Norfolk Island

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Territory of Norfolk Island
Teratri of Norf'k Ailen[1]
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Inasmuch"[2]
Anthem: "God Save the Queen" (official)
"Pitcairn Anthem"
Status External Territory
Capital Kingston
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Largest city Burnt Pine
Official languages English
Demonym Norfolk Islander[4]
Sovereign state Australia
Government part of Australia
 •  Monarch Elizabeth II
 •  Administrator Gary Hardgrave
 •  Norfolk Island Act 1979 
 •  Total 34.6 km2 (227th)
13.3 sq mi
 •  Water (%) negligible
 •  July 2014 estimate 2,210 [5] (231)
 •  Density 61.9/km2
161/sq mi
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Time zone NFT (Norfolk Island Time) (UTC+11:00)
Drives on the left
Calling code 672
ISO 3166 code NF
Internet TLD .nf

Norfolk Island (Listeni/ˈnɔːrfək ˈlənd/; Norfuk: Norf'k Ailen[6]) is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, 1,412 kilometres (877 mi) directly east of mainland Australia's Evans Head, and about 900 kilometres (560 mi) from Lord Howe Island. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia. Together with two neighbouring islands, it forms one of Australia's external territories. It has 2,300 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2 (14 sq mi). Its capital is Kingston.

Originally settled by East Polynesians, Norfolk Island was colonised by Great Britain as part of its settlement of Australia in 1788, at which point it was uninhabited. The island served as a convict penal settlement until May 1855, except for an 11-year hiatus between 1814 and 1825, when it was abandoned. In 1856, permanent civilian residence on the island began when it was settled from Pitcairn Island. In 1901, the island became a part of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The evergreen Norfolk Island pine is a symbol of the island and thus pictured on its flag. Native to the island, the pine is a key export for Norfolk Island, being a popular ornamental tree on mainland Australia, where two related species grow, and also worldwide.


Early history

Norfolk Island was first settled by East Polynesian seafarers either from the Kermadec Islands north of New Zealand or from the North Island of New Zealand. They arrived in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, and survived for several generations before disappearing.[7]

The first European known to have sighted and landed on the island was Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific on HMS Resolution. He named it after Mary Howard, Duchess of Norfolk (c. 1712 – 1773).[8]

Sir John Call argued the advantages of Norfolk Island in that it was uninhabited and that New Zealand flax grew there. In 1786 the British government included Norfolk Island as an auxiliary settlement, as proposed by John Call, in its plan for colonisation of New South Wales. The decision to settle Norfolk Island was taken due to Empress Catherine II of Russia's decision to restrict sales of hemp. 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 1788.

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.

Nineteenth century

Norfolk Island gaol

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.[9] 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 15 February 1814 to 6 June 1825 the island was abandoned.

In 1824 the British government instructed the Governor of New South Wales Thomas Brisbane to occupy 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 be a hardcore of recidivists, or 'doubly-convicted capital respites' – that is, men transported to Australia who committed fresh colonial crimes for which they were sentenced to death, and were spared the gallows on condition of life at Norfolk Island. However, a recent study has demonstrated, utilising a database of 6,458 Norfolk Island convicts, that the reality was somewhat different: more than half were detained at 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 sentences, and the average length of detention was three years.[10]

The second penal settlement began to be wound down by the British government 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.

On 8 June 1856, the next settlement began on Norfolk Island. These were the descendants of Tahitians and the HMS Bounty mutineers, including those of Fletcher Christian. They resettled from the Pitcairn Islands, which had become too small for their growing population. They left Pitcairn Islands on 3 May 1856 and arrived with 194 persons on 8 June. 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 with whaling fleets.

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 population of focus.

Post-nineteenth century

After the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, Norfolk Island was placed under the authority of the new Commonwealth government to be administered as an external territory. 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. 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 1,500 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 was granted limited self-government by Australia, under which the island elects a government that runs 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.[11]

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.[12] However, by May 2013 agreement had not been reached and islanders were having to leave to find work and welfare.[13] 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.[14][15] A majority of Norfolk Islanders have 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.[16]

On 4 October 2015, Norfolk Island changed its time zone from UTC+11:30 to UTC+11:00.[17]


View across to Nepean Island (foreground) and Phillip Island
Map of Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of the Australian mainland. Norfolk Island is the main island of the island group the territory encompasses and is located at Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.. 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. The island's highest point is Mount Bates (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 Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found., 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,[18] 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. 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 marine subtropical climate, which is best characterised as mild. The temperature almost never falls below 10 °C (50 °F) or rises above 26 °C (79 °F). The absolute maximum recorded temperature is 28.4 °C (83.1 °F), while the absolute minimum is 6.2 °C (43.2 °F).[19] Average annual precipitation is 1,290.2 millimetres (50.80 in), with most rain falling from April to August. Other months receive significant amounts of precipitation as well.

