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Bloodless Genocide
A Political History of the Pitcairn People in Norfolk Island from 1856 to 1996


The Pitcairners in Norfolk Island
Some Facts Not Easily Arranged Chronologically


1767 - Captain Carteret of His Britannic Majesty's "Swallow" discovered an uninhabited island he called "Pitcairn's" after the young man who first spotted it. He recorded its position at 25 degrees 2 minutes South latitude and 133 degrees 30 minutes West longitude. The latitude figure was more or less correct, but the actual longitude of Pitcairn's Island (as it was originally called) is 130 degrees West. The name was later shortened to Pitcairn Island, no possessive.


1774 - Another uninhabited island was discovered by Captain James Cook on his second voyage. It lay at latitude 29 degrees South and longitude 168 degrees East, was some five miles by three miles in size, and covered in a wealth of "pine trees". Cook names it Norfolk Island (after one of his patrons, the 9th Duchess of Norfolk), commenting in his log that the "pines" (really 'Araucaria heterophylla' ) would provide a source of ship's masts, and its flax a source of sails.


1788, January 26th - Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet, arrived with his ships in Botany Bay in that land originally called New Holland. It became known as the British Colony of New South Wales. Within a very few days the First Fleet relocated inside Port Jackson, at Sydney Cove.

1788, March 6th - Lt. Philip Gidley King effected a landing in Norfolk Island after a week's fruitless quest for a place to get ashore. Aboard his two ships, "Sirius" and "Supply", was a small party of convicts and free men detached from the settlement at Sydney. Norfolk Island was occupied as a possession of the British Crown.


1789, April 28th - The mutiny on the "Bounty" occurred during the night. Captain William Bligh and most of those loyal to him were ejected from the ship, which sailed first to Tahiti, where the rest of those loyal to Bligh were left, together with some of the mutineers. Lt. Fletcher Christian and eight other mutineers took the "Bounty" on a search for a place where they were less likely to be apprehended by the British Navy. With the nine mutineers sailed eighteen Tahitians: six men, eleven women and a girl aged 15.


1790, January 23rd - The British mutineers and their Tahitian wives/allies occupied Pitcairn Island as their new home because it lay some 200 miles from its charted position, was uninhabited, and could support a small settlement.


1808, February 8th - Discovery at last. Captain Folger of the American whaler "Topaz" found John Adams (then calling himself Alexander Smith) and 34 women and children of Tahitian or mixed blood living in Pitcairn Island. His report eventually reached the British Government.[a]


1810 - The British Crown decided to abandon the Norfolk Island convict settlement after the "pine trees" proved unsuitable for masts and the flax for sail-making. The produce of Norfolk Island, which had saved so many in the Sydney colony from chronic shortage of food, was also no longer necessary.


1814 - The Norfolk Island convict settlement was finally abandoned and its buildings burned or demolished to discourage the occupation of the Island by other nations.

1814 - Captain Sir T. Staines of HM Briton" and Captain Pipon of HM "Targus" happened upon Pitcairn Island whilst searching for the American ship "Essex". They reported the presence of John Adams (now going by this name), some Tahitian women and a fine brood of half-Polynesian, half-British adults and children on the island. Most were able to read and write, and all were devout Christians.


1825 - Norfolk Island was re-occupied by the British Crown, this time to serve as a prison for the "extremest punishment short of death".


1838 - Captain R. Elliot of HMS "Fly" visited Pitcairn Island and gave the Pitcairners formal authority for "the election of a magistrate or elder to be periodically chosen among themselves and answerable for their proceedings to Her Majesty's Government". The regulations (which he drew up and signed on board his ship on November 30th) stipulated that a native-born inhabitant of the Island be elected magistrate on the first of January each year by the free vote of all the native-born inhabitants or five-year residents over 18 years of age. The magistrate was to be assisted by a council of two. In addition to drawing up this and other regulations, Captain Elliot himself held the first such election, which was in effect only until the end of the year. He formally attested in writing that the elected magistrate had been sworn into office before him; he also provided a Union Jack to be flown as an ensign of British protection. Thus was Pitcairn Island constituted a British colony.


