Moving island

In the 1960s, Australia proposed moving the entire population of Nauru onto another island. Instead, the Nauruans opted for independence.

Courtesy: U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Following the general devastation of Nauru, an island in the Pacific Ocean, the Australian, British, and New Zealand governments felt a little bad about it. (They should, seeing as they were the culprits.) At the time Nauru was under the control of Australia, so the Australian government came up with a novel solution: move everyone off the island.

This was the plan. Find another island and buy all the property on it. Then everyone in Nauru could just relocate there and live happily ever after. Curtis Island, off the coast of Queensland in Australia, was even presented as the island of choice.

There was a catch, though. The Nauruans had to become Australian citizens. I can understand why the Australians thought this was a good idea: Curtis Island is only 27km off the coast of the mainland, and that gap can apparently be crossed at low tide. Not exactly a great candidate for independence. And Nauru at the time was under Australian administration, so what’s the fuss?

As it turns out, the Nauruans were not eager to give up any chance of sovereignty, and not eager to leave an island that they had called home for three thousand years. Instead, they opted to go it alone, and by 1968 they became the third smallest country in the world (both by land area and by population).

Twenty years later they sued the Australian government for the environmental damage done to the island. And won.

[Endnote 1: this is one of the topics I promised to write about. More to follow.]

[Endnote 2: if you want to read more about Pacific island independence movements, check out Samoa for the Samoans.]


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