Climate data for Norfolk Island Airport
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 28.3
Average high °C (°F) 24.5
Average low °C (°F) 19.1
Record low °C (°F) 12.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 85.6
Average precipitation days 10.9 12.2 15.0 15.8 18.5 19.7 20.9 19.1 14.9 12.8 10.2 11.2 181.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 232.5 200.6 201.5 195.0 182.9 156.0 182.9 204.6 213.0 229.4 237.0 238.7 2,474.1
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[19]



Rhopalostylis baueri, a native palm

Norfolk Island has 174 native plants; 51 of them are endemic. At least 18 of the endemic species are rare or threatened.[20] The Norfolk Island palm (Rhopalostylis baueri) and the smooth tree-fern (Cyathea brownii), the tallest tree-fern in the world,[20] are common in the Norfolk Island National Park but rare elsewhere on the island. Before European colonization, 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) of rainforest remains, which was declared as the Norfolk Island National Park in 1986.[20]

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.[20]


As a relatively small and isolated oceanic island, Norfolk has few land birds but a high degree of endemicity among them. Many of the endemic 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.[21]

Extinctions include that of the endemic Norfolk kākā and Norfolk ground dove along with endemic subspecies of pigeon, starling, triller, thrush and boobook owl, though 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.[21]

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.[22]

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.[21]

Norfolk Island also has a botanical garden, which is home to a sizeable variety of plant species.[22] 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.

The Norfolk swallowtail (Papilio amynthor) is a species of butterfly that is found on Norfolk Island and the Loyalty Islands.[23]

Cetaceans were historically abundant around the island as commercial hunts on the island was 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 shores, and scientific surveys have been conducted regularly. Southern right whales were once regular migrants to the Norfolk hence naming the island as the "Middle ground" by whalers,[24] but had been severely depleted by historical hunts, and further by illegal Soviet and Japan whaling,[25] resulting in none of 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.


The population of Norfolk Island in the 2011 census was 2,302, which has declined since a high of 2,601 in 2001. 1,220 of the 2011 census night population were female, and 1,082 male. 78% of the population on census night were residents, with the remaining 22% 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 show an ageing population, with many people aged 20–34 having moved away from the island.[26]

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.[27]

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.[27][28]

62% of 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 state their religion.[26] Typical ordinary congregations in any church do not exceed 30 local residents as of 2010. The three older denominations have good facilities. Ministers are usually short-term visitors.

Literacy is not recorded officially, but it 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.

Islanders speak both English and a creole language known as Norfuk, a blend of 18th-century English and Tahitian. The Norfuk language is decreasing in popularity as more tourists travel to the island and more young people leave for work and study reasons; however, there are efforts 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.[3][29][30] 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.[31][32] 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.[26]

Emigration is growing as many islanders take advantage of the close ties between Norfolk and Australia and New Zealand.

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.[33]

No public tertiary education infrastructure exist on the Island. The Norfolk Island Central School works in partnership with Registered Training Organisation (RTOs) and local employers to support students accessing Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses.[34]

The small economy of the island causes many skilled workers to emigrate as well.


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.

View across to Phillip Island

As all the Pitcairn settlers were related to each other, islanders have historically been informal both to each other and to visitors. The most noticeable aspect of this is the "Norfolk Wave", with drivers waving to each other (ranging from a wave using the entire arm through to a raised index finger from the steering wheel) as they pass.[citation needed]

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[35] compared with 13.2% in 1996.[36] Businesses are closed on Sundays.

One of the island's 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.

Helen Reddy also moved to the island for a period, and still maintains a house there.

American novelist James A. Michener, who served in the United States Navy during World War II, set one of the chapters of his episodic novel Tales of the South Pacific on Norfolk Island.

The island is one of the few locations outside North America to celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.[37]

Government and politics

Norfolk Island is the only non-mainland Australian territory to have achieved 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. The Australian government maintains authority on the island through an Administrator, currently Gary Hardgrave.[38] 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.

Residents of Norfolk Island are entitled to enrol in a mainland Australian division in a state to which they have a connection, or the Division of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, or for the Division of Solomon in the Northern Territory. Enrolment for Norfolk Islanders is not compulsory, but once enrolled they must vote.[39]

Disagreements over the island's relationship with Australia were put in sharper relief by a 2006 review undertaken by the Australian government.[11] 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.[27] 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.[40]

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.[41]

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.[42]

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".[43] 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".[16]

The Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Bill 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.[44] From 1 July 2016 Norfolk Island legislation will be transferred to New South Wales and subject to NSW legislation.[45]

The island's official capital is Kingston; it is, however, more a centre of government than a sizeable settlement. The largest settlement is at Burnt Pine.

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.

