Norfolk Island bobs about in the South Pacific, kissed by tropical trade winds and an air of mutiny. There are a couple of return flights a week from Australia and New Zealand and other than that, it pretty much keeps to itself. Despite this, NI is a community in transition. The Island moved from self governance to being fully governed by Australia in 2015. This means residents of NI are now required to enrol to vote in a division of Australia’s capital Canberra, nearly 2000km away. Locals are not happy. But what makes Norfolk Islanders so fiercely protective of their unique home?
1. A Former Penal Colony
The Island has had several ‘lives’ including two stints as a penal colony. What is less well know is that the first penal colony was established by the ‘First Fleet’ who brought European convicts and settlers to Australia. By March 1788 they had arrived on the island and established a penal colony to stop the French taking possession of the island. The colony eventually failed as it was not self sustaining, closing in 813. In 1824 a second attempt was made to re-establish it as a penal colony. The settlement had a brutal reputation and was considered to be the harshest penal colony at the time. It was for the ‘worst description of convicts’ who had committed further crimes since arriving in New South Wales. The Island’s history as a penal colony ceased in 1847 when the last prisoners were sent to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).
2. Their Own Language
Islanders have their own language, Norfo’k Laengwij. It is a blend of English and Tahitian. It is spoken by the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers who settled on Pitcairn in 1790 but departed for good to NI in 1855. The language is unique to the island. The Island Assembly made Norf’k the co-official language of NI to ensure it was preserved for future generations. Words often have similarities with English but may be spelled or pronounced differently. For example: Europe/Urup and lern/learn. There are also Norf’k specific words such as jiffle/fidget; daffy/here and deffy/there.
Be sure you brush up on Norf’k Laengwij before you head to the Saturday Farmer’s Market. That way you’ll be able to identify local ingredients and try homemade delicacies.
3. Chickens Outnumber People
Chickens have been on the island since First Settlement in 1788 and have run wild ever since. The numbers run into the thousands. There are so many feral chickens that from time to time, they need to be culled. Whilst chickens do not have the same right of way as cows, they certainly think they do. No matter how remote or far from the town you go, you will almost certainly see a rooster and his flock of adoring hens strutting around scratching up gardens like they own the joint.
4. Cows Have Right Of Way
There are no traffic lights and only one roundabout on the island. To keep the cattle out of Burnt Pine, the main town on the island, cattle grids have been installed at the entry points. After that though, you are on your own. Whilst much of the farmland is fenced, plenty of it isn’t and it’s up to you to make sure you don’t connect with any of the wandering cattle. If you do bump into a cow, you can be prosecuted for doing so. Sound your horn so you don’t end up on one!
5. Foragers Paradise
Due to its remote location, fruit fly has never made it to Norfolk Island. This means that fruit can be plucked directly from trees and eaten without a second thought to it being fly blown. It is a forager’s paradise. Cherry guavas, bush lemons, feijoas and Lady Finger bananas all grow wild and in abundance on the island. You simply pull off the road and enjoy a snack on the spot or you can take some back to your accommodation for a fruit salad that evening.
Norfolk Island is a unique place with an unusual history and many quirky characteristics. The transition away from self governance has been difficult and it’s’s easy to understand why the islanders are worried about their heritage and culture. You can do a lot to support the Islander by putting it on your holiday bucket list. It is a must visit destination.
More information: www.norfolkisland.com.au