|Territory of Norfolk Island|
Teratri a' Norf'k Ailen (Norfuk)
|Anthem: "God Save the Queen"|
|Territorial anthem: "Come Ye Blessed"|
Location of Norfolk Island
|Separation from Tasmania||1 November 1856|
|Transfer to Australia||1 July 1914|
|Largest city||Burnt Pine|
|Ethnic groups |
|Government||Directly administered dependency|
|34.6 km2 (13.4 sq mi)|
• Water (%)
|Highest elevation||319 m (1,047 ft)|
• 2016 census
|1,748 (not ranked)|
|61.9/km2 (160.3/sq mi) (not ranked)|
|Currency||Australian dollar (AUD)|
|Time zone||UTC+11:00 (NFT)|
• Summer (DST)
|ISO 3166 code||NF|
Norfolk Island (//, locally //; Norfuk: Norf'k Ailen) is an external territory of Australia located in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia, 1,412 kilometres (877 mi) directly east of Australia's Evans Head and about 900 kilometres (560 mi) from Lord Howe Island. Together with the neighbouring Phillip Island and Nepean Island, the three islands collectively form the Territory of Norfolk Island. At the 2016 census, it had 1748 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2 (14 sq mi). Its capital is Kingston.
The first known settlers in Norfolk Island were East Polynesians but they had already departed when Great Britain settled it as part of its 1788 settlement of Australia. The island served as a convict penal settlement from 6 March 1788 until 5 May 1855, except for an 11-year hiatus between 15 February 1814 and 6 June 1825, when it lay abandoned. On 8 June 1856, permanent civilian residence on the island began when descendents of the Bounty mutineers were relocated from Pitcairn Island. In 1914 the UK handed Norfolk Island over to Australia to administer as an external territory.
Native to the island, the evergreen Norfolk Island pine is a symbol of the island and is pictured on its flag. The pine is a key export for Norfolk Island, being a popular ornamental tree in Australia (where two related species grow), and also worldwide.
Norfolk Island was uninhabited when first settled by Europeans, but evidence of earlier habitation was obvious. Archaeological investigation suggests that in the 13th or 14th century the island was settled by East Polynesian seafarers, either from the Kermadec Islands north of New Zealand, or from the North Island of New Zealand. However, both Polynesian and Melanesian artefacts have been found, so it is possible that people from New Caledonia, relatively close to the north, also reached Norfolk Island. Human occupation must have ceased at least a few hundred years before Europeans arrived in late 18th century. Ultimately, the relative isolation of the island, and its poor horticultural environment, were not favourable to long-term settlement.
First penal settlement (1788–1814)
The first European known to have sighted and landed on the island was Captain James Cook, on 10 October 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific on HMS Resolution. He named it after Mary Howard, Duchess of Norfolk. Sir John Call argued the advantages of Norfolk Island in that it was uninhabited and that New Zealand flax grew there.
After the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in 1776 halted penal transportation to the Thirteen Colonies, British prisons started to overcrowd. Several stopgap measures proved ineffective, and the government announced in December 1785 that it would send convicts to parts of what is now known as Australia. In 1786, it included Norfolk Island as an auxiliary settlement, as proposed by John Call, in its plan for colonisation of the Colony of New South Wales. The decision to settle Norfolk Island was taken after Empress Catherine II of Russia restricted the sale of hemp. At the time, practically all the hemp and flax required by the Royal Navy for cordage and sailcloth was imported from Russia.
When the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson in January 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip ordered Lieutenant Philip Gidley King to lead a party of 15 convicts and seven free men to take control of Norfolk Island, and prepare for its commercial development. They arrived on 6 March. During the first year of the settlement, which was also called "Sydney" like its parent, more convicts and soldiers were sent to the island from New South Wales. Robert Watson, harbourmaster, arrived with the First Fleet as quartermaster of HMS Sirius, and was still serving in that capacity when the ship was wrecked at Norfolk Island in 1790. Next year, he obtained and cultivated a grant of 60 acres (24 ha) on the island.
As early as 1794, Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales Francis Grose suggested its closure as a penal settlement, as it was too remote and difficult for shipping and too costly to maintain. The first group of people left in February 1805, and by 1808, only about 200 remained, forming a small settlement until the remnants were removed in 1813. A small party remained to slaughter stock and destroy all buildings, so that there would be no inducement for anyone, especially from other European powers, to visit and lay claim to the place. From February 1814 until June 1825, the island was uninhabited.
Second penal settlement (1824–1856)
In 1824 the British government instructed the Governor of New South Wales, Thomas Brisbane, to reoccupy Norfolk Island as a place to send "the worst description of convicts". Its remoteness, previously seen as a disadvantage, was now viewed as an asset for the detention of recalcitrant male prisoners. The convicts detained have long been assumed to be hardcore recidivists, or 'doubly-convicted capital respites' – that is, men transported to Australia who committed fresh crimes in the colony for which they were sentenced to death, but were spared the gallows on condition of life on Norfolk Island. However, a 2011 study, using a database of 6458 Norfolk Island convicts, has demonstrated that the reality was somewhat different: more than half were detained on Norfolk Island without ever receiving a colonial conviction, and only 15% had been reprieved from a death sentence. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of convicts sent to Norfolk Island had committed non-violent property offences, and the average length of detention there was three years. Nonetheless, Norfolk Island went through periods of unrest with convicts staging a number of uprisings and mutinies between 1826 and 1846, all of which failed. The British government began to wind down the second penal settlement after 1847, and the last convicts were removed to Tasmania in May 1855. The island was abandoned because transportation from the United Kingdom to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) had ceased in 1853, to be replaced by penal servitude in the UK.
