Mongolia is a land-locked country whose people, spread across both urban and rural areas, face hardships stemming from severe weather conditions and an increasingly degraded natural environment. Mongolia's steady economic growth over the last decade, driven by high-level foreign investment in its mining industry, has sent poverty levels on a downwards spiral however there is still a growing disparity between rural and urban living standards.
Australia’s aid program aims to promote well-governed, efficient public and private sectors that support Mongolian communities to benefit from resource-driven growth.
Australian volunteers in Mongolia are placed in sectors which align with both Australian and Mongolian Government development priorities, including human resource development, mining for development, water and sanitation, and disaster risk reduction. Host organisations can be government agencies, local NGOs or INGOs and multilateral agencies.
Darkhan, one of the largest cities in Mongolia, is the agricultural heart of the country. It is located 220km north of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city: a three hour drive along the Ulaabaatar – Selenge trunk road. It is connected by rail to both the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Chinese railway system.
The city has access to a wide variety of foods, goods and services. It also has the second largest educational centre in the country which is attended by students from all over Mongolia. It is said that Darkhan is a very pleasant place to live compared with other major cities in Mongolia. While this area has extremely cold and dry winters, the summers are warmer and more humid.
Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is a large city of over a million people that serves as the cultural, political, economic and social hub of the country. The centre of the city is Sukhbaatar Square, from which all other distances are measured. The city is divided into six districts and many sub districts and micro districts. Ulaanbaatar offers a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes, museums and cultural venues, all of which can be accessed using cheap trolleybuses which run from 6.00am to 10.00pm daily, buses or taxis that operate across the whole city. It is the centre of Mongolia's road network and is connected by rail to both the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Chinese railway system.
Ulaanbaatar, much like the Mongolian population, is itself a nomad, having changed locations over twenty times over the past 350 years. Having now settled, it is known as a city of contrast with an interesting mix of nomadic traditions and modern society. Gers (felt tents) nestle amongst skyscrapers, and traditionally clothed herders mix with business people in suits. There is a combination of the chaos of city life, and the quiet serenity of monastery courtyards and public squares. Mongolia has an extreme continental climate, with a long winter from November to February where the average temperature is -20 degrees, and a short summer from July to September with an average temperature of 20 degrees.