MN Aussies in UB


Australians help to breed a super-effective strain of ‘Mozzies’ in Ulaanbaatar

March 31, 2007

WALK into any of the expat watering holes or the tiny international airport in UB, as the capital Ulaanbaatar is affectionately called, and you’re likely to overhear an Australian accent.

Almost 400 Australians live here, most from the mining industry and other business sectors, but with a smattering from aid and non-government organisations — a big increase in recent years, according to the Australian Embassy in Beijing, which covers Mongolia.

Graham Taylor, who runs Karakorum Travel and UB’s first English language bookshop, and also imports Australian and other wine into Mongolia, has lived here for nine years. He first fell in love with the place after riding a horse around the whole country and documenting his journey for Australian Geographic in 1997.

He says Australia has built a surprising number of links with Mongolia, largely through AusAID scholarships for young Mongolian leaders to study in Australia.

Ariunna Lkhagaruren is one of the dozens of so-called “Mozzies” — Mongolian Aussies — who have studied in Australia on a two-year Australian Government postgraduate scholarship.

Mozzies range from senior government leaders and public servants — including Mongolia’s foreign minister Enkhbold Nyamaa, who is president of the Mongolian-Australian Society — to the President’s economic policy adviser and business people such as Ariunna. A former public servant who now runs her own software writing company, Ariunna wants Mongolia to develop an IT industry like India’s, and says the Government is backing efforts to diversify from mining.

Her offices are in a building set aside by the Government as an “incubator” for software companies where they get rent breaks and other help.

“Resources does overwhelm other sections of the economy,” Ariunna says. “Considering that only in the last 10 years we have discovered we have so much natural resources … it’s a matter of working out how best to utilise them to develop the country.

“For a young nation like us it’s so hard to say what we want. We are teenagers in this race for wealth and development and we’re not sure how to do it. Mongolia is learning and making mistakes, like the windfall tax, but we are learning.”

L. Enkhtuvshin, or “Enkhee”, is another Mozzie who has a masters in veterinary pathology from Sydney but found herself unemployable in her field back home. Mongolia is still so underdeveloped there is no capacity to use her skills.

She now works for the AusAID-funded program in UB that is helping Mongolia train and educate public servants, as well as fight poverty through anti-alcohol programs in mining areas.

Enkhee is optimistic about her country’s future. “I am 100 per cent positive that Mongolia is developing. When I became a student 15 years ago in UB at the university, we had no food in the store, not even bread, there was no electricity, no running water but I guess another question is how much more could we have achieved (in this time)?”

The Lotus Children’s Centre provides homes for 137 former street kids or abandoned babies in Yarmag, one of the shanty towns that have sprung up on the edges of Ulaanbaatar, where nomadic Mongolians have come to the city looking for work.

The orphanage was founded in 1995 by Melbourne kindergarten and yoga teacher Didi Kalika (formerly Gabrielle Dowling) to fill a gap in government services that are still developing. The centre, which is supported by groups such as the Australian Embassy in Beijing, depends solely on donations.



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