Norfolk Island

From Academic Kids

Template:Norfolk Island infobox Norfolk Island is an island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, and is one of Australia's external territories. The island is 34 km². The Norfolk Island pine, also pictured in the flag, is a very striking evergreen tree endemic to the island and is quite popular in Australia, where two related species grow.



Discovery and settlement decision

The finding of stone adzes and other implements suggests that Norfolk Island was once used by seafaring Polynesian people as a brief stop-over point. However, no trace of permanent settlement has been found. The first European known to have sighted the island was Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific in the Resolution. He named it after the wife of the premier peer of Britain, Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1685-1777). Cook went ashore on Tuesday 11 October 1774, and was impressed with the tall straight pine trees and flax-like plants. He took samples back to England and reported on their potential uses for the British Navy. At the time, Britain was heavily dependent on flax (for sails) and hemp (for ropes) from the shores of the Baltic Sea ports. Any threat to their supply endangered Britain's sea power. She also relied on timbers from New England for mainmasts, and these were not supplied after the American War of Independence. The alternative source of Norfolk Island for these supplies is argued by some historians, notably Geoffrey Blainey in The Tyranny of Distance, as being a major reason for the founding of the convict settlement of New South Wales by the First Fleet in 1788.

First penal settlement

Before the First Fleet sailed to found a convict settlement in New South Wales, Governor Arthur Phillip's final instructions, received less than three weeks before sailing, included the requirement to colonize Norfolk Island to prevent it falling into the hands of France, whose naval leaders were also showing interest in the Pacific. When the fleet arrived at Port Jackson in January 1788, Phillip ordered Lieutenant Philip Gidley King to lead a party of fifteen convicts and seven free men to take control of the island and prepare for its commercial development. They arrived on 6 March 1788.

It was soon found that the flax was difficult to prepare for manufacturing and no one had the necessary skills. An attempt was made to bring two Maori men to teach the skills of dressing and weaving flax, but this failed when it was discovered that weaving was women's work and the two men had little knowledge of it. The pine timber was found to be not resilient enough for masts and this industry was also abandoned.

More convicts were sent, and the island was seen as a farm, supplying Sydney with grain and vegetables during its early years of near-starvation. However, crops often failed due to the salty wind, rats and caterpillars. The lack of a natural safe harbour hindered communication and the transport of supplies and produce.

Manning Clark observed that "at first the convicts behaved well, but as more arrived from Sydney Cove, they renewed their wicked practices". These included an attempted overthrow of King in January 1789 by convicts described by Margaret Hazzard as "incorrigible rogues who took his 'goodwill' for weakness". While some convicts responded well to the opportunities offered to become respectable, most remained "idle and miserable wretches" according to Clark, despite the climate and their isolation from previous haunts of crime.

The impending starvation at Sydney led to a great transplantation of convicts and marines to Norfolk Island in March 1790 on HMS Sirius. This attempt to relieve the pressure on Sydney turned to disaster when Sirius was wrecked and, although there was no loss of life, some stores were destroyed, and the ship's crew was marooned for ten months. This news was met in Sydney with unspeakable consternation. Norfolk Island was now further cut off from Sydney which, with the arrival of the Second Fleet with its shameful cargo of sick and abused convicts, had more pressing problems to contend with.

In spite of this the settlement grew slowly as more convicts were sent from Sydney. Relationships were established and children were born here. Many convicts chose to remain as settlers on the expiry of their sentence, and the population grew to over 1000 by 1792.

Increasingly, Norfolk Island was used as place of secondary punishment where the most intractable convicts were sent to be placed under the control of King's replacement, Robert Ross. When Joseph Foveaux arrived as Lieutenant Governor in 1800, he found the settlement in a most disorderly state of things, little maintenance having been carried out in the previous four years, and he set about building it up, particularly through public works and attempts to improve education.

As early as 1794 King suggested its closure as a penal settlement as it was too remote and difficult for shipping, and too costly to maintain. By 1803 the Secretary of State, Lord Hobart, called for the removal of part of the Norfolk Island military establishment, settlers and convicts to Van Diemen's Land, due to its great expense and the difficulties of communication between Norfolk Island and Sydney. This was achieved more slowly than anticipated, due to reluctance of settlers to uproot themselves from the land they had struggled to tame, and compensation claims for loss of stock. It was also delayed by King's insistence on its value for providing refreshment to the whalers. The first group of 159 left in February 1805 and comprised mainly convicts and their families and military personnel, only four settlers departing. Between November 1807 and September 1808, five groups of 554 people departed. 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 another European power, to visit that place.

Norfolk Island lay abandoned, to return to its primeval state, leaving behind only the physical and mental scars of a quarter of a century of human penal occupation.

Between 15 February 1814 and 6 June 1825 the island lay abandoned.