1839-1855 - The British Crown instructed that each and every year Pitcairn Island should be visited and the situation, state and progress of its populace be reported. This directive arose out of the Crown's interest in a people it considered unique, and of great value to the infant science of eugenics. The phrase "the Experiment" began to creep into correspondence on the subject of the Pitcairners.[b, c]


1855 - An Imperial Order-In-Council [f] decreed that the truly dreadful prison in Norfolk Island be shut down, and the settlement abandoned. However, due to increasing whaling activity and other ships' traffic in the South Pacific, it was considered prudent to colonise the Island on a permanent basis. Because the people of Pitcairn Island were rapidly outgrowing the slender subsistence resources of Pitcairn Island, it was suggested that they be transferred lock, stock and barrel to Norfolk Island to form its first permanent population. There, still isolated from the mainstream of European life, the Pitcairners could continue to live in the way they had since 1790, and thus continue to be a source of eugenic information.


1856, February 16th - An extract from a letter from Sir William Denison, Governor General of New South Wales, to his brother Evelyn (Viscount Ossington):

"Captain Fremantle, who went down in the 'Juno' to ascertain the wishes of the Pitcairn Islanders as to their transfer to Norfolk Island, brings me a most wonderful account of their simplicity, single-mindedness, &c. We are going to put them on an island provided with cattle, which they have never seen, sheep, of which they know not the use, machinery, such as mills, &c., of the application of which they can have no conception. It would be a curious and interesting occupation to watch the development of their ideas under these very novel circumstances. I am afraid that their simplicity will wear away fast under the operation of the new influences brought to bear upon them. I have, however, done my best to isolate them, by directing the officers who are going down in charge of the vessel, and who will allocate them in their individual allotments, to divide the whole island (which contains about 10,000 acres) among the families, with the exception of about 500 acres for public purposes, and 200 acres for a church and schools; so as to leave no room for other settlers. I should like to visit them myself; and shall ask for permission to do so when I send home the statement of the mode in which I have sent them...."

1856, May 3rd - On this day, after duly weighing the offer in solemn discussion among all the people, female as well as male, the Pitcairners decided to accept the Crown's offer of Norfolk Island as their new homeland. The "Morayshire" transported the 193 inhabitants of Pitcairn to Norfolk Island as a whole and entire people, complete with all their material possessions from dogs and cats to tools, relics and documents.

1856, May 16th - Having given the Pitcairners to understand that they might divide Norfolk Island as they wished (vide his letter to his brother), Governor Denison began to renege. His first effort was somewhat veiled, and was addressed to Lt. Gregorie in Norfolk Island. Dated after the bargain with the Pitcairners had been concluded, it sought to qualify the original terms.

"With reference to that paragraph in your instructions by which you were directed to divide the land at Norfolk Island among the families of the Pitcairn Islanders, reserving only certain portions as specified for public purposes, I have now to direct you to do this with a distinct provision that the arrangement of the land is subject to be revised and amended if necessary by the Governor of New South Wales, to whom all the arrangements connected with the settlement of Norfolk Island have been entrusted by Her Majesty."


The Pitcairners in Norfolk Island

1856, June 8th - The 194 (a child was born during the voyage) Polynesian/Caucasian people who comprised the whole population of Pitcairn Island landed in Norfolk Island together with all their possessions and effects. They were escorted by Lt. Gregorie, who did not inform the new inhabitants of Norfolk Island about Sir William Denison's letter and directive of May 16th. They were greeted by Superintendent Stewart, who handed the chief magistrate of the Pitcairners, George Young, a document which conferred Norfolk Island on the Pitcairners in the same manner as contained in Denison's letter to his brother, Viscount Ossington.

1856, June 24th - An Imperial Order-In-Council [f] was issued decreeing that Norfolk Island be severed from the colony of Van Dieman's Land. Norfolk Island was henceforth to be a seperate and distinct colony for the former inhabitants of Pitcairn Island.

1856, June 25th-26th - Denison's second effort to renege arrived from Sydney with Captain Stephen Fremantle, who read it out to the assembled Pitcairners as a proclamation:

"To the Chief Magistrate of the Pitcairn Islanders now resident on Norfolk Island:

"All arrangements made by the community of Pitcairn Islanders as to the distribution of land on Norfolk Island are to be subject to the approval of Sir W.T. Denison, Governor General of New South Wales.

"The whole of the coastline including the jetties, and the roads now made throughout the island are to be reserved as public property. The following buildings are also to be retained as belonging to Her Majesty's Government:

"The Gaol, the Government House, the Chaplains house.

