Norfolk Islanders

Norfolk Islanders also referred to as just Islanders are the inhabitants or citizens of Norfolk Island, an external territory of Australia. The Islanders have their own unique identity and are predominantly people of Pitcairn and English descent and to a lesser extent of Scottish and Irish.[1]

Norfolk Islanders
Total population
1,748 (2016 census)
381 or 22.1% were Norfolk Island-born
Regions with significant populations
 Norfolk Island 1,748
 Australia (mainland)315[1]
 New Zealand108[2] (2018)[3]
Christianity (68.5%)[1]
Related ethnic groups

The culture held in common by most native-born Norfolk Islanders is mainstream Norfolk culture, traditions primarily inherited from the 194 Pitcairn settlers in 1856. All of the people that claim Pitcairn ancestry are descended from the British HMS Bounty mutineers and the Tahitian companions, including the few who settled afterwards. In the 2016 census, there were 381 Norfolk Island-born residents out of a total of 1,748 inhabiting the island.[1]

There is a small Norfolk Islander diaspora in mainland Australia (particularly New South Wales and Queensland) and New Zealand due to people having relocated temporarily or migrated permanently.[4]


Discovery and nameEdit

Archaeological findings suggest that the island had previously been used as a stopover for seafaring Polynesians.[5][6] The final fate of the early settlers remains a mystery.[7]

The first European known to have sighted and landed on the island was Captain James Cook, on his second voyage on HMS Resolution. From New Caledonia to New Zealand Cook came across the island on 10 October 1774. Finding the island uninhabited, Cook claimed it for Britain and named it after English noblewoman Mary Howard, Duchess of Norfolk.[8]

The Norfolk Island Act of 1913 established Norfolk Island as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia, transferring the territory from the British crown in July 1914.

British settlementEdit

In 1786 the British government included Norfolk Island as an auxiliary settlement, proposed by Sir John Call. When the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson in January 1788, its commander, Captain Arthur Phillip, ordered Lieutenant Philip Gidley King to take control of the island and prepare for its commercial development. King arrived there on 6 March 1788 on board HMS Supply.[9]

Norfolk King was born 8 Jan 1789 on Norfolk Island. He was the first child born on Norfolk Island.[10] With his parents on aboard HMS Supply in March 1790, his name was recorded as "Norfolk King Inett" in the shipping muster. His parents were Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King and female convict Ann Inett.[11][12] By 1814 the first penal settlement lay abandoned, until on 6 June 1825 a second penal settlement was established by Captain Richard Turton; it lasted until 1855.[13] The town of New Norfolk, Tasmania was established with the evacuation of Norfolk Island in 1807–1808, named after their former home.

Pitcairn settlersEdit

Pitcairn men of Norfolk Island 1861.[14]

In 1855 the British Government offered by Queen Victoria gave another choice to the Pitcairn community. Norfolk Island's dreadful second penal settlement had been disbanded and the island was handed by an Imperial Order-In-Council of June, 1856, to the people of Pitcairn as a permanent home. On 3 May 1856, the entire population of 193 (plus a baby (Reuben Denison Christian) born en route; making it 194) along with everything they owned began the five-week voyage aboard the Morayshire to Norfolk Island, arriving on 8 June 1856.[15] These were the descendants of Tahitians and the HMS Bounty mutineers, resettled from the Pitcairn Islands, which had become too small for their growing population. The British government had permitted the transfer of the Pitcairners to Norfolk, which was thus established as a colony separate from New South Wales but under the administration of that colony's governor.[16]

The Pitcairners occupied many of the buildings remaining from the penal settlements, and gradually established their traditional farming and whaling industries on the island. Although some families decided to return, with 17 members of the Young family to Pitcairn in 1858 and 1863, the island's population continued to slowly grow as the island accepted settlers, often arriving with whaling fleets.

Pitcairn descentEdit

In the 2016 census, the question asked was - What is the person's ancestry?, different to previous censuses by the Norfolk Island government. Those who gave a response to the ancestry question showed that 29.6% of the ‘usual residents’ population had Pitcairn ancestry.[17] When broken down as a total ancestry response, there were 484 or 20.0% of all ancestries reported identified as having Pitcairn ancestry. Out of the 53.7% of usual residents population who chose just a single ancestry, 14.8% identified as only ‘Pitcairn’ and 12.4% were part-Pitcairn plus another ancestry.

