Destination Ulaanbaatar: Mongolian Update 2022

29th September 2022

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Dr Natasha Fijn

Every two years, the ANU Mongolia Institute sponsors a Mongolia Update. These Updates aim to inform the public about Mongolia’s social, political and environmental factors.

The Update, which is a means for academics, government and industry to be up-to-date on current economic, political and environmental issues, was held in recognition of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Mongolia in 2022. The event was collaboratively organised by the ANU’s Mongolia Institute, the School of International Relations and Public Policy at the National University of Mongolia and the Mongolian Embassy in Canberra. Dr Natasha Fijn and Prof. Li Narangoa travelled from Australia to organise and participate in the Mongolia Update, while most speakers were based in Ulaanbaatar and attended in person.



At the beginning of the Update, during introductory remarks, the Ambassador of Mongolia Davaasurin Damdinsuren, spoke virtually from Canberra on the importance of cultural relations and a recent agreement between the two countries regarding a new holidaymaker visa, which will be important in assisting Mongolian students studying in Australia and their extended family to enable them to work while in the country.


The keynote speaker, Member of the Mongolian Parliament and President of the Mozzies Association, Tsogtbaatar Damdin. The Mozzies (as combination of Mongolian and Ozzie) is made up of prominent Mongolian professionals. They have become members of the Mongolian parliament, including the keynote Damdin, an alumnus with a Masters degree from the ANU. He gave an engaging historical survey of diplomatic relations between the two countries and why relations were not established before the 1970s, which he described of a lack of previous engagement between the two countries due to the differing politics of the time. Mongolia was socialist and satellite state of the USSR, while Australia was strongly anti-communist in sentiment. Mongolia has now become an important country to Australia in terms of mining and part of regional trade agreements with countries across the Asia-Pacific.


Professor Narangoa spoke about Mongolian studies in Australia, including her own role in building the reputation of the Mongolia Institute over eight years from 2011 until 2019, in conjunction with the establishment of a comprehensive Mongolian language studies program at the ANU in collaboration with Mongolian language lecturers from the National University of Mongolia, the location of the Update. Just prior to the Update, Li Narangoa was awarded with one of the highest academic acknowledgements in Mongolia, a B. Rinchen medal, for her outstanding work in Mongolian studies and contribution to the restoration of Mongolian cultural heritage.

Oyuntsetseg Namildorj from the University of Humanities in Ulaanbaatar, spoke as an educator and Australian Awards Alumni, on the ongoing cooperation between Mongolia and Australia in relation to the tertiary education sector. A number of speakers throughout the day reiterated the success of the Australian government’s Australia Awards program in providing Mongolians with an opportunity to live and study in Australia. The New Colombo Plan has been running since 2017 and has also been important in providing funds for scholarships to enable Australian students with the opportunity to study in Mongolia, such as undergraduate students attending the intensive in-country field school offered by CHL.

Katie Smith has taken up the role of Ambassador of Australia in Ulaanbaatar this year. She provided some valuable concluding remarks, also recognising the importance of the Australia Awards program, which will have run for thirty years by next year, while she also commented on how Australia can learn from Mongolia in terms of balancing complex political relations with neighbouring countries and their ongoing positive relations with democratic ‘third neighbours’, such as Australia.


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