"Also 200 acres of cleared land at Longridge for a glebe and 500 acres elsewhere.

"The Islanders however are not debarred from making any temporary use of the abovementioned grounds and buildings. They are to understand that they are not allotted as proporty to any individual.

"This is communicated by direction of His Excellency the Governor General." [#]

It was signed by Stephen G. Fremantle, Captain of HMS "Juno" and Senior Officer in New South Wales, and was dated June 25th. It was read out to the assembled Pitcairners on June 26th.

1856 - Freehold land grants commenced, from Queen Victoria to the new Norfolk Islanders.


1856-1896 - Denison's restriction of the right of the Norfolk Islanders to divide Norfolk Island as they chose were enforced; all titles, deeds and transfers had to be lodged and approved in New South Wales, and were administered from there. The new inhabitants succeeded in gaining title to only about one-fourth of the total land area.


1858 - Utterly disillusioned by Denison's behaviour, some 16 members of the Young family sailed the 3,700 miles back to Pitcairn Island, where they established the second Pitcairn settlement, and were joined by other parties of disenchanted Pitcairners over the following decade.


1859 - Deploring the deleterious effect of "this petticoat government" upon the Pitcairners (a reference to the equal suffrage of Pitcairn women), Sir William Denison visited Norfolk Island. There he demanded and confiscated the document handed to Chief Magistrate G.M. Young by Superintendent Stewart when the Pitcairners had landed at Norfolk Island on June 8th of 1856. There follows the affidavit signed by Chief Magistrate Young at an unspecified later date:

"I, George Martin Frederick Young, do hereby declare that the document handed to me by Superintendent Stewart on our landing at Norfolk Island in June 1856 and signed by His Excellency Sir William Dennison (sic) putting us in possession of Norfolk Island and all stores, livestock, houses etc., etc. on Norfolk Island was taken from me as Chief Magistrate by Sir William Dennison (sic) during his visit to Norfolk Island in 1859, saying that the said document will be of no further use to the people." [#]

This affidavit was witnessed by the First Councillor of Norfolk Island in 1859, Thomas Buffett:

"I, Thomas Buffett, who was First Councillor of Norfolk Island in 1859, was present at the interview and saw when the aforesaid document was taken away from our Chief Magistrate by His Excellency Sir William Dennison (sic) during his visit to Norfolk Island in 1859." [#]


1894 - Reports of the unsatisfactory administration of justice in Norfolk Island began to reach the Governor of New South Wales in Sydney some three years before this date, and continued. A commission was appointed to visit Norfolk Island to investigate. Much of the vice-regal dissatisfaction seems to stem from the cheerful willingness of the Norfolk Islanders to admit oursiders to their ranks as residents of the Island, usually through marriage to Pitcairn girls.[c] It was felt that the isolation of the islanders and their morals were being corrupted by these outside influences.


1896 - Appanently as the result of a lenient sentence meted out to a Pitcairner woman for throwing her (illegitimate) baby down a well, the British Government at the behest of the Governor of New South Wales decided to remove self-government from the Pitcairners of Norfolk Island.

During April, the Colonial Party met in the British House of Commons to discuss the proposed disenfranchisement. Among those present were Bishop Selwyn, Primate of New Zealand, the Rev. Dr. Codrington of New Zealand, and the Hon. W.P. Reeves, Agent-General for New Zealand. Siad Dr. Codrington:

"The people of Norfolk Island are proud of their history and their independent existance under the direct authority of the British Crown. Administrative reforms are undoubtedly necessary, but they [the Pitcairners] would keenly resent any proposal to put them under the control of a neighbouring colony."

Said Bishop Selwyn:

"Such a step would be a mistake, and a violation of the self-government privileges which the Islanders have enjoyed for the past fourty years, and the permanent possession [of Norfolk Island] which they believe had been guaranteed to them by the Imperial Government."

Said the Hon. W.P. Reeves:

"I distinctly object to New South Wales becoming the governing colony. Norfolk Island is in New Zealand waters, and the only people who have hitherto taken any active interest in the island are church people. Ecclesiastically Norfolk Island has been, and still is, in the appanage of New Zealand." [d]


1896, November 14th - Extract from the speech delivered in person in the Norfolk Island court room by the Governor of New South Wales, Viscount Hampden:

."The reports of the commissioners agree in finding that the laws and regulations of the Island have not been observed with proper loyalty and respect and that the administration of the law has been unsatisfactory....

