Norfolk Island facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Territory of Norfolk Island
Teratri a' Norf'k Ailen
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Inasmuch"
Anthem: "God Save the Queen"(official)
"Pitcairn Anthem"
Status External Territory
Capital Kingston
Largest city Burnt Pine
Official languages English
Norfuk
Demonym Norfolk Islander
Sovereign state Australia
Government part of Australia
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Administrator Gary Hardgrave
Establishment
 -  Separation from Colony of Tasmania 1 November 1856 
 -  Transfer of Territory from UK to Australia 1 July 1914 
Area
 -  Total 34.6 km2 (227th)
13.3 sq mi
 -  Water (%) negligible
Population
 -  July 2014 estimate 2,210 (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
Internet TLD .nf

Norfolk Island (Listeni/ˈnɔːrfək/; Norfuk: Norf'k Ailen) 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 1,796 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2 (14 sq mi). Its capital is Kingston.

Norfolk Island was first settled by East Polynesians but was long unpopulated when it was eventually also settled by Great Britain as part of its settlement of Australia from 1788. 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 it was settled from Pitcairn Island. In 1914 the UK handed Norfolk Island over to Australia to administer as an external territory.

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.

History

Early history

Norfolk Island was 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.

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 (c. 1712–1773).

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.

19th century

Norfolk Island jail
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. 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 to 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.

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. On 3 May 1856, 193 persons left Pitcairn Islands aboard Morayshire. On 8 June, 194 persons 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 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.

Norfolk Island was the subject of several experiments in administration during the century. It began the nineteenth century as part of the Colony of New South Wales. On 29 September 1844 Norfolk Island was transferred out of the Colony of New South Wales to the Colony of Van Diemen's Land. 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. 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. It 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.

20th century

The island was placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1914 by an Order in Council made in the United Kingdom pursuant to the Australian Waste Lands Act, 1855 of the United Kingdom. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia had already accepted the territory by the Norfolk Island Act, 1913 of Australia.

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 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 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 elected a government that ran most of the island's affairs.

21st century

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 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.

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

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 extend 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. Norfolk Island residents also became eligible to vote in the ACT electorate of Canberra.

Significant opposition to the reforms has arisen in the territory 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".

Geography

Norfolk Island Philip Island
View across to Nepean Island (foreground) and Phillip Island
Norfolk Island-CIA WFB Map
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 . 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 , 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. 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.

Gallery

Climate

Norfolk Island has a marine subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification: Cfa), 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). 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
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 28.3
(82.9)
28.4
(83.1)
28.4
(83.1)
26.6
(79.9)
25.1
(77.2)
23.4
(74.1)
22.0
(71.6)
21.8
(71.2)
23.8
(74.8)
24.4
(75.9)
26.5
(79.7)
28.2
(82.8)
28.4
(83.1)
Average high °C (°F) 24.5
(76.1)
24.9
(76.8)
24.3
(75.7)
22.7
(72.9)
20.9
(69.6)
19.3
(66.7)
18.4
(65.1)
18.3
(64.9)
19.0
(66.2)
20.2
(68.4)
21.7
(71.1)
23.4
(74.1)
21.5
(70.7)
Average low °C (°F) 19.1
(66.4)
19.6
(67.3)
19.2
(66.6)
17.8
(64)
16.1
(61)
14.7
(58.5)
13.5
(56.3)
13.2
(55.8)
13.7
(56.7)
14.8
(58.6)
16.1
(61)
17.8
(64)
16.3
(61.3)
Record low °C (°F) 12.1
(53.8)
12.8
(55)
12.1
(53.8)
9.7
(49.5)
6.6
(43.9)
7.1
(44.8)
6.2
(43.2)
6.7
(44.1)
7.7
(45.9)
8.2
(46.8)
8.7
(47.7)
11.4
(52.5)
6.2
(43.2)
Precipitation mm (inches) 85.6
(3.37)
95.2
(3.748)
101.8
(4.008)
123.8
(4.874)
132.0
(5.197)
146.3
(5.76)
141.8
(5.583)
127.2
(5.008)
94.3
(3.713)
84.9
(3.343)
72.8
(2.866)
85.7
(3.374)
1,290.2
(50.795)
Avg. 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
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

Environment

Flora

KermadecNikau
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. 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 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.

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.

Fauna

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.

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.

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.

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

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 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.

Demographics

The resident population of Norfolk Island in the 2011 census was 1,796, which had declined from a high of 2,601 in 2001. This was 78 percent of the census count, with the remaining 22 percent being visitors. Sixteen percent of the population were 14 years and under, 54 percent were 15 to 64 years and 24 percent 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.

Sixty-two percent 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 percent of the ordinary residents identified as Anglican, 13 percent as Uniting Church, 12 percent as Roman Catholic and three percent as Seventh-day Adventist. Nine percent were from other religions. Twenty four percent had no religion, and seven percent did not indicate a religion. 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 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. 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.

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. In 2015 enrolment at the Norfolk Island Central School was 282 students.

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.

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

Statistics

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook.

Population

  • 2,210

Population growth rate

  • 0.01%

Nationality

  • Norfolk Islander(s) (noun)
  • Norfolk Islander(s) (adjective)

Ethnic groups

Religions

Languages

  • English (official) 67.6%
  • Other 32.4% (includes Norfolk Island 23.7%, which is a mixture of 18th century English and ancient Tahitian)

Culture

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.

Norfolk Island Philip Island3
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.

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 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.

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