Distribution of ‘Ordinarily Resident’ population
Census Percent
      Yes, of Pitcairn Descent       No, not of Pitcairn Descent
      Not Stated,       Pitcairn ancestry (2016)[17][18]

An additional 120 people (7 percent of usual residents) chose ‘Norfolk Island’ ancestry with 30 identified as having Pitcairn descent.[17][1] The 2011 census (Norfolk Island government) asked a question relating to Pitcairn descent with the questions - "yes, of Pitcairn descent" and "no, not of Pitcairn descent" only of the "Ordinarily Resident Population".[19] People of Pitcairn descent may have relocated temporarily or migrated which is a possible factor in the increased number of persons of other descent.[18] Norfolk's Pitcairn descendants are already at least 7th or 8th generation, and those in younger age groups are probably 9th generation.


Among the Islanders, the descendants of the Pitcairners share only a few family names: Adams, Christian, McCoy, Quintal, and Young are the "Bounty mutineer names"; Buffett, Evans, and Nobbs are "Pitcairn names" – descended from the two Englishmen and one Welshman who married into the mutineer families on Pitcairn; and Blucher, Bataille, Robinson, Snell, Rossiter, and Bailey are among the "Norfolk names".[20][21][22]



In the 2016 census, native-born Norfolk Islanders were 22.1% of the total population. Table shows the most recent 2016 census data of the population by birthplace. Immigration flow from mainland Australia and New Zealand has been a substantial proportion of the population throughout the 20th century to the present-day. Those born in Norfolk Island have been in steady decline since the 1947 census where they formed a majority of 52% of the total population.[23]

Birthplace 2016
Males Females Persons Percent
Norfolk Island 381 22.1%
Australia - - 685 39.7%
New Zealand - - 303 17.6%
Fiji - - 47 2.7%
England - - 45 2.6%
Philippines - - 40 2.3%
Total 818 930 1,748 100.0%


The median age of people in Norfolk Island (State Suburbs) was 49 years. Children aged 0–14 years made up 16.9% of the population and people aged 65 years and over made up 23.8% of the population.

2016 Census age distribution
Age range Number Percentage
0–4 years   84 4.8%
5–9 years   104 6.0%
10–14 years   106 6.1%
15–19 years   76 4.4%
20–24 years   31 1.8%
25–29 years   53 3.1%
30–34 years   68 3.9%
35–39 years   106 6.1%
40–44 years   116 6.7%
45–49 years   128 7.4%
50–54 years   143 8.2%
55–59 years   157 9.0%
60–64 years   151 8.7%
65–69 years   142 8.2%
70–74 years   107 6.2%
75–79 years   77 4.4%
80–84 years   43 2.5%
85 years and over 45 2.6%
Median age 49
Source: Bureau of Statistics[24]


English and Norfuk are the official languages. In 2004 an act of the Norfolk Island Assembly made Norfuk a co-official language of the island. In Norfolk Island (State Suburbs), 45.5% of people only spoke English, while 40.9% spoke Norf'k-Pitcairn at home originally introduced by Pitkern-speaking settlers.[1]
2016 census:


Bounty Day is a national holiday primarily celebrated by islanders of Pitcairn heritage on 8 June, held in the World Heritage area of Kingston, the day that the descendants of the mutineers arrived on the island. The Islander's re-enact the landing of the Pitcairners on the island and is named for the ship HMS Bounty.[20] Another celebration is Thanksgiving held on the last Wednesday of November, similar to the pre–World War II American observance on the last Thursday of the month. This means the Norfolk Island observance is the day before or six days after the United States' observance. The holiday was brought to the island by visiting American whaling ships.[25]


St. Barnabas Chapel: Church of England on Norfolk Island completed in 1880.

The most common religious affiliation in Norfolk Island (State Suburbs) were Anglican 29.5%, No Religion, so described 26.8%, Catholic 12.6%, Uniting Church 9.6% and Not stated 9.6%. In Norfolk Island (State Suburbs), Christianity was the largest religious group reported overall (68.5%) (this figure excludes not stated responses).

Religious affiliation 2016 census
Number Percentage
Christian 68.5%
    Anglican 511 29.5%
    Roman Catholic 218 12.6%
    Uniting Church 167 9.6%
No Religion, so described 465 26.8%
Not stated 166 9.6%
Total 1,748 100.0%
Source: ABS[26]


Norfolk Islanders gathering at a cricket match in November 1908.