."In consideration of the fact that the Norfolk Island settlement originally formed part of the administrative colony of New South Wales, and that the legal business of the Island as well as the registration of all titles and transfers have been uniformly conducted by the Government departments at Sydney, Her Majesty's Government have decided to tranfer the administration of the Island to the Government of New South Wales." [#]


1897-1898 - The "new management" of Norfolk Island was involved in a chain of peculations and defalcations aired at length in a report by the New South Wales Chief Inspector of Public Accounts, Mr. G.E. Brodie. The offenders were the new Chief Magistrate, his son the new Registrar, and one of the two police constables, all sent from New South Wales to administer and regulate the Island. There were efforts to shift the blame to the Norfolk Islanders, but these came to nothing.


1901 - The Colonies comprising the continent of Australia and the island of Tasmania formed a federation "in one indissoluble Commonwealth."

Norfolk Island was not mentioned in the Constitution, nor made part of the new Commonwealth.


1902, August 25th - Apparently annexation of Norfolk Island by the new Commonwealth of Australia was already being bruited, for the entry in Isaac Robinson's diary on this date reports "a large and influential public meeting tonight to discuss the annexation to Commonwelath." The meeting voted (59 to 6) against annexation "in any form". [#]


1905 - The constitutional position of Norfolk Island anent the Commonwealth of Australia was debated/discusses in Melbourne, then the seat of the Federal Government. Sir Robert Garran, Secretary to the Attorney-General, wrote an opinion for the Attorney-General:

"The island could apparently be made a territory under control of the Commonwealth by joint operation of an Imperial Order-In-Council and a Commonwealth Act. The effect would be that the Parliament could make laws for its government, and that it would be a dependency of the Commonwealth, not a part of the Commonwealth itself [our emphasis], and that the general laws of the Commonwealth would not be in force in the Island to any further extent than the Parliament thought fit to provide - nor would it necessarily be within the tariff fence. In other words, it would be in the same position to the Commonwelath as British New Guinea will be if the Papua Bill is passed."[e]

This opinion was endorsed by the Attorney-General, Sir Isaac Issacs, probably Australia's greatest constitutional lawyer:

"I agree. Forward to the Honourable Prime Minister."

The constitutional position of Norfolk Island has never been so thoroughly explored.


1908 - The Norfolk Islanders were evicted from their Kingston homes of 52 years by Governor Harry Rawson of New South Wales after they refused to accept lease documents saying that the houses belonged to the Crown, not to them.

Bear in mind that in Sir William Denison's proclamation of June 25th, 1856, the houses were not reserved for the Crown. Nor did the document specify that the "500 acres of land elsewhere" were located anywhere near Kingston.


1914 - An Imperial Order-In-Council [f] gave the Commonwealth of Australia authority to administer Norfolk Island. Australia had asked that Norfolk Island be ceded to the Commonwealth, but the Norfolk Islanders objected very strenuously, and the Crown declined to make such a transfer.

1914 - On Page 17 of a report by the Secretary for the Australian Department of External Affairs is the following statement about the Pitcairn/Norfolk language:

"Its use contributes to maintain a spirit of exclusiveness amongst these folks and for this reason, as well as because it has no merit to justify its continued existance, it is hoped that its employment may be discouraged in every possible way."


1925 - The British Order-In-Council #1031 [f] concerning the Fugitive Offenders Act 1881 had this to say about Norfolk Island:

"And whereas Papua and Norfolk Island are British Possessions which have been placed under the authority of the said Commonwealth...."

The Fugitive Offenders Act 1881 is no longer relevant, but the Order-In-Council has never been revoked.


1926 - An Australian Royal Commission received representations from 12 of the then 19 surviving original settlers from Pitcairn Island, to the effect that the British Government's promises to the Pitcairners on their arrival at Norfolk Island had not been honnoured. [#]


1935 - Because the Norfolk Islanders were most unhappy with the Australian administration of Norfolk Island and were very loudly vocal about their shabby treatment, the Australian Federal Government (a UAP/CP one, i.e., Tory) enacted the Norfolk Island Printers and Newspapers Ordinance. Until 1964 (when it was repealed by another Tory government) this ordinance made it unlawful to publish any newspaper, newsletter or pamphlet in Norfolk Island if the Australian Administrator disapproved of it. The ordinance was in effect for 29 years.