Settlement by Pitcairn Islanders (1856–present)
The next settlement began on 8 June 1856, as the descendants of Tahitians and the HMS Bounty mutineers, including those of Fletcher Christian, were resettled from the Pitcairn Islands, which had become too small for their growing number. On 3 May 1856, 193 people left Pitcairn Islands aboard the Morayshire. On 8 June 194 people arrived, a baby having been born in transit. The Pitcairners occupied many of the buildings remaining from the penal settlements, and gradually established traditional farming and whaling industries on the island. Although some families decided to return to Pitcairn in 1858 and 1863, the island's population continued to grow. They accepted additional settlers, who often arrived on whaling vessels.
The island was a regular resort for whaling vessels in the age of sail. The first such ship was the Britannia in November 1793. The last on record was the Andrew Hicks in August–September 1907. They came for water, wood and provisions and sometimes they recruited islanders to serve as crewmen on their vessels.
In 1867, the headquarters of the Melanesian Mission of the Church of England was established on the island. In 1920 the Mission was relocated from Norfolk Island to the Solomon Islands to be closer to the focus of population.
Norfolk Island was the subject of several experiments in administration during the century. It began the 19th century as part of the Colony of New South Wales. On 29 September 1844, Norfolk Island was transferred from the Colony of New South Wales to the Colony of Van Diemen's Land.:Recital 2 On 1 November 1856 Norfolk Island was separated from the Colony of Tasmania (formerly Van Diemen's Land) and constituted as a "distinct and separate Settlement, the affairs of which should until further Order in that behalf by Her Majesty be administered by a Governor to be for that purpose appointed". The Governor of New South Wales was constituted as the Governor of Norfolk Island.:Recital 3
On 19 March 1897 the office of the Governor of Norfolk Island was abolished and responsibility for the administration of Norfolk Island was vested in the Governor of the Colony of New South Wales. Yet, the island was not made a part of New South Wales and remained separate. The Colony of New South Wales ceased to exist upon the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901, and from that date responsibility for the administration of Norfolk Island was vested in the Governor of the State of New South Wales.:Recitals 7 and 8
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia accepted the territory by the Norfolk Island Act 1913 (Cth),:p 886 subject to British agreement; the Act received royal assent on 19 December 1913. In preparation for the handover, a proclamation by the Governor of New South Wales on 23 December 1913 (in force when gazetted on 24 December) repealed "all laws heretofore in force in Norfolk Island" and replaced them by re-enacting a list of such laws. Among those laws was the Administration Law 1913 (NSW), which provided for appointment of an Administrator of Norfolk Island and of magistrates, and contained a code of criminal law.
British agreement was expressed on 30 March 1914, in a UK Order in Council made pursuant to the Australian Waste Lands Act 1855 (Imp).:p 886 A proclamation by the Governor-General of Australia on 17 June 1914 gave effect to the Act and the Order as from 1 July 1914.
During World War II, the island became a key airbase and refuelling depot between Australia and New Zealand, and New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. The airstrip was constructed by Australian, New Zealand and the United States servicemen during 1942. Since Norfolk Island fell within New Zealand's area of responsibility, it was garrisoned by a New Zealand Army unit known as N Force at a large army camp which had the capacity to house a 1500 strong force. N Force relieved a company of the Second Australian Imperial Force. The island proved too remote to come under attack during the war and N Force left the island in February 1944.
In 1979, Norfolk Island was granted limited self-government by Australia, under which the island elected a government that ran most of the island's affairs.
In 2006, a formal review process took place, in which the Australian government considered revising this model of government. The review was completed on 20 December 2006, when it was decided that there would be no changes in the governance of Norfolk Island.
Financial problems and a reduction in tourism led to Norfolk Island's administration appealing to the Australian federal government for assistance in 2010. In return, the islanders were to pay income tax for the first time but would be eligible for greater welfare benefits. However, by May 2013 agreement had not been reached and islanders were having to leave to find work and welfare. An agreement was finally signed in Canberra on 12 March 2015 to replace self-government with a local council but against the wishes of the Norfolk Island government. A majority of Norfolk Islanders objected to the Australian plan to make changes to Norfolk Island without first consulting them and allowing their say, with 68% of voters against forced changes. An example of growing friction between Norfolk Island and increased Australian rule was featured in a 2019 episode of Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week. The episode featured Norfolk Island's policy of culling growing cattle populations by killing older cattle and feeding the carsasses to tiger sharks well off the coast. This is done to help prevent tiger sharks from coming further toward shore in search of food. Norfolk Island holds one of the largest populations of tiger sharks in the world. Australia has banned the culling policy as cruelty to animals. Norfolk Islanders fear this will lead to increased shark attacks and damage an already waning tourist industry.
Reduced autonomy 2016
In March 2015, the Australian Government announced comprehensive reforms for Norfolk Island. The action was justified on the grounds it was necessary "to address issues of sustainability which have arisen from the model of self-government requiring Norfolk Island to deliver local, state and federal functions since 1979". On 17 June 2015, the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly was abolished, with the territory becoming run by an Administrator and an advisory council. Elections for a new Regional Council were held on 28 May 2016, with the new council taking office on 1 July 2016.
From that date, most Australian Commonwealth laws were extended to Norfolk Island. This means that taxation, social security, immigration, customs and health arrangements apply on the same basis as in mainland Australia. Travel between Norfolk Island and mainland Australia became domestic travel on 1 July 2016. For the 2016 Australian federal election, 328 people on Norfolk Island voted in the ACT electorate of Canberra, out of 117,248 total votes. For the 2019 Australian federal election Norfolk Island is covered by the electorate of Bean.
There is opposition to the reforms, led by Norfolk Island People for Democracy Inc., an association appealing to the United Nations to include the island on its list of "non-self-governing territories". There has also been movement to join New Zealand since the autonomy reforms.
