In pictures : 10 reasons you should consider volunteering in Papua New Guinea

Known as ‘the land of the unexpected’, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is far more than what you have heard about in the news.

A country rich in culture and environmental wonders, and some of the friendliest people you will ever encounter, Australia’s closest neighbour is a unique and special place to volunteer.

If you’re wanting an unforgettable experience, where you will be equally challenged, delighted and inspired, here’s why you should consider volunteering in PNG.

The people are friendly and easy to work with

Wendy Alu, manager of the Australian Volunteers Program in PNG, says volunteers often express their delight at meeting and working with Papua New Guineans.

We’re very friendly people, and easy to work with,’ she says. ‘I’m always proud to be a Papua New Guinean, despite the challenges that we go through.

Rowena Tabua, Finance and Administration Officer with the Program in PNG, says volunteers who have a positive approach reap the rewards of connecting with people.

People will love you if you interact with them. You’ll find life really happy and much easier for you in PNG if you engage,’ she says.

PNG Deb Chapman Touching the Untouchables
L-R Australian volunteer project management mentor Deb Chapman with midwives Susan and Susie at Touching the Untouchables in Goroka, Eastern Highlands. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Mary Winmay vegetable seller at Kokopo Market East New Britain. Photo Harjono Djoyobisono
Mary Winmay, vegetable seller at Kokopo Market, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

There's a real opportunity to make a difference

Wendy says PNG is somewhere that volunteers are truly needed.

Papua New Guineans struggle financially to further their education – it’s very expensive to go through higher education here. So, having volunteers come here is an alternative way to up-skill our people.

Simon Fenske, an Australian Volunteer Livelihood Support Mentor with ADRA, has enjoyed being able to see the impact of the work of his organisation.

We are training farmers on innovative farming practices, by which they can improve their food security and income,’ says Simon.

PNG Simon Fenske Munix Village
Australian volunteer livelihood support mentor Simon Fenske (right), with farmer Mai Namalang at Munix village outside of Lae, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Sister Virginia Lahis, staff of Family Support Centre, Buka General Hospital, The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, who worked with volunteer social worker Charmaine McBrearty.
Sister Virginia Lahis, staff of Family Support Centre, Buka General Hospital, The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, who worked with volunteer social worker Charmaine McBrearty. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

The natural wonders

Lush rainforest, crystal blue waters, dominating mountains and rolling green hills are just some of the landmarks you may encounter while volunteering in PNG.

Maree Schleibs was in her 60s when she volunteered as a bookkeeper, and says Kokopo, where she was based, is ‘stunning’.

I did things there I’d never done before like kayaking and snorkelling. I wasn’t a beach person, but here I was on the beach and loving it.

Every week we’d try and go out to rural areas. There’s a huge amount of vegetation like cocoa trees and banana trees, and in the wet, there’s lots of mud! I spent a lot of my time on rough roads bouncing around the back of a four-wheel drive, but you get used to it. It was fun!

Mount Tavurvur, an active volcano in Rabaul, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Mount Tavurvur, Rabaul, East New Britain. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
PNG Kokopo sunrise
Sunrise at Kokopo, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. In the background is the active volcano Mount Tavurvur. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

The culture is incredible

Ask a Papua New Guinean what they are most proud of about their country, and chances are they will respond with ‘the culture’.

More than 800 languages are spoken across PNG, and the cultures across different communities are as diverse as the landscape.

Leah Aisi, Recruitment Officer with the program in PNG, says the country is a great place for volunteers -

Not only to help our partner organisations to make a difference, but also to explore and experience the culture we have here.

PNG Wewak fisherwomen
Jill Bosro, manager of HELP Resources (far left), with fisherwomen (left to right) Rosa, Nancy and Sabet in Wewak, East Sepik Province. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Traditional costume and art performance Port Moresby Papua New Guinea
Traditional costume and art performance, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

Adventure is guaranteed

‘A million different journeys’ is how the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority promotes PNG as a travel destination.