1939-1945 - As in earlier wars, Norfolk Island sent a disproportionately high percentage of its men to fight in World War II, the majority to the Australian armed services, but some to New Zealand, and to various British Pacific island colonies like Fiji and Western Samoa.


1946 - The United Nations Association of Australia says in its 1978 report on the status of Norfolk Island:

"Australia signed the U.N. Charter as a foundation member on 1 November 1945, and the following year under its obligation of Article 73e, enumerated and began transmitting information on the overseas territories it considered non-self-governing, as distinct from trust territories. The Australia Government of the day [a Labor one] saw fit to nominate the obvious territories of the Cocos Islands and Papua. But it excluded Norfolk Island. What combination of moral fervour, political prudence and then-current perception of the nature of colonialism motivated this particular choice remains a matter for further research."[h]


1948 - Australia (a Labor Government) passed a law which made Norfolk Islanders Australian citizens, to travel on Australian Passports. Until this time, native-born Norfolk Islanders had owned British Passports. The Norfolk Islanders were not consulted by either the United Kingdom (also a Labor Government) or Australia.


1955 - Some 583 (a very large majority at that time) Norfolk Islanders petitioned Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to restore self-government to Norfolk Island. [#]


1957- To backtrack a little, by virtue of the provisions of Section 3 of the Commonwealth of Australia's Norfolk Island Act of 1913 (which came into force on July 1st, 1914), and in accordance with Section 122 of the Australian Constitution, Norfolk Island had been accepted as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.

By virtue of the provisions of the Norfolk Island Act of 1935 (#4 of 1935) and the Norfolk Island Act of 1957 (#28 of 1957), which came into force on June 21st, 1935 and May 30th, 1957, respectively, the Norfolk Island Act of 1913 was amended, and Section 3 of that Act was continued in force.

By virtue of the provisions, Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Norfolk Island Act of 1957 (#29 of 1957), which came into force on April 7th, 1960, the Norfolk Island Act of 1913, the Norfolk Island Act of 1935, and all but Sections 11, 12 and 13 of the Norfolk Island Act #28 of 1957 were repealed.

The operative parts of this Act #29 of 1957 did not preserve or continue in force Section 3 of the Norfolk Island Act 1913 under which Norfolk Island was accepted by the Commonwealth of Australia as a Territory under its authority. [g]

By virtue of Section 122 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (63 and 64 Victoria, Chapter 12), the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia has no power or authority to make laws for the government of Norfolk Island unless Norfolk Island is accepted by the Commonwealth as a Territory under its authority.


1972 - The Commonwealth of Australia ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, As at 1996 it still had not applied the Covenant to Norfolk Island, as in PART I, Article 1:

."1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
."2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
."3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations."


1970's - In the early 1970s several geological reports concluded that there was a strong possibility of fossil fuel deposits located within Norfolk Island's territorial waters. One such, in 1975, spoke of a 95% chance of natural gas on the Wanganella Bank, 190 miles to the south of the Island, at about 100 metres depth. Others spoke of a high chance of petroleum deposits to the north, That part of Norfolk Island's shoreline known as Black Bank consists of oil shale.


1975, May - The Australian Federal Government (a Labor one) commissioned Sir John Nimmo to commence enquiring into the future constitutional status of Norfolk Island.

1975, November - The Nimmo Report was issued. It recommended that Norfolk Island be integrated (i.e., annexed) into the Commonwealth of Australia as part of the Federal electorate of Canberra, not as part of any state. Nimmo specifically stated that no referendum in Norfolk Island should be allowed.


1977 - Informed that the Australian Federal Government (a Liberal/CP one, i.e., Tory) intended to implement the Nimmo report, the Norfolk Island Council (a locally elected body with no power in law or government and an "advisory" title) appealed to the United Nations for protection against Australia's design. Australia successfully lobbied other U.N. members and prevented the appeal from being heard.