In October 2019, the Norfolk Island People For Democracy advocacy group conducted a survey of 457 island residents (about one quarter of the entire population) and found that 36.76% preferred free association with New Zealand, 35.01% preferred free association with Australia, 24.95% preferred full independence, and 3.28% preferred full integration with Australia.
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The Territory of Norfolk Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of the Australian mainland. Norfolk Island itself is the main island of the island group that the territory encompasses and is located at . It has an area of 34.6 square kilometres (13.4 sq mi), with no large-scale internal bodies of water and 32 km (20 mi) of coastline. Norfolk was formed from several volcanic eruptions between 3.1 and 2.3 million years ago.
The island's highest point is Mount Bates reaching 319 metres (1,047 feet) above sea level, located in the northwest quadrant of the island. The majority of the terrain is suitable for farming and other agricultural uses. Phillip Island, the second largest island of the territory, is located at , seven kilometres (4.3 miles) south of the main island.
The coastline of Norfolk Island consists, to varying degrees, of cliff faces. A downward slope exists towards Slaughter Bay and Emily Bay, the site of the original colonial settlement of Kingston. There are no safe harbour facilities on Norfolk Island, with loading jetties existing at Kingston and Cascade Bay. All goods not domestically produced are brought in by ship, usually to Cascade Bay. Emily Bay, protected from the Pacific Ocean by a small coral reef, is the only safe area for recreational swimming, although surfing waves can be found at Anson and Ball Bays.
The climate is subtropical and mild, with little seasonal differentiation. The island is the eroded remnant of a basaltic volcano active around 2.3 to 3 million years ago, with inland areas now consisting mainly of rolling plains. It forms the highest point on the Norfolk Ridge, part of the submerged continent Zealandia.
The area surrounding Mount Bates is preserved as the Norfolk Island National Park. The park, covering around 10% of the land of the island, contains remnants of the forests which originally covered the island, including stands of subtropical rainforest.
The park also includes the two smaller islands to the south of Norfolk Island, Nepean Island and Phillip Island. The vegetation of Phillip Island was devastated due to the introduction during the penal era of pest animals such as pigs and rabbits, giving it a red-brown colour as viewed from Norfolk; however, pest control and remediation work by park staff has recently brought some improvement to the Phillip Island environment.
The major settlement on Norfolk Island is Burnt Pine, located predominantly along Taylors Road, where the shopping centre, post office, bottle shop, telephone exchange and community hall are located. The settlement also exists over much of the island, consisting largely of widely separated homesteads.
Government House, the official residence of the Administrator, is located on Quality Row in what was the penal settlement of Kingston. Other government buildings, including the court, Legislative Assembly and Administration, are also located there. Kingston's role is largely a ceremonial one, however, with most of the economic impetus coming from Burnt Pine.
Norfolk Island has a mid-latitude and marine subtropical climate (Köppen: Cfa). The temperature almost never falls below 10 °C (50 °F) or rises above 28 °C (82 °F). The absolute maximum recorded temperature is 28.4 °C (83.1 °F), while the absolute minimum is 6.2 °C (43.2 °F). Average annual precipitation is 1,328 millimetres (52.3 in), with most rain falling from April to August. Other months receive significant amounts of precipitation as well.
|Climate data for Norfolk Island Airport|
|Record high °C (°F)||28.3
|Mean maximum °C (°F)||26.7
|Average high °C (°F)||24.6
|Daily mean °C (°F)||22.0
|Average low °C (°F)||19.3
|Mean minimum °C (°F)||16.6
|Record low °C (°F)||12.1
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||83.3
|Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm)||12.4||12.5||15.1||17.3||18.7||19.7||20.5||19.0||14.2||13.2||11.2||11.7||185.5|
|Average afternoon relative humidity (%)||71||72||70||69||69||69||68||67||69||67||67||70||69|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||232.5||209.1||207.7||189.0||186.0||162.0||182.9||217.0||219.0||232.5||234.0||238.7||2,510.4|
|Source: Bureau of Meteorology (1981–2010 averages; extremes 1939–present)|
Norfolk Island is part of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia region "Pacific Subtropical Islands" (PSI), and forms subregion PSI02, with an area of 3,908 hectares (9,660 acres). The country is home to the Norfolk Island subtropical forests terrestrial ecoregion.
Norfolk Island has 174 native plants; 51 of them are endemic. At least 18 of the endemic species are rare or threatened. The Norfolk Island palm (Rhopalostylis baueri) and the smooth tree-fern (Cyathea brownii), the tallest tree-fern in the world, are common in the Norfolk Island National Park but rare elsewhere on the island. Before European colonisation, most of Norfolk Island was covered with subtropical rain forest, the canopy of which was made of Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island pine) in exposed areas, and the palm Rhopalostylis baueri and tree ferns Cyathea brownii and C. australis in moister protected areas. The understory was thick with lianas and ferns covering the forest floor. Only one small tract, 5 km2 (1.9 sq mi), of rainforest remains, which was declared as the Norfolk Island National Park in 1986.
This forest has been infested with several introduced plants. The cliffs and steep slopes of Mount Pitt supported a community of shrubs, herbaceous plants, and climbers. A few tracts of cliff top and seashore vegetation have been preserved. The rest of the island has been cleared for pasture and housing. Grazing and introduced weeds currently threaten the native flora, displacing it in some areas. In fact, there are more weed species than native species on Norfolk Island.
As a relatively small and isolated oceanic island, Norfolk has few land birds but a high degree of endemicity among them. Norfolk Island is home to a radiation of about 40 endemic snail species. Many of the endemic bird species and subspecies have become extinct as a result of massive clearance of the island's native vegetation of subtropical rainforest for agriculture, hunting and persecution as agricultural pests. The birds have also suffered from the introduction of mammals such as rats, cats, pigs and goats, as well as from introduced competitors such as common blackbirds and crimson rosellas. Although the island is politically part of Australia, many of Norfolk Island's native birds show affinities to those of neighbouring New Zealand, such as the Norfolk kaka, Norfolk pigeon, and Norfolk boobook.