Lieutenant governors of the first settlement:

Second penal settlement

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, seen previously as a disadvantage, was now viewed as an asset for the detention of the twice-convicted men, those who had committed further crimes since arriving in New South Wales. Brisbane assured his masters that the felon who is sent there is forever excluded from all hope of return. He saw Norfolk Island as the ne plus ultra of Convict degradation. His successor, Governor Ralph Darling, was even more severe than Brisbane, wishing that every man should be worked in irons that the example may deter others from the commission of crime and to hold out [Norfolk Island] as a place of the extremest punishment short of death. Governor George Arthur, in Van Diemen's Land, likewise believed that when prisoners are sent to Norfolk Island, they should on no account be permitted to return. Transportation thither should be considered as the ultimate limit and a punishment short only of death. Clearly, reformation of the convicts, a supposed goal of the system of transportation as much as punishment, was not seen as an objective of the Norfolk Island penal settlement.

The evidence that has passed down through the years points to the creation of a "Hell in Paradise". The most widespread and popular notion of the harshness of the penal settlements, including Norfolk Island, has come from the novel For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke, which appears to be based on the writings and recollections of witnesses and from the fictional writings of Price Warung.

Following a convict mutiny in 1834, Father William Ullathorne, Vicar general of Sydney, visited Norfolk Island to comfort the mutineers due for execution. He found it the most heartrending scene that I ever witnessed. Having the duty of informing the prisoners as to who was reprieved and who was to die, he was shocked to record as a literal fact that each man who heard his reprieve wept bitterly, and that each man who heard of his condemnation to death went down on his knees with dry eyes, and thanked God.

The 1846 report of magistrate Robert Pringle Stuart exposed the scarcity and poor quality of food, inadequacy of housing, horrors of torture and incessant flogging, insubordination of convicts, and corruption of overseers.

Bishop Robert Willson visited Norfolk Island from Van Diemen's Land on three occasions. Following his first visit in 1846 he reported to the House of Lords who, for the first time, came to realise the enormity of atrocities perpetrated under the British flag and attempted to remedy the evils. Willson returned in 1849 and found that many of the reforms had been implemented. However, rumours of resumed atrocities brought him back in 1852, and this visit resulted in a damning report, listing atrocities and blaming the system, which invested one man at this remote place with absolute power over so many people.

Only a handful of convicts left any written record and their descriptions (as quoted by Hazzard and Hughes) of living and working conditions, food and housing, and, in particular, the punishments given for seemingly trivial offences, are unremittingly horrifying, describing a settlement devoid of all human decency, under the iron rule of the tyrannical autocratic commandants.

The actions of some of the commandants, such as Morisset and particularly Price appear to be excessively harsh. All but one were military officers, brought up in a system where discipline was inhumanely severe throughout the period of transportation. In addition, the commandants relied on a large number of military guards, civil overseers, ex-convict constables, and convict informers to provide them with intelligence and carry out their orders.

Of the Commandants, only Alexander Maconochie appeared to realise that brutality would breed defiance, as demonstrated by the mutinies of 1826, 1834 and 1846, and he attempted to apply his theories of penal reform, providing incentives as well as punishment. His methods were criticised as being too lenient and he was replaced, a move that returned the settlement to its harsh rule.

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. It was abandoned because transportation to Van Diemen's Land had ceased in 1853 and was replaced by penal servitude in Britain.

Commandants of the second settlement:

Third settlement: Pitcairn Islanders

On 6 June 1856, another group of exiles arrived at Norfolk Island. These were the descendants of Tahitians and the HMAV Bounty mutineers, resettled from the Pitcairn Islands.

In 1867, a Melanesian mission station was established at St. Barnabas, and in 1882 a church was erected to the memory of Bishop Patteson, with windows designed by Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris.

References to the penal settlements of Norfolk Island

Clark, Manning, A History of Australia, Vols. I–III, Melbourne, MUP, 1962, 1968, 1973.

Hazzard, Margaret, Punishment Short of Death: A History of the Penal Settlement at Norfolk Island, Melbourne, Hyland, 1984.

Hughes, Robert, The Fatal Shore, London, Pan, 1988.

Wright, R., The Forgotten Generation of Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1986.

Clarke, Marcus, For the Term of his Natural Life (novel)


Norfolk Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. Its geographical coordinates are Template:Coor dm. The island has an area of 34.6 km² with no large-scale bodies of water. It has no land boundaries with any foreign country and has 32km of coastline. The island's highest point is Mt. Bates (319m above sea level), located in the northwest quadrant of the island. The majority of the terrain is suitable for farming and other agricultural uses.

The coastline of the island consists, to varying degrees, of cliff faces. A downward slope exists towards Sydney 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 is sometimes done at Ball Bay.

Norfolk Island claims an exclusive fishing zone extending 200 nautical miles and territorial sea claims to three nautical miles from the island. The climate is subtropical and mild, with little seasonal differentiation. The island is a volcanic formation with mostly rolling plains.

Missing image
Location of Norfolk Island

The only major natural resource of Norfolk Island is fish. There are no major arable lands or permanent farmlands, though about 25% of the island is a permanent pasture. There is no irrigated land.

The area surrounding the highest point of the island, Mt. 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 Philip Island. The vegetation of Philip Island was devastated due to the introduction 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 Philip Island environment.