Volunteering in PNG means your weekends are yours to explore the country’s many provinces and diverse landscapes.

The country is well-known around the world for its world-class surfing, hiking and bird-watching, plus opportunities to dive, snorkel and fish.

PNG Landrover in mud
The ADRA four-wheel drive working its way through mud on the way back from a field visit to Munix Village, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Sunrise at Kokopo, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Sunrise at Kokopo, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

There's plenty of chances to try something new

From drinking roadside coconuts and fresh brewed local coffee, to four-wheel driving through muddy passes and snorkelling in tropical reefs, Papua New Guinea offers volunteers and visitors alike the chance to try something totally new.

The culture, the language, the traditional way of doing things, in most cases, is very rare and unique,’ says Rowena.

PNG coconut
A market seller prepares a coconut for drinking, Lae, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

The in-country support is outstanding

From the moment volunteers are offered an assignment in PNG, they are supported by a friendly, helpful and knowledgeable local team.

Because of the security situation in Papua New Guinea, the team finds accommodation for every volunteer.

A three-day orientation is held when volunteers first arrived in-country. Staff will take volunteers to their new city or town, help them settle in and introduce them to local networks. 

Meetings are also held once a year for all volunteers in PNG to come together and share their experiences and learning.

PNG in country team
Australian Volunteers Program staff in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. (Left to right): Leah Aisi, Rowena Tabua, Weny Alu and Marie Stratford. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

The close proximity to home

While on assignment, your visitors won’t have far to travel and you won’t have far to go home for Christmas!

Just an hour’s flight from Cairns or three hours from Sydney, Papua New Guinea is Australia’s closest neighbour. PNG even shares the same time zone as Australia’s eastern states for much of the year.

As we are very close neighbours, it’s important to have links and connections between our two countries,’ says Wendy.

Australian volunteer Jessica Lumb, says she knew little about Papua New Guinea before she started her assignment as Marketing and Events Support Officer at the Port Moresby Nature Park.

Papua New Guinea has been amazing! It’s one of our closest neighbours and yet I knew very little before I came here,’ she says.

People have been so friendly and I've loved learning more about the culture.

Aerial view of Morobe Province. Photo credit Harjono Djoyobisono
Aerial view of Morobe Province. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

The diversity of skills needed

‘Papua New Guinea may be one country, but we are so diverse’, says Rowena. ‘Your experience in Daru may not be the same as your experience in Lae, for example.’

Almost 85% of the country's seven million people live in rural areas, including remote highlands and islands. Being one of the world's least urbanised countries generates unique development challenges.

Australian volunteers are needed to improve access to health services, strengthen governance, build vital infrastructure and promote sustainable economic growth. View the current volunteer vacancies here. 

Australian volunteer Maintenance Manager Robert with colleague Kathlyn at the Port Moresby Nature Park. Photo credit Harjono Djoyobisono
Australian volunteer Maintenance Manager Robert with colleague Kathlyn at the Port Moresby Nature Park. Photo Harjono Djoyobisono
PNG Jessica Lumb Port Moresby Nature Park
Australian volunteer marketing and events support officer Jessica Lumb at Port Moresby Nature Park. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

The tropical weather!

PNG offers a tropical climate, varying from hot and humid in some parts to mild in others.

Although daytime temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees in the hotter months, during the wintertime (June – September) the average daily maximum temperature is 24-28 degrees Celsius. Perfect!

Goroka, in the Eastern Highlands, is known to have one of the best climates in the world. The average throughout the year is 19.5 degrees Celsius, and warm days are usually followed by cool nights.

Find out more about volunteering in Papua New Guinea

PNG Sabet and Jill at Wewak
Australian volunteer management mentor Elizabeth Cox (left) with HELP Resources Manager Jill Bosro on the organisation’s deck, which doubles as an outdoor office on hot days. Wewak, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono