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The Experiment

The settlement of the Pitcairners on Norfolk Island in 1856 by the British Parliament was referred to by politicians of the time as "The Experiment".

In that romantic era of Queen Victoria, a great interest was taken by the British in the fate of the Pitcairners - a brand new race that had lived isolated for so long, yet was sophisticated and devoutly Christian.

It was the aim of Queen Victoria in granting Norfolk to the Pitcairners that the race remain isolated and the effect of this isolation from the surrounding world be studied. Thus, Her Majesty instructed the Governor that he preserve and maintain the laws and usages of the Pitcairn people. The Pitcairners were to be allowed to continue their self-government, compulsory education and universal sufferage in the same way as they had done on Pitcairn Island.

For 40 years the Pitcairners ran their affairs with minimal interference from the outside world. However, they were happy to welcome those who wanted to live with them on Norfolk. This did not sit well with those who had devised "the experiment"; reasons were sought to strip the Pitcairners of their authority. The official stance of the British Parliament was that the Pitcairners were not handling their affairs with "proper loyalty and respect", and against the wishes of the Norfolk Islanders, the Government of New Zealand, and the head of the Anglican Church in New Zealand, the island was stripped of self-government and its administration placed under the authority of the Colony of New South Wales.

The island has remained under the authority of others since then; the Norfolk Islanders still battle to regain full self-government - and to escape the binds that Australia has placed on them. These binds, in contrast to the aims of "the experiment", are bringing the culture of Norfolk's people closer and closer to that of Australia. It is the stated intention of the Australian Parliament to "strengthen the Australian identity in the external territories". Insidiously, Australia is taking away the identity of Norfolk Islanders as descendants of the Pitcairn people and replacing it with an externally imposed identity and culture.

Before our eyes in the closing stages of the 20th century a bloodless genocide is happening. Although there are many who oppose it, time is a difficult enemy. The "old" Norfolk Islanders are dying out, and the young are being taught by Australian schoolteachers to view themselves as Australians. But they are not Australians in any way besides their citizenship. They are the descendants of a proud and strong people who were given an island homeland by the British Crown 140 years ago.

Australia has overstepped its authority. The world must be told of the Norfolk Island wrongs and bring pressure to bear on Australia to correct those wrongs. If not, Australia will have wiped out a people and stolen their homeland.

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