Republic of the Marshall Islands

A man in a patterned green shirt sits smiling in front of a painted Republic of Marshall Island flag. It is light blue with a white star-like shape, with a slim orange and white stripe.

About Republic of the Marshall Islands

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is in the Pacific Ocean 4,000 kilometres northeast of Australia. It’s a small country with a population of just 42,000 people and is one of only two countries in the world made entirely of low-lying coral atolls.

The islands were initially inhabited by Micronesian peoples who developed distinct cultures across the atolls. The Marshall Islands came under Spanish rule in the late 19th century and later came under German administration. The islands became a focal point for battles between the United States and Japan during World War II. Following the war, the United States administered the Marshall Islands until in 1986, the Marshall Islands gained independence. It continues to maintain close ties with the USA.

Due to its small scale, limited resources, and dispersed population, economic opportunities in the Republic of the Marshall Islands are limited. It has a small fishing and services industry and is primarily supported by the United States of America. The country receives an average of 5,000 tourists a year – the world’s second lowest. The nation has played an active role in international efforts to address climate change and advocate for the rights of small island nations.

Australian volunteers have supported a wide range of partner organisations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands to achieve their development goals since 1989.

Learn more about the Australian Volunteer Program's work in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Key things to consider about volunteering in Republic of the Marshall Islands

  • Natural disasters can occur, including tropical storms, flooding, typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Spectacular marine life. Dive in and explore the WWII wreaks shallow reefs and lagoons. The unique island atolls are filled with a wonderful marine life all year round.
  • Close communities. With a small population, it doesn’t take long for the community to know you and for you to know everyone.
  • Limited grocery options. With most produce being shipped in; certain food items sell out quickly, especially items such as fresh fruits and vegetable.
  • Extreme heat conditions. Weather to be very hot, humid and unbearable at times. Remember to keep hydrated.

Culture and religion

Religion

Christianity has been the main religion in the Marshall Islands ever since it was introduced by European missionaries in the 19th century.

The constitution of the Marshall Islands establishes the freedom of religion and states that no law may discriminate against any person based on religion.

Dress

Modesty is highly valued in the country, and it is customary to cover shoulders and knees and to avoid revealing clothing. However, your workplace may have its own dress-code.

Language

There are two official languages: Marshallese and English. Marshallese is an Austronesian language that shares numerous affinities with other Pacific languages, particularly those of eastern Micronesia.

The program provides funding to support language lessons. More information on this process will be available during the onboarding process.

Explore our Pride Guides

LGBTIQA+ program participants must be aware of the country's context before undertaking an assignment. Pride Guides are designed to introduce key issues related to people with diverse SOGISEC & their participation in the program.

Learn more
The Pride flag is shown against a pink background.

Day to Day Life

Climate

The maritime tropical climate is hot and humid, with little seasonal temperature change. The region is known for mild winds and tropical showers. The islands are humid and hot, with the driest period being from December to April. Droughts are common, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands can experience up to six months of little-to-no rain.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is one of the Micronesian nations taking a lead in dealing with the impact of climate change and is expected to be one of the first overtaken by rising sea levels.

It is important to note the effects of climate change on day-to-day life and weather patterns in the Republic of Marshal Islands, this will look different based on location. According to the World Bank, the country is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change particular risks include increased prevalence of heat waves, intensified cyclones, saline intrusion, wave-driven flooding, and permanent inundation.

Telecommunications

Telephone and internet are available. Texting is the most frequent mode of communication.

Food and dining

The average Marshallese consumes over 100 kilograms of fish each year, and the Marshallese language contains around 50 different words for fishing techniques, indicating its importance in daily life. Different fruits are grown in different seasons and may present new or unfamiliar options.

Restaurants and bars are available. American-style fast food and Asian are the most common international cuisines. Alcohol is not sold on Sundays.

Accommodation

Volunteers stay in apartments and houses. Volunteers will be supported by the in-country team to find appropriate accommodation, and word of mouth is often the best way to find suitable options. Generally, a six or 12-month rental contract is expected, although some hotels may offer a monthly rate while you search for something suitable. The Program will sign the lease and pay for the accommodation allowance; therefore, you will only receive your Living Allowance.

Find out about our in-country allowances

Transport

There is no public transportation system in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Shared public taxis are available in Majuro, which will frequently stop to pick up and drop off passengers.

Personal safety

When it comes to your safety and security you must be willing to adapt your behaviour and lifestyle to minimise the potential for being a target of crime. Like anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Marshall Islands. While travelling around the Republic of the Marshall Islands is relatively safe, volunteers should be cautious of opportunistic crime such as petty theft.

Inundation and king tides are becoming more frequent as the sea-level continues to rise, and severe weather conditions can cause flooding of roads and inundation at the shoreline.

Personal safety issues constantly evolve, we recommend you keep an eye on Smart Traveller for current information.

Mobility and accessibility

We’re committed to ensuring that international volunteering is inclusive and accessible to Australians from a range of backgrounds, with diverse perspectives, identities and abilities. To support this, Access and Inclusion Plans are available for volunteers with disabilities to assess their needs and ensure their living and working requirements are fully considered. Indigenous Pathways is an Indigenous-led program that focuses on providing culturally safe, flexible and tailored support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers.

Before applying for a volunteering assignment in Republic of the Marshall Islands, please do some further research on living in Republic of the Marshall Islands and the organisation you are hoping to volunteer with. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to discuss expected living and working arrangements with their recruitment officer.