Extinctions include that of the endemic Norfolk kaka, Norfolk ground dove and Norfolk pigeon, while of the endemic subspecies the starling, triller, thrush and boobook owl are extinct, although the latter's genes persist in a hybrid population descended from the last female. Other endemic birds are the white-chested white-eye, which may be extinct, the Norfolk parakeet, the Norfolk gerygone, the slender-billed white-eye and endemic subspecies of the Pacific robin and golden whistler. Subfossil bones indicate that a species of Coenocorypha snipe was also found on the island and is now extinct, but the taxonomic relationships of this are unclear and have not been scientifically described yet.
The Norfolk Island Group Nepean Island is also home to breeding seabirds. The providence petrel was hunted to local extinction by the beginning of the 19th century but has shown signs of returning to breed on Phillip Island. Other seabirds breeding there include the white-necked petrel, Kermadec petrel, wedge-tailed shearwater, Australasian gannet, red-tailed tropicbird and grey ternlet. The sooty tern (known locally as the whale bird) has traditionally been subject to seasonal egg harvesting by Norfolk Islanders.
Norfolk Island, with neighbouring Nepean Island, has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area because it supports the entire populations of white-chested and slender-billed white-eyes, Norfolk parakeets and Norfolk gerygones, as well as over 1% of the world populations of wedge-tailed shearwaters and red-tailed tropicbirds. Nearby Phillip Island is treated as a separate IBA.
Norfolk Island also has a botanical garden, which is home to a sizeable variety of plant species. However, the island has only one native mammal, Gould's wattled bat (Chalinolobus gouldii). It is very rare, and may already be extinct on the island.
Cetaceans were historically abundant around the island as commercial hunts on the island were operating until 1956. Today, numbers of larger whales have disappeared, but even today many species such humpback whale, minke whale, sei whale, and dolphins can be observed close to shore, and scientific surveys have been conducted regularly. Southern right whales were once regular migrants to Norfolk, but were severely depleted by historical hunts, and further by recent illegal Soviet and Japanese whaling, resulting in none or very few, if remnants still live, right whales in these regions along with Lord Howe Island.
Whale sharks can be encountered off the island, too.
List of endemic and extirpated native birds
- Norfolk parakeet, Cyanoramphus cookii (endangered)
- Norfolk kaka, Nestor productus (extinct)
- Brown goshawk, Accipiter fasciatus (extirpated)
- Norfolk pigeon, Hemiphaga novaseelandiae spadicea (extinct, subspecies of NZ pigeon)
- Norfolk ground dove, Aloepecoenas norfolkensis (extinct)
- Norfolk snipe, Coenocorypha spp. (extinct, undescribed)
- Norfolk rail, Gallirallus spp. (extinct, undescribed)
- Norfolk robin, Petroica multicolor (endangered)
- Norfolk golden whistler, Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta (vulnerable, subspecies of golden whistler)
- Norfolk triller, Lalage leucopyga leucopyga (extinct, nominate subspecies of long-tailed triller)
- Norfolk Island thrush, Turdus poliocephalus poliocephalus (extinct, nominate subspecies of Island thrush)
- Norfolk Island starling, Aplonis fusca fusca (extinct, nominate subspecies of extinct Tasman starling)
- Norfolk boobook, Ninox novaeseelandiae undulata (extinct except for hybrids with nominate subspecies, subspecies of Morepork\Southern boobook)
- White-chested white-eye, Zosterops albogularis (critically endangered, possibly extinct)
- Slender-billed white-eye, Zosterops tenuirostris (near threatened)
- Norfolk gerygone, Gerygone modesta (near threatened)
- Norfolk grey fantail, Rhiphidura albiscapa pelzelni (least concern, subspecies of grey fantail)
- Norfolk petrel, Pterodroma spp. (extinct, undescribed)
The population of Norfolk Island was 1,748 in the 2016 census, which had declined from a high of 2,601 in 2001.
In 2011, residents were 78% of the census count, with the remaining 22% being visitors. 16% of the population were 14 years and under, 54% were 15 to 64 years, and 24% were 65 years and over. The figures showed an ageing population, with many people aged 20–34 having moved away from the island.
Most islanders are of either European-only (mostly British) or combined European-Tahitian ancestry, being descendants of the Bounty mutineers as well as more recent arrivals from Australia and New Zealand. About half of the islanders can trace their roots back to Pitcairn Island.
This common heritage has led to a limited number of surnames among the Islanders – a limit constraining enough that the island's telephone directory also includes nicknames for many subscribers, such as Cane Toad, Dar Bizziebee, Lettuce Leaf, Goof, Paw Paw, Diddles, Rubber Duck, Carrots, and Tarzan.
- 1748 (as of the 2016 census)
Population growth rate
- Australian (22.8%)
- English (22.4%)
- Pitcairn Islander (20%)
- Scottish (6%)
- Irish (5.2%)
Citizenship (as of the 2011 census)
- Australia 79.5%
- New Zealand 13.3%
- Fiji 2.5%
- Philippines 1.1%
- United Kingdom 1%
- Other 1.8%
- Unspecified 0.8%
62% of the islanders are Christians. After the death of the first chaplain Rev G. H. Nobbs in 1884, a Methodist church was formed and in 1891 a Seventh-day Adventist congregation led by one of Nobbs' sons. Some unhappiness with G. H. Nobbs, the more organised and formal ritual of the Church of England service arising from the influence of the Melanesian Mission, decline in spirituality, the influence of visiting American whalers, literature sent by Christians overseas impressed by the Pitcairn story, and the adoption of Seventh-day Adventism by the descendants of the mutineers still on Pitcairn, all contributed to these developments.
