Norfolk Islanders need urgent representation-support their right to determine their future

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The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that all peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they can freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. The people of Norfolk Island ask that you sign this petition, in the hope that the United Nations will restore the right of the Norfolk Island people to determine their own future.

In 2015, in response to Norfolk’s request for temporary financial assistance, the Commonwealth of Australia abolished Norfolk’s own elected parliament and imposed direct rule - against the wishes of the majority of the Norfolk Island community. A referendum in May 2015 showed that 68% of people on Norfolk Island supported self-determination. This referendum was ignored, and the Commonwealth government immediately repealed all legislation allowing Norfolk Island to hold future referendums. The resulting economic chaos, social turbulence and cultural disregard has almost torn our close community apart.

My name is Natalie Grube, and I am a Norfolk Islander of Pitcairn Island descent. My ancestors are the mixed crew of HMS Bounty mutineers and Polynesians who settled on tiny uninhabited Pitcairn Island in 1790, forming a new race of people whom developed their own unique culture. After more than 60 years of almost complete isolation, their growing population were invited by Queen Victoria to relocate to Norfolk Island. They arrived to Norfolk Island in 1856 as a peaceful self-governing people, with their own laws, language, customs and traditions. They left their beloved Pitcairn on the condition that this new land would be theirs: to care for and to nourish for future generations.

I was born on Norfolk Island in 1982, to Norfolk Islander parents, into a world where the value of my heritage was not questioned; onto land that had been both cultivated and preserved to provide for our people. Over the 161 years since our first arrival to Norfolk from Pitcairn, we thrived despite encountering incredible hardship, we built the island’s infrastructure, created a democratic system of government, and raised our own internal revenue in spite of prohibitions by the Australian government to access an external revenue stream.

Just nine generations before me, my ancestors Fletcher Christian and Mauatua had their first child on Pitcairn Island. The language they developed to speak to each other and their children is now my native tongue, and also that of my own two young children. In 2007, the United Nations added this unique language to its list of endangered languages. We have so much to lose by this Australian takeover, and I fear that one day my children will ask me why I didn’t do more to protect their identity and heritage. I fear that the impassioned voice of my people will become lost amongst the robotic bureaucracy of a detached government - a government that should have learnt from the painful lessons of their past: that you can’t remove a culture from a people and trivialise their dedication to their homeland and heritage.

The Australian government is repeating the same mistakes, and discovering the same results. If people are prohibited from making decisions about their own future, and marginalised to believe that their values have little worth - they will either drown in sorrow or rise up in anger. The people of Norfolk Island are both drowning and fighting to stay above water. We need your support so that we can appeal to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation and establish our right to determine our future, on our terms.

Please play a part in ensuring that the Australian Government remains accountable for their actions. We hope that one day when you visit our beautiful Island you will find a community that has the power to preserve and protect their homeland.

Examples of ethnocide by the Australian Government:

  • Former Australian administrator Gary Hardgrave deliberately mislead the Commonwealth into believing that the Norfolk Island people were supportive of the loss of their local government.
  • Under the direction of Gary Hardgrave, the local radio station allowed only Australian Government propaganda, and forbid the Norfolk Island People for Democracy group and the Council of Elders to make community announcements. Radio employees who disagreed with these regulations had their employment terminated.
  • Three days before the Australian government takeover on 1st July 2016 the minister for Territories signed legislature taking all Norfolk Island public places including the school, police station, airport, reserve parks, and the bi-centennial complex, then signs over some of the lands back to the NI Regional Council from 1 July 2016 for maintenance and upkeep only, with no additional funding to support the infrastructure cost.
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Census of Norfolk Island reflected a marked drop in Pitcairn ancestry from 45% to 20% in a five year period. Upon investigation it was discovered that the questions in the 2016 census were deliberately manipulated to increase the percentage of Australian ancestry. There is no option for ‘Norfolk Island Ancestry’.
  • The 1979 Norfolk Island Act preamble identified the Norfolk Islanders to be descendants of a unique and separate race. This preamble was immediately deleted from the Act. This further negates any connection the Norfolk Islanders may claim to ethnicity or cultural difference.
  • Norfolk Islanders have no representation at state or territory level in Australia, and can only vote at a Federal level. They are governed by numerous NSW laws but have no vote on who makes these laws. Their electorate is 1800km away in landlocked Canberra.
  • The former Norfolk Island government provided substantial funding for tourism promotion as a foundation for forward planning by island businesses. In Australia, tourism promotion is a state function, however Norfolk Island has no representative state. The refusal of the Commonwealth to properly invest in Norfolk’s most important industry, plus increases in associated taxes has seen the withdrawal of the Auckland to Norfolk Island service which represents 16-20% of Norfolk Island’s tourism.
  • In 2015 the Commonwealth attempted to prevent the release of the 2006 CIE (Centre for International Economics) report, however this appeal was abandoned under the advice of the Australian Government solicitor. This hidden report revealed that if mainland taxes and regulations were extended to Norfolk Island there would be catastrophic impacts. The 2014 CIE report also implies that for the long-term future, Norfolk Island will depend on welfare payments and ad hoc Commonwealth grants for economic survival.
  • The introduction of Land Rates to the Norfolk Island people has had a devastating impact on the cash-poor, land-rich long-term residents of both Pitcairn and non-Pitcairn lineage who pass their landholdings down to successive generations. A study undertaken indicated that those with the most land were among the poorest percentile. These landholders are under pressure to sell their family land, leading to the diminution and dilution of the culture of the Norfolk Island people.

This is just a small sample of the distressing and detrimental actions undertaken by the Australian government in relation to Norfolk Island. Please support our urgent need for representation and our right to determine our future.