Norfolk to use its founding document in Canberra battle
Norfolk Islanders to make use of their founding document from Queen Victoria in their quest to have Australia return their autonomy.
An adviser to the Norfolk Island groups seeking to regain the island's autonomy from Australia says Canberra cannot ignore the island's founding document.
Australia assumed full control of the island in June saying Norfolk could no longer pay its way.
But there has been simmering anger to this move on the island with plans to seek listing on the United Nations' list of non self-governing territories.
Governance consultant Gary Russell, who is a member of the New Zealand UN Association, says Norfolk was established under Queen Victoria as a refuge for the people of Pitcairn Island, which had become largely uninhabitable.
GARY RUSSELL: And that is why they are going back to the founding document to show that they have actually been a full independent nation. And that was reiterated at in 1956 at the 100th anniversary where they restated the order and council stated specifically that it was a distinct and separate settlement having their same rules of constitution as they had under Pitcairn Island before they left for Norfolk Island.
DON WISEMAN: Of course they don't want to be independent do they, they want a degree of autonomy but they still want financial support of a sort from Canberra?
GR: And that's a case of where maybe they are wanting to have their cake and eat it at the same time. So there is a situation they are going to have to make a real firm decision if they are going to proceed fully to the UN on that basis. They are acknowledged interestingly by UNESCO and other agencies as being separate and independent. UNESCO acknowledges them as a unique indigenous people through their language that has been registered on the endangered list, their culture. So they already have many other associated organisations, International Labour Organisation and the Australian public service a representative was there recently acknowledged that their whole economy and how they operate is unique and it doesn't fit into the same pattern and we are talking sort of what you might call a community based economic system where people have three or four jobs there is a lot of information on bartering and phases and deals. It doesn't fit the format of a major economy be it from capitalism to socialism. So that is a very important point for them in proving their uniqueness. Particularly when it comes to them going to the international court of justice where they can be heard not as a nation but as a separate entity.
DW: Do you rate their chances?
GR: That is going to come down to the leadership group on the island and how much they want it. Probably the biggest problem is, of this younger generation is that they have had this paternal sort of relationship. It is breaking away from that paternal relationship. In fact earlier around the turn of the century it was seen that basically they were you might say slaves because the church at the time around the 1880's were concerned and virtually said to New Zealand why don't you take over Norfolk Island. Because the church at the time had those concerns about how they were being treated by the Australian government. The Australian government had the audacity to say, yea okay New Zealand you can have them but we will sell the people for 2000 pound. So that is how they looked upon the people as being their slaves to do with what they liked. And that is coming up to 1978 when Ellicott the Chief Minister he himself sort of acknowledging that it was the whole aspect of the annex of them under New South Wales was not legitimate and they were trying to write it then so everyone was just sort of flummoxed over why suddenly in June this year they wiped the whole thing again and have gone back to treating them again in a state if detention they are just now lobbying there own people supposedly. No they have got to have a passport to get into Australia so that is an interesting fact that people are not aware of.
DW: Although there have not been people in Australia speaking out in big numbers in support of Norfolk there actually is the support there and has been going back a long way.
GR: Definitely and they have documented various statements that we are collating now of ex ministers, ministers who are still in power at the time on the situation of Norfolk Island. And also from the orders and counsel that used to come from England all the time up until Australia took over the economy of Norfolk Islands. They saying you must consult with the Norfolk Island people knowing the original founding document like our Treaty of Waitangi it was offered by the Queen to the people of Pitcairn Island at the time voted yes we will accept your offer of Norfolk Island, they sailed to Norfolk Island arrived there the governor who was still hanging on at the time then put in an application to start trying to change it without consulting the people. The people in fact were going to turn around and go back but only four of them could afford to pay the fair back to Pitcairn Island. Those that left went back to Pitcairn Island and carried on with the same freedom of right to electing their own chief magistrate, carrying out their own laws and operation. But because the others were stuck there with no consultation and they petitioned and had been petitioning and there is at least five had been sent to the crown at various times over the change that Australia has tried to do.
DW: From the beginning in 1856 Australia has effectively acted illegally on Norfolk Island.
GR: Correct. Yes it has not honoured in terms of a contractual arrangement it has not consulted where anybody enters a contract if you enter a contract you accept that contract as it is. If you want to alter that contract you must then consult with the other party and get there agreement before you can alter any contract and this is their founding document as New Zealand has found with their Treaty of Waitangi. Be all the taking of lands and all those sorts of things under international law and it is not correct and it is now being readdressed. And it is also a moral response of giving a person a fair go that is the thing where they said you economically are not sustainable. Well the budgetary points that they have put their and they even admitted in their statement to say that the resources that have been offered to Norfolk Islands weren't really effective because of the restrictions that have been placed on them. And so they say you can get the money from this but we will take the money from you and tariffs and other factors if the don't lodge into the balance sheet and the fishing resource since 1978 Australia has in terms of revenue gathering it has got from all of the fishing economic zone around that area it is quite large and I suspect at some point they should be going forward on a major compensation claim for that. That will be enough to cover any bills.
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