The Roman Catholic Church began work in 1957 and in the late 1990s a group left the former Methodist (then Uniting Church) and formed a charismatic fellowship. In 2011, 34% of the ordinary residents identified as Anglican, 13% as Uniting Church, 12% as Roman Catholic and 3% as Seventh-day Adventist. 9% were from other religions. 24% had no religion, and 7% did not indicate a religion. Typical ordinary congregations in any church do not exceed 30 local residents as of 2010[update]. The three older denominations have good facilities. Ministers are usually short-term visitors.
- Protestant 49.6%
- Roman Catholic 11.7%
- Other 8.6%
- None 23.5%
- Unspecified 6.6%
Country of birth
All information below is from the 2016 Census.
- Australia (39.7%)
- Norfolk Island (22.1%)
- New Zealand (17.6%)
- Fiji (2.7%)
- England (2.6%)
- Philippines (2.3%)
Islanders speak both English and a creole language known as Norfuk, a blend of eighteenth century English and Tahitian based on Pitkern. The Norfuk language is decreasing in popularity as more tourists come to the island and more young people leave for work and study reasons. However, efforts are being made to keep it alive via dictionaries and the renaming of some tourist attractions to their Norfuk equivalents.
In 2004 an act of the Norfolk Island Assembly made it a co-official language of the island. The act is long-titled: "An Act to recognise the Norfolk Island Language (Norf'k) as an official language of Norfolk Island". The "language known as 'Norf'k'" is described as the language "that is spoken by descendants of the first free settlers of Norfolk Island who were descendants of the settlers of Pitcairn Island". The act recognises and protects use of the language but does not require it; in official use, it must be accompanied by an accurate translation into English. 32% of the total population reported speaking a language other than English in the 2011 census, and just under three-quarters of the ordinarily resident population could speak Norfuk.
All information below is from the 2016 Census.
- English (45.5%)
- Norfuk (40.9%)
- Fijian (2.0%)
- Tagalog (1%)
- Filipino (0.8%)
- Mandarin Chinese (0.7%)
- Population who speaks a non-English language at home (51.7%)
- Population that only speaks English at home (45.5%)
The sole school on the island, Norfolk Island Central School, provides education from kindergarten through to Year 12. The school has a contractual arrangement referred to as a Memorandum of Understanding with the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities regarding the teaching staff of the school, the latest of which took effect in January 2015. In 2015 enrolment at the Norfolk Island Central School was 282 students.
Children on the island learn English as well as Norfuk, in efforts to revive the language.
No public tertiary education infrastructure exists on the Island. The Norfolk Island Central School works in partnership with Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and local employers to support students accessing Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses.
Literacy is not recorded officially, but can be assumed to be roughly at a par with Australia's literacy rate, as islanders attend a school which uses a New South Wales curriculum, before traditionally moving to the mainland for further study.
While there was no "indigenous" culture on the island at the time of settlement, the Tahitian influence of the Pitcairn settlers has resulted in some aspects of Polynesian culture being adapted to that of Norfolk, including the hula dance. Local cuisine also shows influences from the same region.
Islanders traditionally spend a lot of time outdoors, with fishing and other aquatic pursuits being common pastimes, an aspect which has become more noticeable as the island becomes more accessible to tourism. Most island families have at least one member involved in primary production in some form.
Religious observance remains an important part of life for some islanders, particularly the older generations, but actual attendance is about 8% of the resident population plus some tourists. In the 2006 census 19.9% had no religion compared with 13.2% in 1996. Businesses are closed on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
One of the island's long-term residents was the novelist Colleen McCullough, whose works include The Thorn Birds and the Masters of Rome series as well as Morgan's Run, set, in large part, on Norfolk Island. Ruth Park, notable author of The Harp in the South and many other works of fiction, also lived on the island for several years after the death of her husband, writer D'Arcy Niland.
Government and politics
Norfolk Island is the only non-mainland Australian territory to have had self-governance. The Norfolk Island Act 1979, passed by the Parliament of Australia in 1979, is the Act under which the island was governed until the passing of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015 (Cth). The Australian government maintains authority on the island through an Administrator, currently Eric Hutchinson. From 1979 to 2015, a Legislative Assembly was elected by popular vote for terms of not more than three years, although legislation passed by the Australian Parliament could extend its laws to the territory at will, including the power to override any laws made by the assembly.
The Assembly consisted of nine seats, with electors casting nine equal votes, of which no more than two could be given to any individual candidate. It is a method of voting called a "weighted first past the post system". Four of the members of the Assembly formed the Executive Council, which devised policy and acted as an advisory body to the Administrator. The last Chief Minister of Norfolk Island was Lisle Snell. Other ministers included: Minister for Tourism, Industry and Development; Minister for Finance; Minister for Cultural Heritage and Community Services; and Minister for Environment.
All seats were held by independent candidates. Norfolk Island did not embrace party politics. In 2007, a branch of the Australian Labor Party was formed on Norfolk Island, with the aim of reforming the system of government.
Since July 2016 after the loss of self-government, residents of Norfolk Island have been required to enrol in the Division of Canberra. As is the case for all Australian citizens, enrolment and voting for Norfolk Islanders is compulsory.
Disagreements over the island's relationship with Australia were put in sharper relief by a 2006 review undertaken by the Australian government. Under the more radical of two models proposed in the review, the island's legislative assembly would have been reduced to the status of a local council. However, in December 2006, citing the "significant disruption" that changes to the governance would impose on the island's economy, the Australian government ended the review leaving the existing governance arrangements unaltered.
In a move that apparently surprised many islanders, the Chief Minister of Norfolk Island, David Buffett, announced on 6 November 2010 that the island would voluntarily surrender its self-government status in return for a financial bailout from the federal government to cover significant debts.
