|THE NORFOLK ISLAND COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Norfolk Island within the Geographic Region of Oceania
Map of Norfolk Island
Flag Description of Norfolk Island:As an external territory of Australia, Norfolk Island hoists a most distinctive flag, one approved on June 6, 1979. It's symbolic of the Green Norfolk Island pines indigenous to the island.
Background of Norfolk Island
Norfolk Island, officially Territory of Norfolk Island, external territory of Australia, in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, 1,041 miles (1,676 km) northeast of Sydney. The island is about 5 miles (8 km) long and 3 miles (5 km) wide. It is volcanic in origin, and its generally rugged terrain, with a mean elevation of 360 feet (110 m) above sea level, rises to Mount Bates (1,047 feet [319 m]) and Mount Pitt (1,043 feet [318 m]). Kingston, in the south, is the main settlement and administrative centre. Area 13 square miles (35 square km). Population (2011) 1,795.
Geography of Norfolk Island
The island, composed of flows of basalt lava lying horizontally and overlaid in most places by lateritic soil, rises precipitously (with some cliffs reaching heights of more than 300 feet [90 m] above sea level) from an extensive submarine ridge. Kingston and the landing place at Cascade on the northern side of the island are among the few points where the coast is not bound by cliffs. The soil, although fertile, is easily eroded if stripped of its vegetation cover. Temperatures average 60° F (15° C), and rainfall exceeds 50 inches (1,300 mm) annually. Two smaller islands, Philip (a volcanic pinnacle rising to 900 feet [275 m]) and Nepean (a limestone formation), lie off the southern shore. Although much of the land has been cleared for cropping and pasture, the once-dominant Norfolk Island pines (species Araucaria excelsa, or A. heterophylla) remain a notable feature of the landscape. The island has a wide variety of flora; fauna includes geckos, bats, turtles, plentiful fishes, and numerous seabirds.
The island’s population includes the descendants of mutineers from the HMS Bounty who were transferred from Pitcairn Island in 1856, as well as descendants of later settlers, mostly from Australia and New Zealand. Nearly half of the present population may claim lineal descent from the Pitcairners; some one-third of the population was born on the Australian mainland, and about one-fifth in New Zealand. A strong blend of Polynesian and European heritage has a created a distinctive society, characterized by neighbourliness, self-help, and barter. Immigration is now strictly controlled.
Since the mid-1960s the major economic activity of Norfolk Island has been tourism; many of the islanders are employed in the operation of hotels, duty-free stores, and other aspects of the industry. About 30,000 tourists (many of them from New Zealand) visit the island annually. Subsistence farming produces Kentia palm seed, cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Livestock grazing and fishing are also important locally. Foodstuffs are imported from Australia and New Zealand, mainly for the tourist trade; fuels and consumer goods are also imported. Seed of the Norfolk Island pine is exported, and there is a forestry program to increase the island’s resource of pines. Budgetary revenue comes mostly from the sale of stamps and from customs duty and liquor sales (a government monopoly). The island has about 50 miles (80 km) of motor roads and an airport for passenger and air freight service with Australia and New Zealand.
The administrator of Norfolk Island is appointed by the governor-general of Australia. Under the Norfolk Island Act of 1979, the territory has an elected nine-member legislative assembly. An executive council is composed of the executive members of the legislative assembly who have ministerial-type responsibilities. The act continues Australia’s responsibility for the island as a territory under its authority and provides that consideration will be given to an extension of the powers of the legislative assembly. The judiciary consists of the island’s Supreme Court and a Court of Petty Sessions. Education is free and compulsory for children between 6 and 15 years of age. Teachers for the island’s school are provided by the New South Wales Department of Education. There is a small hospital on Norfolk Island.
The Structure of Norfolk Island's Government
The Government of Norfolk Island consists of:'
- The Administrator:
appointed by the Governor-General of Australia, and administers the island as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia. All bills passed by Norfolk Island's Legislative Assembly must be approved by the Administrator before they become laws. The Administrator acts on the advice of Norfolk Island's Executive Council and Australia's Minister for Territories. No Norfolk Islander has ever been appointed to this position.
