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Behind Vanuatu's postcard-perfect coastline is a country where 12.7 per cent of people live below the national poverty line. Many of these people live outside the capital, Port Vila, and lack quality primary education, basic health services, regular and safe water supply, modern energy and reliable transport, according to the Australian Aid program.

On the bright side, the Asian Development Bank says Vanuatu's economy outperformed most other Pacific island countries over the past decade, driven by the services, tourism and construction sectors.

Australia's aid to Vanuatu focuses on the priority areas of education, health, infrastructure, economic governance and law and justice. Priority sectors for Australian Volunteer assignments in Vanuatu include education, health, infrastructure and economic governance.

Find out more about Vanuatu by visiting the country specific Australian Aid and Department of Foreign Affairs Smart Traveller sites.


  • Lamap
  • Lenakel
  • Ranon Village
  • Luganville
  • Port Vila
  • Lakatoro, Malekula

Lamap Village in South East Malekula on Malekula Island which lies in the central part of Vanuatu in Malampa Province. Lamap is a rural community with shops selling basic commodities, a post office, medical clinic and a National Bank of Vanuatu branch. Other supplies can be purchased in Lakatoro, on Malekula and Port Vila and Luganville. There are no public power utilities in the village but generators and solar panels are in use. There is an airstrip and there are two flights a week from the capital city, Port Vila. An inter-island boat also visits weekly from Port Vila and Santo. There is another airport on Malekula at Norsup which has daily flights to Port Vila and Santo. There is a seasonal road from Lamap to Norsup.

Lenakel is the largest town on Tanna Island, which is located in Tafea Division in the southern region of Vanuatu. Tanna is known as the home of one of Vanuatu's most popular tourist attractions: the Mount Yasur volcano.

Tanna's local culture is largely unaffected by the western way of life, which can be experienced through day tours to local villages as well as custom ceremonies throughout the year such as the renowned Nekowiar or Toko ceremony.

Ranon Village is located on North Ambrym Island, Vanuatu. It is a rural community with basic conditions but mobile phone reception is available. The Health Centre and the Provincial Area Council are located in nearby Nobul which has one of the main anchorages in North Ambrym. There are at least two flights a week from Craig Cove to Santo or Vila. It is a three hour boat trip from Craig Cove to Ranon Village. Inter-island cargo vessels call into Craig Cove regularly. Ranon and Nobul villages are also serviced by inter-island vessels. Boat and truck transport is available for travelling to other surrounding villages. A small store is located within a fifteen minute walk from the village.

Luganville, the second largest city in Vanuatu, is located on the island of Santo in Sanma Province. It is simply called "Santo" by those from Vanuatu's northern islands who use Luganville as their major city, and also called "Kanal" by rural residents of the large island Espiritu Santo. It has a population of about 11,000 and has one of Vanuatu's busiest ports with a main street that sprawls along several kilometres of waterfront. The population is diverse and is comprised of indigenous Ni-Vanuatu in addition to descendants of Chinese and European migrants.
Luganville used to be a collection of scattered buildings separated by coconut plantations, but was transformed by Americans after WWII. It now offers a hospital, commercial banking facilities, shopping, restaurants and cafes. Minibuses are widely available during the day and taxis or a bicycle are the best options at other times. Swimming, snorkelling and fishing are commonplace activities. Luganville is sheltered by the Segond Channel and has a sleepy, tropical feel.

Port Vila is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu with a population of approximately 45 000. It is situated on the south coast of Efate Island in Shefa Province and serves as the tourism and commercial centre of Vanuatu. Port Vila is built around a bay; many areas stretch up the hillsides, offering a combination of stunning harbour views with a faded French atmosphere. Services include daily international flights, phone and internet coverage, quality restaurants and supermarkets and banking facilities. Buses in the form of mini vans, and walking, are the most common modes of transportation.
Temperatures range from warm to hot throughout the year, with a wet season early in the year, at which time the city is prone to cyclones. Swimming, snorkelling, fishing, enjoying waterfalls and playing team sports are commonplace activities.

The MPC is located in Lakatoro, the Malampa provincial capital of Malekula. It is the second largest island in Vanuatu and the most diverse, culturally and linguistically, with over 30 distinct languages spoken. It is close to all facilities and public transport. The interior of Malekula is mountainous, rugged and forest-covered with good walking tracks and bird-watching sites.

The names given to the primary cultural groups are Small Nambas and Big Nambas. The population is approximately 25 000 people in the coastal areas and 1 500 people in the rugged interior.
Norsup and Lakatoro are the most important towns in Malekula. Lakatoro, the administrative centre for Malampa province, has retail shops, markets, a National Bank of Vanuatu branch, an Air Vanuatu office, and the main wharf. The provincial hospital is in Norsup. There is an airstrip at Norsup with daily flights to Vila and or Santo. A comfortable passenger-only boat services Malekula weekly.

Vanuatu offers a unique cultural experience. It really is the happiest place on earth and you should expect the unexpected! As the In-Country Manager for Vanuatu I enjoy the challenges that this beautiful country has to offer. Vanuatu shares similar development challenges as its Pacific neighbours having scattered islands with limited services to support remote developments.

- Vanuatu In-Country Manager, Lou Cochrane

star Tips for Volunteers

Join in community activities - you'll hear of latest information and meet people for public relations purposes or decision facilitation that you can't get during working hours

Lucy Battaglene

Lucy BattagleneLucy Battaglene volunteered as a Tourism Development Officer with the Lamap Eco Tourism Committee in Vanuatu.

See article

In Country Management

In Country Management TeamsEach and every country we work in has its own dedicated In- Country Management Team (ICM Team). These teams develop assignments in consultation with Host Organisations and provide extensive support to volunteers in country. 

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