It was announced on 19 March 2015 that self-governance for the island would be revoked by the Commonwealth and replaced by a local council with the state of New South Wales providing services to the island. A reason given was that the island had never gained self-sufficiency and was being heavily subsidised by the Commonwealth, by $12.5 million in 2015 alone. It meant that residents would have to start paying Australian income tax, but they would also be covered by Australian welfare schemes such as Centrelink and Medicare.
The Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly decided to hold a referendum on the proposal. On 8 May 2015, voters were asked if Norfolk Islanders should freely determine their political status and their economic, social and cultural development, and to "be consulted at referendum or plebiscite on the future model of governance for Norfolk Island before such changes are acted upon by the Australian parliament". 68% out of 912 voters voted in favour. The Norfolk Island Chief Minister, Lisle Snell, said that "the referendum results blow a hole in Canberra's assertion that the reforms introduced before the Australian Parliament that propose abolishing the Legislative Assembly and Norfolk Island Parliament were overwhelmingly supported by the people of Norfolk Island".
The Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015 passed the Australian Parliament on 14 May 2015 (assented on 26 May 2015), abolishing self-government on Norfolk Island and transferring Norfolk Island into a council as part of New South Wales law. From 1 July 2016 Norfolk Island legislation will be transferred to New South Wales and subject to NSW legislation.[needs update]
The most important local holiday is Bounty Day, celebrated on 8 June, in memory of the arrival of the Pitcairn Islanders in 1856.
Local ordinances and acts apply on the island, where most laws are based on the Australian legal system. Australian common law applies when not covered by either Australian or Norfolk Island law. Suffrage is universal at age eighteen.
As a territory of Australia, Norfolk Island does not have diplomatic representation abroad, or within the territory, and is also not a participant in any international organisations, other than sporting organisations.
The flag is three vertical bands of green, white, and green with a large green Norfolk Island pine tree centred in the slightly wider white band.
From 1788 until 1844, Norfolk Island was a part of the Colony of New South Wales. In 1844, it was severed from New South Wales and annexed to the Colony of Van Diemen's Land.:Recital 2 With the demise of the third settlement and in contemplation that the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island would move to Norfolk Island, the Australian Waste Lands Act 1855 (Imp), gave the Queen in Council the power to "separate Norfolk Island from the Colony of Van Diemen's Land and to make such provision for the government of Norfolk Island as might seem expedient". In 1856, the Queen in Council ordered that Norfolk Island be a distinct and separate settlement, appointing the Governor of New South Wales to also be the Governor of Norfolk Island with "full power and authority to make laws for the order, peace, and good government" of the island. Under these arrangements Norfolk Island was effectively self-governing, Although Norfolk Island was a colony acquired by settlement, it was never within the British Settlements Act.:p 885
The constitutional status of Norfolk Island was revisited in 1894 when the British Government appointed an inquiry into the administration of justice on the island. By this time, there had been steps in Australia towards federation including the 1891 constitutional convention. There was a correspondence between the Governor of Norfolk Island, the British colonial office and the Governor of New Zealand as to how the island should be governed and by whom. Even within NSW, it was felt that "the laws and system of government in the Colony of New South Wales would not prove suitable to the Island Community". In 1896, the Governor of New Zealand wrote "I am advised that, as far as my Ministers can ascertain, if any change is to take place in the government of Norfolk Island, the Islanders, while protesting against any change, would prefer to come under the control of New Zealand rather than that of New South Wales".
The British government decided not to annex Norfolk Island to the Colony of NSW and instead that the affairs of Norfolk Island would be administered by the Governor of NSW in that capacity rather than having a separate office as Governor of Norfolk Island. The order-in-council contemplated the future annexation of Norfolk Island to the Colony of NSW or to any federal body of which NSW form part. Norfolk Island was not a part of NSW and residents of Norfolk Island were not entitled to have their names placed on the NSW electoral roll. Norfolk Island was accepted as a territory of Australia, separate from any state, by the Norfolk Island Act 1913 (Cth), passed under the territories power, and made effective in 1914. Norfolk Island was given a limited form of self-government by the Norfolk Island Act 1979 (Cth).
There have been four challenges to the constitutional validity of the Australian Government's authority to administer Norfolk Island:
- In 1939, Samuel Hadley argued that the only valid laws in Norfolk Island were those made under the 1856 Order in Council and that all subsequent laws were invalid; his case was rejected by the High Court.
- In 1965, the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island rejected Henry Newbery's appeal against conviction for failing to apply to be enrolled to vote in Norfolk Island Council elections. He had argued that in 1857 Norfolk Island had a constitution and a legislature such that the Crown could not abolish the legislature nor place Norfolk Island under the authority of Australia. In the Supreme Court, Eggleston J considered the constitutional history of Norfolk Island and concluded that the Australian Waste Lands Act 1855 (Imp) authorised any form of government, representative or non-representative, and that this included placing Norfolk Island under the authority of Australia.
- As a result of the Australian Government's decision in 1972 to prevent Norfolk Island from being used as a tax haven, Berwick Ltd claimed to be resident in Norfolk Island but was convicted of failing to lodge a tax return. One of the arguments for Berwick Ltd was that Norfolk Island, as an external territory, was not part of Australia in the constitutional sense. In 1976, the High Court unanimously rejected this argument, approving the Newbery decision and holding that Norfolk Island was a part of Australia.
- In 2004 the Australian Government amended the Norfolk Island Act 1979 (Cth) to remove the right for non-Australian citizens to enrol and stand for election to the Legislative Assembly of Norfolk Island. The validity of the amendments was challenged in the High Court, arguing that as an external territory Norfolk Island was not part of Australia in the constitutional sense and that disenfranchising residents of Norfolk Island who were not Australian citizens was inconsistent with self-government. In 2007 the High Court of Australia rejected these arguments, again approving the Newbery decision and holding that Norfolk Island was part of Australia and that self-government did not require residency rather than citizenship to determine the entitlement to vote.
