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PA/15/12 15 May 2012
Australian volunteers to assist Bhutan in education and health
Australian professionals will soon be on the ground to assist Bhutan in its development. An agreement signed on 15 May will allow Australia to commence volunteers’ placements in Bhutan before the end of the year.
The program will begin with around eight volunteers. The initial focus will be on education, and health. Each volunteer will work in Bhutan for a period of one to two years. Volunteer placements will be managed by one of the three Partner Organisations - Australian Red Cross, Austraining International and Australian Volunteers International – contracted by the Australian Government.
Speaking after signing the agreement in New Delhi, Australia’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Mr Peter Varghese AO, said “there is a strong interest among Australians in volunteering in Bhutan. I expect this new program to attract a large field of quality applicants. We hope it will grow over time.”
The volunteer program marks the latest phase in Australia’s longstanding development relationship with Bhutan. Australia is celebrating fifty years of development assistance to Bhutan in 2012. The relationship began in 1962 when Bhutan attended the Colombo Plan meeting in Melbourne as an observer.
Australia’s current bilateral cooperation with Bhutan is centred on human resource development, mainly through scholarships. Australia’s assistance to Bhutan has increased significantly in recent years, from A$1m in 2001 to an estimated A$11-m in 2012-13. A total of 389 Bhutanese students have studied in Australia on Australian Government funded scholarships since 2007.
The Australian Government has supported more than 12,000 Australians to volunteer in Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, as part of the overseas aid program since the 1960s. By contributing their time and skills, those volunteers have made a positive contribution to poverty reduction, sustainable development and cross-cultural understanding.