental issues, gender justice, disability-inclusion, protection, and other thematic areas are considered integral parts of all actions undertaken. 
  • A Rights-Based Approach that recognises communities as rights-holders and agents of change in situations of human rights deprivations and violations. We empower people to claim their rights and develops the capacity of duty-bearers to meet their human rights obligations and to be held to account for their performance in this regard.
  • Being part of a global partnership committed to ending all forms of poverty, fighting inequalities and tackling climate change and strategically partner with others to avoid duplicating and thereby wasting precious resources
  • Using an integrated approach to development and humanitarian work. This means intentionally linking the design, delivery, and evaluation of programs across disciplines and sectors. We believe that this approach not only produces an amplified impact as it improves people’s lives in multiple ways, but also lowers costs and enhances systems, services, and products; thereby improving development efforts. 
  • Prioritising our support to the poor and vulnerable people with a specific focus on women, children, people with disabilities”.


We are accountable to the Lutheran Church of Australia.

ALWS is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the General Church Council and the District Church Councils. ALWS reports to the Church through General Church Council and Synods. This includes submission of Annual Report and Audited Financial Statements.

Governance & Staff

Board of Directors

Reverend Peter Hage
BTh GradDipMin

Ms Jodie Hoff
Queensland Director
BTeach, BEd, Grad DipED (Theology), MEdLeadership

Mr Peter Renner
Victorian Director

Mr Ian Rentsch
Vice Chair, NSW/ACT Director
BA Dip Ed, BSocAdmin, MBA

Ms Morgan Brookes
SA/NT Director
BA, B Ed

Board Advisory Group

Mr Ron Asquith
Finance Advisor
CPA BA Comm, Director ATS Accountants

Mr Don Elder
Human Resources Advisor

Mr Fred Kleinschmidt
Legal Advisor
BA/LLB, Solicitor & Former Mayor Hervey Bay

Mr Geoff Robinson
Expert on Disaster Risk Resilience. Senior Program Manager, Act For Peace

Mr Anthony Sell
Expert on Partnerships and institutional strengthening. International Program Director Baptist World Aid/Transform Aid International
Master of Counselling

Ms Yung Nietschke
Risk and Accountability
MA(Ed),BA/BSc – Consultant

Staff-Management Team

Ms Jamie Davies
Executive Director
MBAMInterAffairs & African Studies

Mrs Leah Odongo
Program Director/Deputy Executive Director
BAL/LL.B, MBA Management

Mr Jonathan Krause
Community Action Manager

Ms Chris Elies
Office Manager & Accountant
CA, B Bus (Acc)


Our highest priority working in developing countries is always to put efficiency and effectiveness of development work first. We are unable to offer visits to project areas.

However, our partner in Cambodia, Life With Dignity (LWD) does offer opportunities to visit projects. Click here for more information about their Universal Village Project.


ALWS does not offer volunteer opportunities. We may, however, be able to assist through advice and re-directing to specific agencies.


Many generous people, recognising how blessed we are here in Australia and New Zealand, feel moved to share what they have with families in poor communities. 

However, the mechanics of sending goods overseas generally make this an impractical and inefficient way to help people: 

  • shipping costs are very expensive 
  • customs duties can cost more than the value of goods themselves 
  • ALWS projects are often in remote regions, and transport costs can be high 
  • managing transport and distribution of goods can use a large amount of staff time, better applied elsewhere 
  • the proposed goods may not be appropriate for the local situation, and therefore may end up being discarded 
  • it can be difficult to make certain all members of a community benefit equally 
  • sourcing goods locally provides employment opportunities and benefits the local economy. 

For these reasons, ALWS does not support sending gifts-in-kind overseas. Donations of money are by far the most practical, efficient and effective means of helping. 

ALWS has been established by the Lutheran Church of Australia to meet human need, without any strings attached. This work takes us into places where there may not be local churches and involves us with people who may not be Christian.  This gives you the wonderful opportunity to reflect God’s unconditional love to others, and display in actions Jesus’ love for us. 

ALWS has been set up as a complementary body to the LCA’s International Mission, which has a mandate to spread the Gospel message. International Mission works primarily in partnership with overseas partner churches to strengthen and support their ministry. 

ALWS and International Mission work together as an expression of the total ministry of the LCA to both proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel message to the world. 

