Kingston Commonwealth Walkway

Norfolk Island / The Pacific

NORFOLK ISLAND Norfolk Island is a tiny Australian Island of 36 square kilometres, in the South Pacific Ocean to the east of Brisbane and north-west of Auckland, New Zealand.  There are two further small islands Phillip and Nepean.  They are all made up of pine trees, jagged cliffs and sandy beaches with reef-protected waters.  Captain Cook discovered Norfolk Island, travelling in HMS Resolution, coming ashore on 11 October 1774 and was impressed by the potential of the indigenous pines which could provide ships’ masts.  He named the island after Mary, Duchess of Norfolk (1712-73), wife of Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1686-77).   This came about because, before he sailed in 1772, she asked Captain Cook to name an island after her.  He had not heard of her death in 1773 but when he found this island, he gave it her name.   In 1788 Lieutenant Philip Gidley King led a group of 15 convicts (9 males, 6 females) and 7 free men to the island to prevent the French taking it, and in 1790, some 300 more convicts were sent there from Australia.  Eventually, it was decided that it was not viable to run it as a penal colony and by 1808 only 200 remained there.  A new convict settlement was established there in 1825, the last convicts being removed in 1855.   Today’s islanders descend from the 194 mutineers that were aboard HMS Bounty, many with the surnames – Christian, Buffet and Nobbs. They were transferred from Pitcairn at the wish of Queen Victoria in 1856.  The population also has descendants from later settlers, mainly from New Zealand and Australia.  A strong blend of Polynesian and European heritage has created a distinctive society, characterised by neighbourliness, self-help, and barter.  Immigration is now strictly controlled.  Today, controversy still exists over the status of Norfolk Island.  Despite being a self-governing territory of Australia, some islanders believe that they were granted independence during the reign of Queen Victoria when she granted permission for the mutineers to re-settle here from Pitcairn.  Norfolk Island came under the jurisdiction of New South Wales and then Tasmania.  In 1914 it became an external territory of Australia.  Between 1979 and 2016 the island had its own self-government and an elected legislature, but since then, has once more been under the jurisdiction of the Australian federal government. Between 1937 and 1945 a notable administrator was Major-General Sir Charles (‘Rosie’) Rosenthal (1874-1954) (a remarkable regimental commander, who is thought to have been the part inspiration for D.H. Lawrence’s character, Benjamin Cooley in Kangaroo (1923).  He supported tree planting, the conservation of the former convict buildings, education and the work of the Red Cross.  He also raised a volunteer infantry unit.  An aerodrome was built during the war, and the island defended by 2,000 New Zealanders, fearing that the Japanese might take it as a base.  One Norfolk Islander won a VC on Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea.   Royal visitors include TRH the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in 1946 when he was Governor-General of Australia.   The Duchess described the island as ‘looking like a waterlily leaf in that vast expanse of sea,’ and noted that there were 800 inhabitants, but over 900 horses.  She found the islanders very proud to call themselves English.  The Queen visited on 11 February 1974, on her way to Australia in HMS Britannia with the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne and her then-husband, Captain Mark Phillips, and Earl Mountbatten of Burma.  They enjoyed a picnic which included pilhi-banana pumpkin cooked in greased banana leaves.  Prince Philip has paid several visits.   Capital The capital and administrative centre of Norfolk Island is Kingston on the east-west aligned Kingston Plain, founded in 1788.  The old town occupies some winding lanes near the pier, and the later town, built by the Royal Engineers in the 1830s is on a Roman Catholic grid plan.  This is the only inhabited Island in the Norfolk Islands. Its population was recorded in 2016 as 1,748. Fun Facts
  • In the Norfolk Islands, you must give way to cows. This is the law.
  • They don’t say ‘fishing’ but instead, they call it ‘catching’. This is because of the abundance of fish they have and how easy they are to ‘catch’.
  • People list their nicknames in the phone book rather than their full name.
  • There are no snakes on Norfolk Island.

5.6 miles / 9 kilometres

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