Four Australian volunteers arrived in the country last week to provide technical assistance in agriculture, forestry, education and health sectors.

They will be among the 17 Australian volunteers to be in the country this year, according to the director for the Australian Volunteer Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT), Julie McCallum.

She said the volunteers are here through the Australian volunteers’ programme redesigned this year. “But there are Australian volunteers who are already in the country through the previous programme.”

Julie McCallum said the Australian government had been funding volunteers to work internationally for over 50 years in various programmes and redesigned a new programme called the Australian volunteers’ programme in January this year.

“Under the new programme, about 1,000 Australians will work across 26 countries, mainly in Asia, Pacific and African countries,” Julie McCallum said.

She said the first volunteers came to Bhutan in 2014 and about 60 Australians volunteered in the country since then, managed through Australian Red Cross, Scope Global and now the Australian Volunteers International (AVI).

Julie McCallum was in the country to review the broader Australian aid impact through the volunteer programme last week.

She said skilled Australians from all walks of life are sent to volunteer in organisations in developing countries.

“The Australian government has an aid programme and it has specified strategic objectives in each country,” the director said. “In Bhutan, the aid programme will focus mainly on agriculture, forestry, education and health.”

The objectives are derived based on the interest shown by the government to have Australian volunteers to build the capacity of institutions and organisations in the country.

The programmes are demand-driven and the volunteers are in national biodiversity centre, Zorig Chuesum, Royal Institute of Management and Wangsel Institute in Paro.

She said there are three main objectives for the programme. “The first one is that partner organisations are supported by Australia to achieve their own development objective, Australian volunteers also gain professionally and personally through volunteerism and public and government in Australia appreciate the value of the volunteering works.”

Tashi Dema