ALWS does not offer a child sponsorship program. A key reason is that our partners do not support this form of giving, as it’s not consistent with proven integrated and empowerment approaches to development. Another factor is the amount of resources required to operate such a program often means that a great deal of time and money is used up in running the program, rather than directly helping the people who need help. 

However, we do offer: 

1. The opportunity for Easy Regular Giving 

Your donation supports the work of ALWS, including our overseas program that assists whole communities in their long-term development, in countries such as Cambodia, Nepal and Sudan. You receive written updates twice a year on how your support is helping people around the world. 

2. Gifts to specific projects 

Although ALWS especially values gifts that are provided on an undesignated basis, donors are able to specify their gifts to particular projects with the ALWS Overseas Program. Currently, these projects are: 

  • Burundi 
  • Cambodia 
  • Djibouti 
  • Indonesia 
  • Kenya
  • Papua New Guinea 
  • South Sudan 

 3. Village Partnership in Cambodia 

This initiative involves being linked with a village in Cambodia and providing financial support for their development activities. Find out more 

It’s wonderful that you want to help others through ALWS. However, supporting only a specific activity can take up a lot of resources in terms of time and money relative to the size of the activity, and therefore it is not always the best or most efficient way to help. The following paragraphs may help to explain this. 

60 years of experience has demonstrated that individual activities which don’t fit within an overall development program don’t achieve sustainable outcomes. That’s why we support integrated development. 

Integrated development = all of the development activities work together. For example, rather than just a well being built, the project also makes sure that there is training in how to fix the pump if it breaks, training in good water and sanitation practices, and a road to get to the well! Just a well on its own isn’t so useful. 

ALWS and our partners also want to ensure that all projects are carefully monitored and evaluated. Therefore, any specific activity requires this same high standard of monitoring and evaluation. This follow-up in terms of proposals and reports which must be written creates a great deal of work for program and project staff and means that time and resources, which are  very stretched already, are perhaps not used as efficiently or effectively as they could be. 

We understand that it’s easier for people, especially children, to visualise how they are helping others by having a specific activity. That’s why we’ve tried to put in place a number of ways for people to understand the help they are providing while at the same time, making sure we use your donations as effectively and efficiently as possible: 

Our Gifts of Grace catalogues provide you with concrete examples of the kind of help you can provide to people in need through ALWS. 

Our Village Partnership  initiative links a group here in Australia with a developing village in Cambodia. 

Each year, we identify a number of specific activities which fit within our current programs and which you’re most welcome to support. In this way, we’re able to offer the link to specific support while at the same time making sure that specific activities don’t consume a disproportionate amount of resources and still fit within an overall development program. Contact us for further information. 

We value very highly donations made to the overall work of ALWS, as this allows us to use the funds where they are most needed to help the most number of people possible. Of course, we are also greatly appreciative of any support for specific activities and understand the need for these. Because of the increase in resources required for managing specific activities, any contribution you or your group can make to the overall work of ALWS throughout the year would be greatly appreciated. 

ALWS is accredited by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), responsible for managing Australia’s aid program. To maintain accreditation, ALWS’s systems, policies and processes are rigorously reviewed by the Australian Government. ALWS receives support through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) for our programs in Cambodia, Nepal and Indonesia. 

We are very grateful for the support we receive from the Australian Government. 


ALWS acknowledges its role, not primarily as an implementing agency but as an organization that supports and adds value by leveraging wider change to increase our impact.   


We do this through financial and technical support and work with other partners with whom we share common values and approaches to poverty injustice, recognising that we are part of a global partnership commitment to ending all forms of poverty and fighting inequalities. 


In Australia, this partnership includes:

  • Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (departments such as the Office of the Bishop, LCA International Mission)
  • Lutheran Education Australia
  • Lutheran Lay People’s League
  • Church Agencies Network
  • National Council of Churches’ aid agency Act for Peace
  • Australian Council for International Development
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Partners Overseas include:

  • Lutheran World Federation – World Service
  • Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea
  • Life With Dignity (LWD)
  • Nommensen University in Indonesia 
  • LWF Member churches


ALWS benefits from and contributes to the collaborative strengths and experiences of all our partnerships. The benefits of ALWS operating through partnerships are many and include:

  • The implementation of effective aid and development programs by trusted and accountable organisations in-country
  • Assurance of transparent and accountable financial systems for all projects
  • The sharing of professional development opportunities and materials
  • Access to a wide range of resources and expertise
  • The shared use of resources to ensure value for money