The Norfolk Island chief of state is Queen Elizabeth II, while the Australian government, through an Administrator (currently Grant Tambling) appointed by the Australian Government, administers the island's external affairs. There is also a Legislative Assembly elected by popular vote for a term of not more than three years.

The Assembly contains nine seats, with all electors having nine equal votes but only being able to give four of them 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 form the Executive Council, which devises policy and acts as an advisory body to the Administrator. The current Chief Minister of Norfolk Island is Geoffrey Robert Gardner. All seats are held by independent candidates as Norfolk Island does not have political parties.

The island's official capital is Kingston; however, see below.

The most important national holiday is Bounty Day, celebrated on June 8, 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. English 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 organizations, other than sporting organizations.

The flag is three vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and green with a large green Norfolk Island pine tree centered in the slightly wider white band.

Administrative divisions

The major settlement on the Island is Burnt Pine, located predominantly along Taylor's Road, where the shopping centre, post office, liquor store, 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.

Relations with Australia

Controversy exists as to the exact status of Norfolk Island. Although officially part of Australia, some Islanders claim that it was actually granted independence at the time Queen Victoria granted permission to Pitcairn Islanders to re-settle on the island. Residents of Norfolk Island do not pay Australian taxes (creating a tax haven for locals and visitor alike) and the island is subject to separate immigration controls from the remainder of the nation.

Australian citizens and residents from other parts of the nation do not have automatic right of residence on the island. 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. Non-Australians without a multiple entry visa to Australia (or authority to enter without a visa) will be refused entry if they try to return to mainland Australia from Norfolk Island.

Residency on Norfolk Island is normally granted in a manner similar to most sovereign nations today – sponsorship must be made by an existing resident of Norfolk Island or a business operating on the island. Temporary residency may also be granted to skilled workers necessary for the island's services – examples are medical, government and teaching staff.

Medicare does not cover Norfolk Island. All visitors to Norfolk Island, including Australians, are recommended to purchase travel insurance. Serious medical conditions are not treated on the island; rather, the patient is flown back to mainland Australia, if necessary by the Royal Australian Air Force.


Though usually peaceful, Norfolk Island has been the site of two murders in the 2000s so far. The Deputy Chief Minister of the island, Ivens Buffett, was found shot dead in 2004, two years after the body of Janelle Patton was found. The murders are not related. Other than these two events, crime is low on the island.


Tourism, the primary economic activity, has steadily increased over the years. As Norfolk Island prohibits the importation of fruit and vegetables, all produce is grown locally. Beef is both produced locally and imported. The Australian dollar is the currency used.


Missing image
Norfolk Island panorama with Nepean and Philip Islands in the distance

The population of Norfolk Island was estimated in July 2003 to be 1,853, with an annual population growth rate of 0.01%. In July 2003, 20.2% of the population were 14 years and under, 63.9% were 15 to 64 years and 15.9% were 65 years and over.

Emigration is growing as many Islanders take advantage of the close ties between Norfolk and Australia and New Zealand. The one school on the island provides education to Australian Year 12; therefore, any student seeking to complete tertiary study must travel overseas. Additionally, the small economy of the island causes many skilled workers to emigrate as well. Literacy is not recorded officially, but it can be assumed to be roughly at a par with Australia's literacy rate of 100%.

Most Islanders are of Caucasian ancestry, being descendants of the Bounty Mutineers as well as more recent arrivals from Australia and New Zealand. The Bounty descendants have some Polynesian stock; however, only a minority consider themselves ethnically Polynesian.

The majority of Islanders are Protestant Christians. In 1996, 37.4% identified as Anglican, 14.5% as Uniting Church, 11.5% as Roman Catholic and 3.1% as Seventh-day Adventist.

Islanders speak both English and a language known as "Norfuk", a blend of 1700s-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.

Transportation and communications

There are no railways, waterways, ports or harbours on the island. Loading jetties are located at Kingston and Cascade. There is one paved airport, with a runway length/width of 1950 x 113m. There are 80km of roads.

The airstrip was built during World War II, as a southern base to repel the Japanese taking over the pacific. As Norfolk Island did not have enough flat ground, several bulldozers were used to knock the tops off of several hills, and fill in the valleys between them. Steel mesh was then used to make a solid surface. The airport was never used as a major base, however it was a stopover for aircraft travelling to and from New Zealand. Mount Bates also had a secret radar installation.

As of 2004, 2532 telephone main lines are in use, a mix of analog (2500) 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 local TV programming station and two repeaters that bring in Australian programs by satellite. The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is .nf.


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.

Helen Reddy also moved to the island for a period but was denied a long term entry permit and has since moved on.

External links

Template:Pacific Islandsde:Norfolkinsel es:Isla Norfolk eo:Norfolkinsulo fr:le Norfolk he:נורפוק (אי) ja:ノーフォーク島 nl:Norfolkeiland pl:Norfolk pt:Ilha Norfolk fi:Norfolkinsaari sv:Norfolkn zh-min-nan:Norfolk-t


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