Constitutional status

Norfolk Island was originally a colony acquired by settlement but was never within the British Settlements Act.[46][47] It was accepted as a territory of Australia, separate from any state, by the Norfolk Island Act 1913 (Cth),[48] passed under the territories power (Constitution section 122) and made effective in 1914.[49] In 1976 the High Court of Australia held unanimously that Norfolk Island is a part of the Commonwealth.[50] Again, in 2007 the High Court of Australia affirmed the validity of legislation that made Australian citizenship a necessary qualification for voting for, and standing for election to, the Legislative Assembly of Norfolk Island.[51]

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.[52]

Norfolk Island has had a limited form of self-government, established by the Norfolk Island Act 1979 (Cth).[53] This limited form of self-government has since been replaced by the Norfolk Island Advisory Council.[53]

Much of the self-government under the 1979 legislation was repealed with effect from 2016.[54] 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.[55]

Consistent with the Australian position, the United Nations Decolonization Committee[56] does not include Norfolk Island on its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

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.[57]

Following reforms to the status of Norfolk Island there were mass protests by the local population.[58] In 2015 it was reported that Norfolk Island was taking its argument for self-governance to the United Nations.[59][60]

Immigration and citizenship

The island is subject to separate immigration controls from the remainder of Australia. Until recently 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[61] 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.[62] From 1 July 2016, the Australian migration system will replace the immigration arrangements currently maintained by the Norfolk Island Government.[63]

Australian citizens and residents from other parts of the nation now have automatic right of residence on the island after meeting these criteria (Immigration (Amendment No. 2) Act 2012). Australian citizens must carry either a passport or a Document of Identity to travel to Norfolk Island. Citizens of all other nations must carry a passport to travel to Norfolk Island even if arriving from other parts of Australia. Holders of Australian visas who travel to Norfolk Island have departed the Australian Migration Zone. Unless they hold a multiple-entry visa, the visa will have ceased; in which case they will require another visa to re-enter mainland Australia.[61]

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 Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa.[61] 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 residence requirement for obtaining a Resident return visa in the future.[61] 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.[64]

Health care

Norfolk Island Hospital is the only medical centre on the island. Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme do not cover Norfolk Island.[65] All visitors to Norfolk Island, including Australians, are recommended to purchase travel insurance. Although the hospital can perform minor surgery, serious medical conditions are not treated on the island and patients are flown back to mainland Australia. Air charter transport can cost in the order of A$25,000. 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.[citation needed] 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 is 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.


Norfolk Island takes its own censuses, separate from those taken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the remainder of Australia.

Postal service

Australia Post sends and receives mail from Norfolk Island with the postcode 2899. However, distribution is carried out by the Norfolk Island Postal Service. Consequently, stamps issued by Norfolk cannot be used in Australia, and those issued by Australia Post cannot be used on the island.

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.[66]

The Australian government controls the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and revenue from it extending 200 nautical miles (370 km) around Norfolk Island (roughly 428,000km2) and territorial sea claims to three nautical miles (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 providing 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.[67] 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.[27] There are no major arable lands or permanent farmlands, though about 25 per cent 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 license to export medicinal cannabis.[68] The medicinal cannabis industry has been viewed by some as a means of reinvigorating the economy of Norfolk Island. However, it remains to be seen how this may be affected by recent reforms to the legislative decision making processes of the island.


Residents of Norfolk Island do not pay Australian federal taxes,[69] creating a tax haven for locals and visitors alike. Because there is no income tax, the island's legislative assembly raises money through an import duty, fuel levy, medicare levy, GST and local/international phone calls.[27][69] 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 tax free status in return for a financial bailout from the federal government to cover significant debts. The introduction of income taxation will now come into effect on July 1, 2016, with 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 so that the island can 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.[70] It appears that the reforms do extend to companies and trustees and not only individuals.[71][72]


As of 2004, 2532 telephone main lines are in use, a mix of analog (2500) and digital (32) circuits.[4] Satellite communications services are planned.[citation needed] There is one locally based radio station (Radio Norfolk 89.9FM), broadcasting on both AM and FM frequencies. There is also one TV station featuring local programming (Norfolk TV), plus transmitters for ABC TV, SBS TV, Imparja Television and Southern Cross Television. The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is .nf.


Jetty at Kingston
Norfolk Island jetty.jpg

There are no railways, waterways, ports or harbours on the island.[73] 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. Which jetty is used depends on the prevailing weather on 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.

There is one airport, Norfolk Island Airport.[4] There are 80 kilometres (50 mi) of roads on the island (53 km (33 mi) paved, 27 km (17 mi) unpaved); however, local law gives cows the right of way.[27] 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.[74]

On 18 November 2009, a Pel-Air IAI Westwind II aircraft ditched near Norfolk Island after being unable to land in bad weather and not having sufficient fuel to divert to another destination. All six passengers and crew were rescued from the sea.[75]

See also


History of penal settlements:


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Further reading

  • Hoare, Merval. Norfolk Island, an outline of its history 1774-1987. 4th edition. St. Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1988. ISBN 0-7022-2100-7

External links

General information
Archaeology and Polynesian settlement in prehistory

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