In this article, we conduct the first‐ever systematic study of Australian aid project appraisals. Using a previously unstudied data set of appraisals, we study project and recipient country factors influencing Australian aid effectiveness. We find effectiveness varies more within recipient countries than between countries. We find larger projects are more likely to be successful. Humanitarian projects are more successful on average than development projects. We also find that Australian aid is less likely to succeed in the Pacific than elsewhere, a significant finding given Australia's increased focus on the region. Finally, we show that Australia does not appear to be an unusual donor: when we compare Australia with other donors in a global data set, we find similar variables are correlated with effectiveness for most donors, including Australia.