1977 - Australia refused to allow the Norfolk Islanders to conduct a referendum about the Nimmo recommendations. As another way of making their feelings apparent, 68% of Norfolk Island signed "Solemn Declarations" that they did not wish to be integrated into Australia. The Australian Minister responsible for Norfolk Island, Senator R.G. Withers, said that the solemn declarations were "totally, completely and utterly valueless." [#]

1977 - The Norfolk Island Council prepared bound reports for presentation to Senator Withers, entitled "Democratic Government in Norfolk Island". The Australian Administrator, Desmond O'Leary, ordered the Councillors to put their reports away, saying, "That is not what the Minister is coming here to talk about."[#]

1977 - The Society of Pitcairn Descendants appealed, as Polynesians, to the Pacific Island leader Governor Peter Tali Coleman of American Samoa. Governor Coleman received them ceremoniously "as fellow Polynesians", and gave full moral support. He said: "We will be standing beside you.... All you need is a referendum." [#]


1978, February - The Untied Nations Association of Australia issued an exhaustive two-volume report about the status of Norfolk Island anent Australia and the United Nations. In part it said:

."The official Australian stance on Norfolk Island is, in short, patently ludicrous....
."Yet, some 30 years later [than 1945], the Department of Foreign Affairs clings to the claim that Norfolk Island is not a non-self-governing territory, but rather a part of metropolitan Australia, on the rather specious basis that no other member state of the UN has ever proposed otherwise." [h]

As a footnote to this, we add that in 34 declarations to the International Labor Organization (I.L.O.) made by the Commonwealth, it has declared that Norfolk Island is not a part of metropolitan Australia. Under Article 35 of the I.L.O. Constitution, this means that thirty-four times the Commonwealth of Australia has formally declared to an international body that Norfolk Island is not a part of the Commonwealth, but rather is a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.

1978, May - A new Minister. R.J. Ellicott (Lib/CP, i.e., Tory), visited Norfolk Island and announced that the Australian Government had decided not to implement the Nimmo Report. Instead, it would decide a form of self-government, provided that Norfolk Island could support itself from its own resources (our emphasis). Mr. Ellicott said that no referendum would be held on Norfolk Island.


1979- Embodying Mr. Ellicott's design, the Norfolk Island Act of 1979 restored a measure for self-government to the people of Norfolk Island, though Australia retained many powers which it promised to review within five years. The promise has not yet, in 1996, been fully honoured, particularly since Australia still retains the power of veto in all significant areas, and can invalidate any law passed ny the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly by extending an Australian Act to include Norfolk Island.

Bill Blucher, head of the Norfolk Island Council, said:

"We will work with it for the best interests of the people. However, it contains inbuilt injustices which will cause further difficulties until they are removed." [#]

1979, August - The first Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly, consisting of nine members, was elected and took office. Its members were not provided with any kind of formal training for the task of governing, though it had been 84 years since self-government had been stripped away, and 65 years since Australia had established a total autocracy on the Island.

1979, November - The Commonwealth of Australia claimed the 200 miles of Norfolk Island's territorial waters as "a part of the Australian fishing zone", a direct contradiction of Mr. Ellicott's speech of May 1978, when he spoke of the Island's supporting itself "from its own resources", and in contravention of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In 1996, Australia still pockets every cent of the money obtained from selling Norfolk Island's fishing rights. Nor can anyone in Norfolk Island discover what the sale of these rights fetches. However, the Island's waters are very rich in squid, a most lucrative catch.


1980 - The Governor-General of Australia assented to Norfolk Island's having its own flag. Queen Elizabeth II signed the warrant for Norfolk Island's armorial bearings, which show the Norfolk Island escutcheon supported by a British lion and an Australian kangaroo. Neither beast is native to Norfolk Island.

1980 - The Commonwealth of Australia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But, as with the earlier Covenant it has never applied the Covenant to Norfolk Island.
PART I, Article 1 says:

."1. All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development...."
."3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations."


1983 - A Labor Government came into power in Australia, and remained in power until March 2nd, 1996, the time of the writing of this history. Therefore all subsequent dates and their events have happened under Labor.


1987 - The Governor General of Australia assented tot he Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly's amendments to the Norfolk Island Referendum Ordinance, allowing the Legislative Assembly to call referendums on any subject concerning the peace, order and good government of Norfolk Island.

1987 - From the report of the Australian Federal Parliament's Constitutional Commissions Advisory Committee on the Distribution of Powers:

"The Norfolk Island Government seeks a special relationship with the Commonwealth. We point out that machinery does exist which could accommodate the Island's having a 'free association' status with Australia, similar to the relationship of the Cook Islands with New Zealand. This could be provided for under Sections 51(xxix) and 122 [of the Australian Constitution], with Australia's having responsibility for the Island's external affairs and defence." [i]


1988 - The Australian House of Representatives formed a Parliamentary Committee to enquire into the legal regimes of territories under Australia's authority.