The Government of Australia thus holds that:
- Norfolk Island has been an integral part of the Commonwealth of Australia since 1914 when it was accepted as an Australian territory under section 122 of the Constitution. The Island has no international status independent of Australia.
Much of the self-government under the 1979 legislation was repealed with effect from 2016. The reforms included, to the chagrin of some of the locals of Norfolk Island, a repeal of the preambular sections of the Act which originally were 3–4 pages recognising the particular circumstances in the history of Norfolk Island.
This legal position is disputed by some residents on the island. Some islanders claim that Norfolk Island was actually granted independence at the time Queen Victoria granted permission to Pitcairn Islanders to re-settle on the island.
Following reforms to the status of Norfolk Island, there were mass protests by the local population. In 2015 it was reported that Norfolk Island was taking its argument for self-governance to the United Nations. A campaign to preserve the island's autonomy was formed, named Norfolk's Choice. A formal petition was lodged with the United Nations by Geoffrey Robertson on behalf of the local population on 25 April 2016.
Various suggestions for retaining the island's self-government have been proposed. In 2006, a UK MP, Andrew Rosindell, raised the possibility of the island becoming a self-governing British Overseas Territory. In 2013, the island's last chief minister, Lisle Snell, suggested independence, to be supported by income from fishing, offshore banking and foreign aid.
The laws of Norfolk Island were in a transitional state, under the Norfolk Island Applied Laws Ordinance 2016 (Cth), from 2016 until 2018. Laws of New South Wales as applying in Norfolk Island were suspended (with five major exceptions, which the 2016 Ordinance itself amended) until the end of June 2018. From 1 July 2018, all laws of New South Wales apply in Norfolk Island and, as "applied laws", are subject to amendment, repeal or suspension by federal ordinance. The Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) has been amended for application to Norfolk Island.
Immigration and citizenship
The island was subject to separate immigration controls from the remainder of Australia. Before 1 July 2016, immigration to Norfolk Island, even by other Australian citizens was heavily restricted. In 2012, immigration controls were relaxed with the introduction of an Unrestricted Entry Permit for all Australian and New Zealand citizens upon arrival and the option to apply for residency; the only criteria are to pass a police check and be able to pay into the local health scheme. From 1 July 2016, the Australian migration system replaced the immigration arrangements previously maintained by the Norfolk Island Government. Holders of Australian visas who travelled to Norfolk Island would have departed the Australian Migration Zone before 1 July 2016. Unless they held a multiple-entry visa, the visa would have ceased; in which case they would require another visa to re-enter mainland Australia.
Australian citizens and residents from other parts of the nation now have an automatic right of residence on the island after meeting these criteria (Immigration (Amendment No. 2) Act 2012). Australian citizens can carry either a passport or a form of photo identification to travel to Norfolk Island. The Document of Identity, which is no longer issued, is also acceptable within its validity period. Citizens of all other nations must carry a passport to travel to Norfolk Island even if arriving from other parts of Australia.
Non-Australian citizens who are permanent residents of Norfolk Island may apply for Australian citizenship after meeting normal residence requirements and are eligible to take up residence in mainland Australia at any time through the use of a Confirmatory (Residence) visa (subclass 808). Children born on Norfolk Island are Australian citizens as specified by Australian nationality law.
Non-Australian citizens who are Australian permanent residents should be aware that during their stay on Norfolk Island they are "outside of Australia" for the purposes of the Migration Act. This means that not only will they need a still-valid migrant visa or Resident return visa to return from Norfolk Island to the mainland, but also the time spent in Norfolk Island will not be counted for satisfying the residency requirement for obtaining a Resident return visa in the future. On the other hand, as far as Australian nationality law is concerned, Norfolk Island is a part of Australia, and any time spent by an Australian permanent resident on Norfolk Island will count as time spent in Australia for the purpose of applying for Australian citizenship.
Norfolk Island Hospital is the only medical centre on the island. From 1 July 2016, medical treatment on Norfolk Island was covered by Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as it is on mainland Australia. Emergency medical treatment is covered by Medicare or a private health insurer. Although the hospital can perform minor surgery, serious medical conditions are not permitted to be treated on the island and patients are flown back to mainland Australia. Air charter transport can cost as much as A$30,000, which is covered by the Australian Government. For serious emergencies, medical evacuations are provided by the Royal Australian Air Force. The island has one ambulance, staffed by St John Ambulance Australia volunteers.
The lack of medical facilities available in most remote communities has a major impact on the health care of Norfolk Islanders. As is consistent with other extremely remote regions, many older residents find it impossible to remain on the island when their health falters, many have to leave their homes and live in New Zealand or Australia to get medical care.
Defence and law enforcement
Defence is the responsibility of the Australian Defence Force. There are no active military installations or defence personnel on Norfolk Island. The Administrator may request the assistance of the Australian Defence Force if required.
Civilian law enforcement and community policing are provided by the Australian Federal Police. The normal deployment to the island is one sergeant and two constables. These are augmented by five local Special Members who have police powers but are not AFP employees.
The Norfolk Island Court of Petty Sessions is the equivalent of a Magistrates Court and deals with minor criminal, civil or regulatory matters. The Chief Magistrate of Norfolk Island is usually the current Chief Magistrate of the Australian Capital Territory. Three local Justices of the Peace have the powers of a Magistrate to deal with minor matters.
The Supreme Court of Norfolk Island deals with more serious criminal offences, more complex civil matters, administration of deceased estates and federal laws as they apply to the Territory. The Judges of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island are generally appointed from among Justices of the Federal Court of Australia and may sit on the Australian mainland or convene a circuit court. Appeals are to the Federal Court of Australia.
