Sydney: Descendants of the swashbuckling British sailors and Tahitian women immortalised in the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ movies have petitioned the United Nations to prevent what many consider an Australian takeover.
Norfolk Island, 1,500km east of the Australian coast and settled by the descendants of Fletcher Christian and other Bounty mutineers in 1856, has governed itself since 1979.
But it is effectively bankrupt and Canberra last year introduced legislation to scrap the Australian territory’s parliament and replace it with a new regional council under Australian law.
It is due to take full effect on July 1.
Many are unhappy with the move and the Norfolk Island People for Democracy (NIPFD) lodged a petition at the United Nations on Monday to “have its parliament and self-government restored”.
It was unclear how many of the 2,300-strong population signed the document that was delivered by leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who said there were consequences for the islanders.
“They will be forced to sing Advance Australia Fair over their preferred national anthem, which is God Save The Queen,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“They won’t be able to compete under their own flag at the Commonwealth Games, they will have to join an Australian team.”
The NIPFD said the petition demonstrated they “do not accept the perpetuation of injustice against the wishes of the majority of the governed on Norfolk Island”.
Lisle Snell, a former chief minister of the tiny outcrop, which is eight kilometres long by five kilometres wide (five miles by three miles), said their proposal was not a declaration of independence.
“It’s a declaration to seek listing on the decolonisation committee of 24 in New York to give the Norfolk Island the right to self-determination in free association with Australia,” she told the ABC, referring to the UN body that deals with self-determination and decolonisation issues.
Under Australian rule, personal and business tax will be introduced from July, and residents will in return be able to access social security, health care benefits and services enjoyed by other Australians.
The Australian government has previously said it was not sustainable to ask a small community to deliver local, state and federal services.
Most of the core population are descendants of the mutineers who set Captain William Bligh adrift from the British warship the Bounty when they famously fell in love with the South Seas, and its women, in 1789.
The mutiny gained such a romantic gloss that chief mutineer Christian has been portrayed by a series of Hollywood heartthrobs over the years, including Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson.
Christian and eight other mutineers first made their home on Pitcairn Island with a group of Tahitian women, but their descendants moved nearly 6,000km to Norfolk Island in 1856 when Pitcairn became too small for them.
Queen Victoria granted them the right to settle in the abandoned former penal colony.