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Christmas Island (10°30'S, 105°40'E)

Christmas Island (CI) is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean covered in dense tropical forest. Small areas are cleared for phosphate mining, and there is a coastal settlement and diverse local population of about 2,000. Island life is dominated by the influx of staff and facilities associated with Australia’s immigration and border protection services. Christmas Island is located in the Indian Ocean, 380 kilometers south of Java and 2650 kilometers north west of Perth.

The Indian Ocean Christmas Island should not be confused with the other one, in the Pacific. In October 1999 the Pacific Christmas island was renamed Kiritimati Island. Kiritimati Island [pronounced “Ki-ris-mas”] has a large infilled lagoon that gives it the largest land area (125 square miles, 321 square km) of any atoll in the world. Captain Cook named the atoll Christmas Island when he arrived on Christmas Eve in 1777. Used for nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s, the island is now valued for its marine and wildlife resources. Japan's Christmas Downrange Station on Kiritimati Island in Kiribati in the Line Islands provide downrange tracking of sat- ellite launches.

As for the Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, the nearest point on the Australian mainland is Northwest Cape, approximately 1565 kilometers to the south east. The Island has an area of 135 square kilometers. Christmas Island has a resident population of approximately 2,200 with an ethnic composition of approximately 70 per cent Chinese, 10 per cent Malay and 20 per cent European.

Named in 1643 for the day of its discovery, the island was annexed and settlement began by the UK in 1888 with the discovery of the island's phosphate deposits. Following the Second World War, Christmas Island came under the jurisdiction of the new British Colony of Singapore. The island existed as a separate Crown colony from 1 January 1958 to 1 October 1958 when its transfer to Australian jurisdiction was finalized. That date is still celebrated on the first Monday in October as Territory Day. Almost two-thirds of the island has been declared a national park.

Following the Second World War Christmas Island came under the jurisdiction of the new British Colony of Singapore. Before its transfer to the Australian jurisdiction from 1 January 1958, the Island existed as a separate Crown colony, its transfer to Australia was finalised on 1 October 1958. That date is still celebrated on the first Monday in October as Territory Day. The Singapore administration was paid UK£2.9 million in compensation for lost revenue as part of this transfer process.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has overall responsibility for the territories, including the provision of state-type services. However, additional government services to Christmas Island, such as those involving quarantine and customs, are the responsibility of the relevant Australian Government agencies. All Service Delivery Arrangements are undertaken by the Western Australian Government.

It is now accepted that the primary environmental challenge facing the continual survival of the Christmas Island endemic species is invasive species like yellow crazy ants, feral cats and the like. It is only with targeted eradication and containment programs against invasive species that there can be some hope of preserving the unique Christmas Island environment. The only prospect of preserving the island’s environmental diversity is by undertaking active environmental programs against invasive species; programs that take time and considerable financial resources. Yellow crazy ants had a devastating impact on the Christmas Island red crab population. The Government’s program to kill the ants with the use of the poison Fipronil over the last decade appears to be associated with a broad scale decline of threatened species.

There are a number of restaurants, cafes and bars on the Island offering a range of dining experiences including western, Malay and Chinese cuisine. Christmas Island is serviced by small shopping areas located at the Barracks and Temple Court in Settlement, Poon Saan, the Kampong, Drumsite and the airport. The range of goods is not extensive and includes general groceries, clothing, sporting goods, souvenirs, photography supplies, electrical goods, furniture and whitegoods. There is also a newsagency and chemist on the Island. It is advised that visitors bring a sufficient supply of certain personal goods such as prescription medicines.

There is one generic Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) on Christmas Island.

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Page last modified: 26-07-2017 19:17:10 ZULU