As stated by the Legal Profession Act 1993, "a resident practitioner must hold a Norfolk Island practising certificate." As of 2014[update], only one lawyer maintained a full-time legal practice on Norfolk Island.
Prior to 2016, the Norfolk Island Postal Service was responsible for mail receipt and delivery on the island and issued its own postage stamps. With the merger of Norfolk Island as a regional council, the Norfolk Island Postal Service ceased to exist and all postage is now handled by Australia Post. Australia Post sends and receives mail from Norfolk Island with the postcode 2899.
Economy and infrastructure
Tourism, the primary economic activity, has steadily increased over the years. As Norfolk Island prohibits the importation of fresh fruit and vegetables, most produce is grown locally. Beef is both produced locally and imported. The island has one winery, Two Chimneys Wines.
The Australian government controls the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and revenue from it extending 200 nautical miles (370 km) around Norfolk Island equating to roughly 428,000 km2 (165,000 sq mi), and territorial sea claims to 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) from the island. There is a strong belief on the island that some of the revenue generated from Norfolk's EEZ should be available to provide services such as health and infrastructure on the island, which the island has been responsible for, similar to how the Northern Territory is able to access revenue from their mineral resources. The exclusive economic zone provides the Islanders with fish, its only major natural resource. Norfolk Island has no direct control over any marine areas but has an agreement with the Commonwealth through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to fish "recreationally" in a small section of the EEZ known locally as "the Box". While there is speculation that the zone may include oil and gas deposits, this is not proven. There are no major arable lands or permanent farmlands, though about 25 percent of the island is a permanent pasture. There is no irrigated land. The island uses the Australian dollar as its currency.
In 2015 a company in Norfolk Island was granted a licence to export medicinal cannabis. The medicinal cannabis industry has been viewed by some as a means of reinvigorating the economy of Norfolk Island. The Commonwealth stepped in to overturn the decision, with the island's administrator, former Liberal MP Gary Hardgrave revoking the local licence to grow the crop. Legislation to allow the cultivation of cannabis in Australia for medical or scientific purposes passed Federal Parliament in February. The Victorian Government will be undertaking a small-scale, strictly controlled cannabis cultivation trial at a Victorian research facility.
Formerly, residents of Norfolk Island did not pay Australian federal taxes, which created a tax haven for locals and visitors alike. There was no income tax so the island's legislative assembly raised money through an import duty, fuel levy, medicare levy, goods and services tax of 12%, and local/international phone calls. The Chief Minister of Norfolk Island, David Buffett, announced on 6 November 2010 that the island would voluntarily surrender its tax-free status in return for a financial bailout from the federal government to cover significant debts. The introduction of income taxation came into effect on 1 July 2016. There is a variation of opinion on the island about these changes but with many understanding that for the island's governance to continue there is a need to pay into the commonwealth revenue pool in order for the island to have assistance in supporting its delivery of State government responsibilities such as health, education, Medicare, and infrastructure. Prior to these reforms, residents of Norfolk Island were not entitled to social services. It appears that the reforms do extend to companies and trustees and not only individuals.
As of 2004[update], 2532 telephone main lines are in use, a mix of analog (2500) and digital (32) circuits. Satellite communications services are planned. The island has a locally based radio station (Radio Norfolk), broadcasting on both AM and FM frequencies. There is also one television station, Norfolk TV, featuring local programming, plus transmitters for Australian channels ABC, SBS, Imparja Television and Seven. The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is .nf. A small GSM mobile network operates on the island across 3 towers, however no data transmission is available on this network. An 8-tower 4G/LTE 1800 MHz network has recently been installed improving Data service significantly on the island.
There are no railways, waterways, ports or harbours on the island. Loading jetties are located at Kingston and Cascade, but ships cannot get close to either of them. When a supply ship arrives, it is emptied by whaleboats towed by launches, five tonnes at a time. A mobile crane picks up the freight using nets and straps and lifts the freight onto the pier. Which jetty is used depends on the prevailing weather of the day; the jetty on the leeward side of the island is often used. If the wind changes significantly during unloading/loading, the ship will move around to the other side. Visitors often gather to watch the activity when a supply ship arrives. Norfolk Forwarding Services is the primary Freight Forwarding service for Norfolk Island handling both sea and airfreight. In 2017 Norfolk Forwarding Services shipped most of the freight for the Cascade Pier Project over a period of 18 months.
There is one airport, Norfolk Island Airport. There are 80 kilometres (50 mi) of roads on the island, 53 km (33 mi) paved and 27 km (17 mi) unpaved. Local law gives cows the right of way. Speed limits are low: 50 km/h (31 mph) maximum in the territory, 40 km/h (25 mph) in town and 30 km/h (19 mph) near schools. There was formerly an airline, Norfolk Island Airlines, which connected Norfolk Island with Brisbane. As of March 2018, there are no direct flights from New Zealand to Norfolk Island, leaving only services via Sydney and Brisbane. In mid 2018, Air Chathams announced it was looking to re-establish flights between Auckland and Norfolk Island and in August 2019 announced a weekly service between Auckland and Norfolk Island would begin on 6 September using a Convair 580. Following Jacinda Ardern's announcement of the opening of the Trans-Tasman bubble, Air Chathams announced a return to service effective from 27th May 2021, this service to Auckland, will operate on Thursdays using a 36-seater Saab 340 aircraft.
- Norfolk Island at the Commonwealth Games
- Norfolk Island at the Pacific Games - 2011 & 2015
- Norfolk Island at the Pacific Mini Games
- Athletics Norfolk Island
- Norfolk Island national rugby league team
- Norfolk Island national cricket team
- Norfolk Island national netball team
Teams that Norfolk Island players qualify for:
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