- The Legislative Assembly:
elected for a period of three years by the residents of Norfolk Island. The Legislative Assembly consists of nine members. Its powers to legislate are restricted by the Norfolk Island Act: it may not pass bills authorising the coinage of money, nor any bills involving fishing, customs, immigration, education, quarantine, industrial relations, movable cultural objects and social security; these must be approved not only by the Australian Administrator, but also by Australia's Minister for Territories. Where any legislation is in conflict with ordinances made by Australia's Governor-General, the Norfolk Island legislation is deemed null and void.
- The Executive Council:
composed of four of the nine members of the Legislative Assembly. Each member of the Executive Council holds the position of Minister for one or more of a number of portfolios: Finance, Health, Education, Immigration, Lands, Tourism or Works. The role of the Executive Council is to devise governmental policy and advise the Administrator on all matters relating to the government of the island.
- The Public Service:
consists of the Chief Administrative Officer and the departments of Administrative Services, Community Services, Finance, Legal and Works. The role of the Public Service is to provide support to the Government of Norfolk Island by the formulation and implementation of public policy. The Chief Administrative Officer is appointed by the Administrator on advice of the Legislative Assembly. Appointments to the departments of the Public Service are made by the Chief Administrative Officer.
Economy of Norfolk Island
Economy - overview: Norfolk Island is suffering from a severe economic downturn. Tourism, the primary economic activity, is the main driver of economic growth. The agricultural sector has become self sufficient in the production of beef, poultry, and eggs.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $NA
Agriculture - products: Norfolk Island pine seed, Kentia palm seed, cereals, vegetables, fruit; cattle, poultry
Industries: tourism, light industry, ready mixed concrete
Labor force: 978 (2006) country comparison to the world: 230
Labor force - by occupation:
- agriculture: 6%
- industry: 14%
- services: 80% (2006 est.)
- revenues: $4.6 million
- expenditures: $4.8 million (FY99/00)
Fiscal year:1 July - 30 June
Exports - commodities: postage stamps, seeds of the Norfolk Island pine and Kentia palm, small quantities of avocados
Imports - commodities: NA
Debt - external: $NA
Exchange rates: Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -
- 1.031 (2013)
- 0.9658 (2012)
- 1.0902 (2010)
- 1.2822 (2009)
- 1.2059 (2008)
Tourism, Norfolk Island's primary economic activity, has steadily increased over the years. As Norfolk Island prohibits the importation of fresh fruit and vegetables, a vast majority of produce is grown locally. Beef is both produced locally and imported. Norfolk Island claims an exclusive economic zone extending 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) and territorial sea claims to three nautical miles (6 kilometers) from the island. This zone provides the islanders with fish, its only major natural resource, though there is speculation that the zone may include oil and gas deposits.
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. Residents of Norfolk Island do not pay Australian federal taxes, creating a tax haven. Since there is no income tax, the island's Legislative Assembly raises money through an import duty.
There are no railways, waterways, ports, or harbors on the island. Ships are loaded and unloaded by whaleboats towed by launches, five tons at a time at the loading jetties located at Kingston and Cascade Bay. There is one airport, Norfolk Island Airport. There are 50 miles (80 kilometers) of roads on the island, "little more than country lanes." Local law gives cows the right of way. As of 2004, 2,532 telephone main lines are in use, a mix of analog (2,500) and digital (32) circuits. Norfolk Island's country code is 672. Undersea coaxial cables link the island with Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Satellite service is planned.
There is one TV station featuring local programming Norfolk TV, plus transmitters for ABC-TV and Southern Cross Television. The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is .nf.
Exports totaled $1.5 million in 1991/1992. Export commodities included postage stamps, seeds of the Norfolk Island pine and Kentia palm, and small quantities of avocados. Export partners in 2004 were Australia, other Pacific island countries, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe. Imports totaled $17.9 million in 1991/1992) Import commodities were not listed. Import partners in 2004 were Australia, other Pacific island countries, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe.