1989 - The Norfolk Island Government completed its first ten years of financial self-support still debt-free, as the Island has been ever since 1856.

Very significant public works and administrative improvements during the decade were financed by substantially increased local taxes, enacted by the Legislative Assembly.


1991, February - Informed by the Australian House of Representatives Legal Regimes Committee that its forthcoming report might recommend Norfolk Island's inclusion into the Australian Federal electoral system, the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly called a referendum asking whether Norfolk Island's electors favoured constitutional changes being discussed by this Committee. 82% voted NO. Australia was to ignore this referendum on the grounds that the question had been asked prematurely (see 1991, October).

1991, March - The Legal Regimes Committee's report [j] was presented to the Australian House of Representatives in Canberra. It recommended various changes designed to bring Norfolk Island into the Australian mainstream. The Norfolk Island Government lodged strong objections to all the offending recommendations.

1991, September - The Minister for Territories, Mr. David Simmons, announced that the Australian Government had decided to incorporate Norfolk Island into the Federal Electorate of Canberra, with Australian citizens living in Norfolk Island having the option of enrolling. "The member for Canberra will represent Norfolk Island," he said. The Norfolk Island Government informed Mr. Simmons that it had no objections to Australian citizens living in Norfolk Island being allowed to vote in Australian elections if they wished, provided that they could vote in the electorates of their choice. It was, however, absolutely opposed to the Island's being incorporated into any Federal electorate.

1991, October - The referendum of February having been ignored, the Norfolk Island Government called a fresh referendum, set for December 4th, on the question: "The Commonwealth proposes to pass a law to make Norfolk Island a part of Canberra for Federal electoral purposes. Are you in favour of this proposal?"

1991, November - In the Australian House of Representatives, Mr. Simmons stated that "The Government considers that the interests of Norfolk Island would be more effectively served" if the Island were to be out into one single electorate. [Hansard, House of Reps]

1991, December 4th - Held in accordance with the legislation assented to by the Governor General of Australia in 1987, the referendum permitted the electors of Norfolk Island to decide for themselves how their interests would be most effectively served. 80.2% voted NO, they did not want Norfolk Island to be a part of Canberra for Federal electoral purposes. Mr. Simmons stated that the referendum was irrelevant, and proceeded to put his Bill before the House of Representatives, where it passed. However, when the Bill reached the Senate, the Democrats voted with the Opposition to amend the Bill because the people of Norfolk Island did not want the measure. The final Act reads that residents of Norfolk Island who are Australian citizens and wish to vote in Australian Federal elections may enrol in the electorate with which they have an affinity (community interest), or, if they feel no affinity for a particular electorate, may enrol in the electorate of Canberra. Norfolk Island was not made a part of the Federal electorate of Canberra for Federal electoral purposes.


1993 - This was the United Nations Year of Indigenous Peoples. The president of the Society of Pitcairn Descendants wrote to several United Nations organizations, declaring that the Pitcairners of Norfolk Island were the indigenous people of Norfolk Island, the first People as a whole People ever to settle Norfolk Island as a permanent homeland. His activities resulted in an invitation to attend the International Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva in July of 1994: the working group offered to help finance his trip.


1994 January 12th - The Pitcairners of Norfolk Island formally declared that they are the indigenous people of Norfolk Island, and notified, among others, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Prime Ministers of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and President William Clinton of the United States of America. Bodies like the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Association of Australia were also informed.

1994- The contention of the Pitcairners that they are a quite separate and distinct People having its own language, culture, customs and traditions was proven when the need of a Pitcairner for an organ donation resulted in the fact that the Pitcairn People is genetically unique. A Pitcairner can receive a donor organ only from among his or her kind.

This renders Australia's repeated refusal to recognise the Pitcairners as a separate and distinct People null and void, and calls into serious question Australia's behaviour in not extending the two International Covenants it has ratified to the Pitcairners of Norfolk Island.


1995 - Through its officers, the Society of Pitcairn Descendants kept pursuing its contention that the Pitcairners are a separate and distinct People indigenous to Norfolk Island. The Society seeks self-determination for Norfolk Island, the homeland since 1856. Which is not the same as seeking independence. What the Society wants is for all the people of Norfolk Island to be offered a properly supervised (i.e., by the United Nations) referendum to decide their own political and social destiny.


