The Resettlement of Nauruans in Australia: An Early Case of Failed Environmental Migration

Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2011

27 Pages Posted: 27 May 2011

See all articles by Gil Marvel Tabucanon

Gil Marvel Tabucanon

Macquarie University

Brian Opeskin

University of Technology Sydney

Date Written: May 24, 2011

Abstract

In the 1950s, Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand were forced to consider the long term future of their Trust Territory of Nauru, which had suffered escalating environmental damage from decades of rapacious phosphate mining. Plans were developed to resettle the Nauruans in one of the three metropolitan states or in one of their Pacific possessions. However, despite extended negotiations, the plans were never consummated. By 1964 the Nauruans had rejected, in turn, the idea of their dispersal as new citizens of one of those three Western states; their resettlement as a community in a mainland enclave; and their resettlement as a separate community of ‘New Nauru’ on an island off the Queensland coast. This article examines the history and context of the resettlement negotiations and concludes that preserving Nauruan national identity, avoiding Australian racism, and securing control of a key resource were the principal reasons for the ultimate failure of the resettlement plans. Nauru’s experience continues to provide important lessons for environmentally-induced migration in the Pacific today.

Keywords: Nauru, resettlement, environmental migration, resource depletion, phosphate, national identify, racism, independence

Suggested Citation

Tabucanon, Gil Marvel and Opeskin, Brian, The Resettlement of Nauruans in Australia: An Early Case of Failed Environmental Migration (May 24, 2011). Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1851910

Gil Marvel Tabucanon

Macquarie University ( email )

North Ryde
Sydney, New South Wales 2109
Australia

Brian Opeskin (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney ( email )

Faculty of Law
University of Technology Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales 2007
Australia
+61-2-95149670 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.uts.edu.au/staff/brian.opeskin

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