Culture of Norfolk Island
The dynamics of the original people have dictated the culture and traditions of the Island. Melding of two cultures brings countless examples of the way things were done historically - from the Tahitian and English cultures. Ritual and method of everyday life would leach into correct ways and attributes of the people, even now inhabiting Norfolk Island life. It may be the food, the way and manner in which special days are celebrated, religion, dress, language, humour, leisure pastimes, or views and judgements. These are all “coloured” by the past and an idea of the “correct” way to do things. Words of a local man remind me still, that liars and thieves were the worst of the worst – both these actions being considered the ultimate sin. The island community still have doors to houses without locks. Misplaced items may well sit for days in a public place – without being touched, awaiting the owners return to retrieve them, as in “if it isn’t yours then don’t touch it! “.
We respect the passing of our locals by lowering the flags flying on the island to half mast. It is also customary for local women to create beautiful wreaths for the burial and likely as not bake a pie or dish to take to the grieving family. These age old customs are born of a close community that often in times of scarcity have banded together and necessity being the mother of invention have put their hands to creating, (from almost nothing) when required to do so. I think it is also safe to say that a strong work ethic is still alive and well on Norfolk Island. When you have had to build a community from scratch as did the Pitcairners, it is hard to break old habits and so even today you must work to make your way in the community. Whether it is ethically or morally found to be expedient to work hard I am not sure, but for the most, the island is hard working and fun loving in equal parts. Keeping a clean house is also a strong characteristic of the island. (Perhaps it’s origin being “cleanliness is next to godliness.)
- Whale bird egg harvesting
- Bamboo-pole fishing
- Music making - singing
- Pitcairn anthem
- Flags to half-mast for those passed
- Finger waving in cars
- Food - generosity and hospitality
- Handed down recipes unique to island
- Bounty day, Foundation day, Thanksgiving
- Norfolk language – more freely spoken at home
- Norfolk language – taught to children by parents and grandparents
- Wreath making
- Strong work ethic
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 are traditionally "outdoors" people, 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.
As all the Pitcairn settlers were related to each other, islanders have historically been informal both with 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 most islanders, particularly the older generations. Businesses tend to be closed on Mondays, for example.
One of the island's residents is 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.
History of Norfolk Island
The English navigator Captain James Cook discovered the uninhabited island in 1774 and, impressed by the abundance of local flax (Phormium tenax) and the potential of the indigenous pines to provide ships’ masts, named the island for the Duke of Norfolk. It became the second British possession in the Pacific when it was claimed by the Australian colony of New South Wales in 1788 and settled by a small party, including 15 convicts. After 26 years as a British penal colony, with a maximum of 1,100 convicts and free settlers, the island was abandoned in 1814 and the population removed mostly to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).
Reestablished as a penitentiary (1825–55) for the reception of the most desperate criminals from the British convict settlements in Australia, Norfolk Island became notorious as a place of merciless discipline and punishment, holding an average of 1,500 to 2,000 convicts. The evacuation again of all convicts to Tasmania resulted as much from the difficulty of supervising administrators as from the difficulty of supervising the prisoners. In 1856 the population of Pitcairn Island, descendants of the mutineers from the HMS Bounty, was resettled on Norfolk; two small, disaffected parties returned to Pitcairn. Norfolk Island was originally made “a distinct and separate settlement” from the mainland colonies on June 24, 1856. Rapidly the islanders established their own systems of land tenure and society generally. In 1897 Britain conferred administrative status on the governor of New South Wales, though the island remained a separate British colony.
In 1913, under the Norfolk Island Act (effective 1914), the colony became a territory of the Australian commonwealth, but the precise constitutional relationship with Australia was never the subject of complete agreement. An airfield constructed on the island during World War II gave Norfolk a link with the outside world. A royal commission in 1975 undertook clarification of the status of Norfolk Island, and the present administrative system was established in 1979.
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