1996 - Norfolk Island remains unceded to and unannexed by the Commonwealth of Australia.

1996 March 1st - Almost 17 years after the introduction of self-government in Norfolk Island, Australia still retains full powers over foreign affairs, defence, mineral and fishing rights in the 200-mile Economic Zone, coinage, airspace, public (Crown) land and banking - among others. While there is an agreement with the Government of Norfolk Island to jointly administer the Island's national parks, reserves and Phillip Island, Australia retains full powers over these areas. And though the Norfolk Island Government has never indicated a wish to borrow money to fund the Island's infrastructure, it could not so borrow without Australia's permission. Matters like education, immigration, social services and customs duties can be legislated locally, but Australia retains the power of veto.


Some Facts Not Easily Arranged Chronologically

1. - Successive Australian Governments of both political persuasions have sought to deny the rights of the Pitcairn People of Norfolk Island, and of Norfolk Island's right to determine its own destiny.

2. - Since limited self-government was introduced in 1979, more public improvements, infrastructure and social changes have been initiated in Norfolk Island than occurred during the entire period between 1914 and 1979, when Australia governed Norfolk Island as an autocracy. During those 65 years, the Islanders still had to pay for their own roads and public works.

3. - Since the geological reports about the presence of fossil fuels in Norfolk Island's territorial waters started to appear in the early 1970's, well over 100% more Australian laws have been extended to include Norfolk Island. In 1935, only 15 Commonwealth Acts extended to Norfolk Island, all of them pertinent to the Island even if prejudicial to local ideas of Australia's role. In January 1965 there were 91 such Acts. By 1979 the figure had risen to 121, and a tendency had crept in to extend utterly irrelevant laws to the Island. According to the Legal Regimes Committee in 1989, there were 210 Acts extended to include Norfolk Island. This figure has increased since, but by exactly how many, we have not been able to ascertain.

The intent is to make it appear that Norfolk Island is a part of Australia. The recent Acts include such luminaries as the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Act, the Advance Australia Logo Protection Act, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Act. However, extending the Native Titles Act to include Norfolk Island on the premise that there is no indigenous populace on Norfolk Island did not prove to be a good idea.

Every single law passed by the Legislative Assembly of Norfolk Island can be overturned the moment the words "This Act extends to the Territory of Norfolk Island" are added to any Act passed by the Australian Parliament.

4. - The Australian Department of Territories and its mandrins continue to perpetuate the myth that Norfolk Island is a part of Australia when it is not by constantly declaring that is is a part of Australia, apparently on the premise that if it is said long enough and loud enough to enough people, it will actually come into being. This same Department has also publicly declared that it is dedicated to "strengthening the Australian identity in the external territories." But the problem with strengthening the Australian identity is that the unique characteristics of the people of external territories - Cocos Malays, Christmas Islanders, Pitcairners of Norfolk Island - must eventually disappear.



[#] - items marked thus are documents in the possession of the Society of Pitcairn Descendants, and/or its members, and/or other people in Norfolk Island.

[a] - The Mutineers of the Bounty by Lady Belcher, Harper & Bros., New York, 1871; The Heritage of the Bounty by Harry M. Shapiro, Doubleday, New York, 1936; Mutiny on the Bounty and the Story of Pitcairn Island by a Native Daughter (Amelia Young), Pacific Press, Oakland, California, 1894; and more titles of similar content. Facts quoted in the text are used only if all books concur.

[b] - Varieties of Vice-Regal Life by Sir William Denison, K.C.B., Longmans Green & Co., London, 1870

[c] - Archives of Bishop Selwyn, The War Memorial Museum of Auckland

[d] - The Lyttleton Times, New Zealand, May 1896

[e] - Opinions of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Volume 1, p.268, Australian Government Printers, Canberra, 1964

[f] - An Imperial Order-In-Council

[g] - The Laws of Norfolk Island 1914-1964, Australian Government Printers, Canberra, 1964

[h] - Norfolk Island, Australia and the UN, Volume 1, by John Bulbeck, Hon. Federal Media Officer, February 1978

[i] - Report on the Constitutional Commission's Advisory Council on the Distribution of Powers, Australian Government Printers, Canberra, 1987

[j] - Islands in the Sun, Report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal Regimes and Constitutional Affairs, Australian Government Printers, Canberra, March 1991

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