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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea
Children returning home from school, via canoe. Photo: Harjono Djoybisono/AVI

AVI in Papua New Guinea

AVI commenced its program in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1964. Since then AVI has placed more than 1400 skilled Australians in various sectors around the country, through various programs. 

Currently, volunteers are placed through Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program.

Program history
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Historically, AVI volunteers have worked predominately in the health and education sectors as nurses and teachers. While the ongoing needs in health and education remain an important focus for PNG, the number of volunteer placements relating to governance and community development has increased.

Through the AVID program, AVI continues to respond to the needs of government and non-government sectors, with numerous assignments focused on strengthening civil society.

Main focus areas
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Working towards good governance

AVI volunteers in PNG assist in improving good governance through assignments that build the capacity of government and non-governmental organisations in administrative and financial systems, and accountability. Volunteers further support organisations in improving their strategic planning and organisational development.

Increasing participation and social inclusion

AVI assignments in PNG focus on disability inclusion and promoting participation of both genders in program activities, by supporting both the development and implementation of training programs for local staff working with people with disabilities. Assignments also aim to assist in identifying opportunities for women and young people to participate fully in the economic and social development of the community.

Improving educational outcomes

Through partnerships with educational institutions, AVI volunteers build the capacity of teachers and staff through mentoring and training. AVI assignments also aim to develop curriculums in order to improve the quality of education in rural and remote vocational, technical and secondary institutions.

Improving health outcomes

AVI health assignments centre on improving maternal and child health and enhancing the capacity of local groups to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in PNG. Australian volunteers support local organisations through designing and implementing in-service training programs for hospital nurses and other provincial health staff.

Supporting sustainable livelihoods

Through provisions of services and trainings to develop environmental syllabises in schools and environmental education programs for communities, AVI assignments support sustainable livelihoods, and also work to create micro-finance and income generation opportunities which will contribute to food security.
AVI has had several assignment focused on promoting economic development through development of the tourism sector in Island provinces.

Where we work
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Central Province (Port Moresby), Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Eastern Highlands (Goroka), New Ireland province, Madang province (Madnag) and East New Britain

Host organisation examples
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About Papua New Guinea

Made up of 600 islands, PNG is a part of a great arc of mountains stretching southwards from Asia, through Indonesia and into the South Pacific.  With over 800 different cultural and language groups, it is one of the most culturally diverse countries on earth.

Development challenges
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PNG's socio-economic position has been ranked lower than all other Pacific countries (as measured by the Human Development Index). Despite an abundance of natural resources, it is estimated that 37 per cent[1] of the population live below poverty line.

Although there has been economic growth in the last decade, the growth has been unequal. In many communities in PNG, the lack of natural resources, lack of potential for economic growth and development of industry mean there is limited opportunity for formal employment. There is intensified pressure on agricultural land and local resources, which has implications for people and communities who have traditionally relied on subsistence farming as a means sustaining their livelihoods.


The education system in PNG faces a number of challenges. Only an estimated 57% of the population is literate, and school enrolment rates are below average for all low income states. There is a large difference in school attendance rates for males and females in secondary and tertiary education.

Meeting the demand for teachers can also be problematic, as many teachers refuse to accept positions in schools in remote or isolated areas. Additionally, as PNG continues to undergo reforms in the education sector, local teachers are required to undertake full-time training to upgrade their qualifications. This can result in disrupting the workforce in educational institutions.


Many health indicators in PNG have deteriorated in recent years, with a major shortage in trained medical personnel. This situation is compounded by the population being spread across numerous islands and a vast geographical area, making it very challenging to provide cost-effective health services to isolated areas and outer islands.

Maternal mortality remains high, with 230 maternal deaths per 100,000[2] live births. HIV/AIDS has increasingly become a major health issue in PNG, with an adult prevalence of 0.9%[3]. HIV/AIDS has been identified as a major threat to the development of the nation, with PNG becoming the fourth country in the Asia-Pacific region, and the first Pacific country, to have a generalised HIV epidemic.


PNG has suffered serious environmental problems since the beginning of its economic development, and is now facing further problems due to the effects of climate change. Some of the most pressing issues include coastal flooding, inland flooding and landslides, deforestation, species extinction, land degradation, and pollution. Although PNG has signed 46 multilateral environmental agreements[4], there are no strong mechanisms in place to safeguard the environment.


[1] [2] [3] CIA Fact book

[4] MDG report

Volunteer profile

Papua New Guinea

The first things you notice about the women from the Bougainville Women’s Federation (BWF) are their giant smiles and infectious laughter. They are warm and generous, and chat with enthusiasm about their future. Their veneer is positive and upbeat, but scratch the surface long enough and the trauma and suffering these women experienced during the Bougainville Crisis is evident.

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Read more volunteer stories

Host organisation profile

Papua New Guinea

The Bougainville Women’s Federation is a united women's umbrella organisation aimed at representing all women of Bougainville.

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Latest assignments available

Assignment title Closing date
Medical Logistics / Pharmacy Officer 01 Dec 2014
Health Information Systems Analyst 01 Dec 2014
Visiting Clinical Lecturer - Obstetrics and Gynaecology 01 Dec 2014
Cafe Trainer 01 Dec 2014

Search all available assignments here

Fast facts

Population: 6,310,129
Official Language: Tok Pisin, English and Hiri Motu
Capital: Port Moresby
Adult literacy rate: 60%
HDI index: 153
Life expectancy: 66.46 years
Adult HIV prevalence rate: 0.9%
GDP per capita: $2,600
Unemployment rate: 1.9%
Maternal mortality rate: 230 per 100,000 live births
Child mortality rate under 5: 61
AVI placements: 1,405 (June 2013)
Last updated: 13/08/2013


More information

Contact our Papua New Guinea office

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