Norfolk islanders protest abolition of autonomy by Australia

Hundreds blame Australia for not respecting their fundamental democratic rights · A new group bringing together citizens, politicians and four former chief ministers seeks inclusion of Norfolk on UN list of non self-governing territories

Hundreds of Norfolk islanders demonstrated on Sunday 27th against the abolition of the island's legislative autonomy by the Australian government. The protest follows the establishment, by Norfolk politicians and citizens, of a group that will seek Norfolk's inclusion on the United Nations list of non self-governing territories.

Sunday's protest was massive, according to reports by Radio New Zealand, considering the fact that the island's census includes only 1,600 people. Protesters blamed the Australian government for the perceived Australia's failure to respect the islanders' fundamental democratic rights.

A 2014 Austrian Parliament report concluded that demographic and economic problems Norfolk has been undergoing could only be solved by closer integration to the Australian mainland. The report said this was the only way to ensure Norfolk's economic viability and a standard of living comparable to that of the continent.

The government of Norfolk did not agree to that. In May 2015 it held a non-binding on the abolition of autonomy. 68% of voters asked Australia to call a referendum on Norfolk's political future. Australia ignored the call, and in the same month it abolished the island's institutions of self-government.

In response, the People of Norfolk Island for Democracy group was established in July, which brings together citizens and politicians including four former Norfolk chief ministers. Their aim is to reverse the abolition of autonomy by involving the UN into the conflict: the group wants Norfolk to be inscribed on the United Nations list of non self-governing territories. Their final goal, the group says, is not full independence, but a new collaborative relationship with Australia.

Keywords: Australia, LIst of non self-governing territories, referendum