Cricket is recorded as having been played on Norfolk Island, an external territory of Australia, as early as 1838, by soldiers stationed on the island. It continued to be played after the island was settled in 1856 by Pitcairn settlers.[27]


The cuisine of Norfolk Island is very similar to that of the Pitcairn Islands, as Norfolk Islanders trace their origins to Pitcairn. The local cuisine is a blend of British cuisine and Tahitian cuisine.[28][29]

Recipes from Norfolk Island of Pitcairn origin include mudda (green banana dumplings) and kumara pilhi.[30][31] The islands cuisine also contains American influences not found in Pitcairn, such as chopped salads and fruit pies, due to the influences of American whalers.[32]


According to the 2013 New Zealand census, 96 people listed their birthplace as Norfolk Island.[33]

Historical demographicsEdit

Population by birthplace, 1933Edit

The results below show the total population of the Island in the 1933 census by their place of birth, with a slight majority being Norfolk Island-born. Native Norfolk Islanders were over 53% of the population, 30% were mainland Australians and New Zealanders, with around 12% born in Europe.[34]

Birthplace 1933
Males Females Persons
  Norfolk Island 326 325 651
  Australia 105 83 188
  New Zealand 113 76 189
  England 66 40 106
  Scotland 12 11 23
  Wales 1 1 2
Ireland 7 4 11
Channel Islands 1 0 1
    Total, British Isles 87 56 143
Other countries in Europe 6 4 10
  British India 7 2 9
Other countries in Asia 1 0 1
Africa 2 0 2
Americas 2 3 5
Polynesia 12 19 31
  Fiji 7 8 15
Other British Possessions 3 2 5
  New Hebrides 2 9 11
Not stated 1 1 2
Total 662 569 1,231

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "2016 Census QuickStats Norfolk Island". 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  2. ^ Usually resident population
  3. ^ "Birthplaces in New Zealand". 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  4. ^ Results and Analysis - 2011 Census
  5. ^ Anderson, Atholl; White, Peter (2001). "Prehistoric Settlement on Norfolk Island and its Oceanic Context" (PDF). Records of the Australian Museum. 27 (Supplement 27): 135–141. doi:10.3853/j.0812-7387.27.2001.1348. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  6. ^ Coyne, Peter (2009). "Phormium tenax (New Zealand Flax) — Norfolk Island native?" (PDF). Cunninghamia. 11 (2): 167–170.
  7. ^ Macnaughtan, Don (2001). "Mystery Islands of Remote South Polynesia: Bibliography of Prehistoric Settlement on Norfolk Island, the Kermadecs, Lord Howe, and the Auckland Islands". Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Channers on Norfolk Island Info". 15 March 2013. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  9. ^ "Explore the layers of history".
  10. ^ Norfolk King was the "natural" son of Philip Gidley King and the first child born on Norfolk Island. He was apparently also the Royal Navy's first Australian-born officer.
  11. ^ "Philip Gidley King, 2nd Lieutenant, HMS Sirius". Australian History. 1788.
  12. ^ "Norfolk King: born 1789 Norfolk Island". Australian History.
  13. ^ "Second (Penal) settlement - 1825–1855".
  14. ^ Morayshire - Pitcairn men of Norfolk Island 1861]
  15. ^ Who Are the Pitcairners? - Christian, Isaac
  16. ^ "Pitcairn to Norfolk". History.
  17. ^ a b c "Understanding ancestry in the Norfolk Island population". Understanding the Census and Census Data. Australia: Census of Population and Housing. 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Norfolk Island" (PDF). Australia: Census of Population and Housing. 2011.
  19. ^ "Norfolk Island" (PDF). Census of Population and Housing. 9 August 2011.
  20. ^ a b "Bounty Day". Bringing ancestors to life.
  21. ^ "Norfolk Island". Settlements.
  22. ^ Pitcairn’s history - Successors to John Adams
  23. ^ Summary for the Territory of Norfolk Island. - CENSUS OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA. 30 June 1947.
  24. ^ "Norfolk Island". Census QuickStats. 2016.
  25. ^ "Norfolk Island Information and Services". Archived from the original on 20 September 2010.
  26. ^ Religious affiliation, top responses 2016 census
  27. ^ Tony Munro (5 January 2001). "Norfolk Island: Cricket is reborn on the island of the Bounty mutineers" – ESPNcricinfo. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  28. ^ "Jasons". Jasons.
  29. ^ "Norfolk Island Travel Guide - Norfolk Island Tourism - Flight Centre".
  30. ^ "The Food of Norfolk Island".
  31. ^ "Norfolk Island (Norfolk Island Recipes)".
  32. ^ "Homegrown: Norfolk Island".
  33. ^ "Birthplaces of Pacific Island residents in New Zealand". 2013.
  34. ^ a b "Census of the 30th June, 1933" - TERRITORY OF NORFOLK ISLAND