Royal commission into matters relating to norfolk island


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Chapter 14



The first reference to restrictions upon entry into Norfolk Island was contained in the letter written by Mr B. Toup Nicolas British Consul in the Society Islands, to the Pitcairners, and dated 5 July 1854, in which he mentioned that ‘it was not then intended to allow any other class of settlers to reside on or occupy land on the Island’.

Governor Denison’s conditions regarding land sales were likewise aimed at restricting entry of non-Pitcairn people, in addition to encouraging the existing Pitcairn immigrants to perform more industriously and efficiently on the land.

As mentioned in Chapter 5 of this Report, this original policy of retaining Norfolk Island for the descendants of the Pitcairners was departed from both officially and unofficially. Pitcairners themselves sold land to non-Pitcairners who then settled in the Island, and in 1866 government permission was granted for the establishment of the Melanesian Mission, which introduced further non-Pitcairners as settlers.

Thereafter until 1922 there was no firm policy with respect to entry into the Island and people came and went virtually unhindered, In 1922, the Immigration Restriction Ordinance 1922 (No. 4) codified entry into Norfolk Island by public law, and prohibited entry into the Island of persons in prescribed categories. For instance:

          1. Those suffering from serious transmissible disease;

          2. Those suffering from tuberculosis;

          3. Those of unsound mind;

          4. Those convicted of crime in specified categories;
          5. Those who were prostitutes or lived on prostitution of others;

          6. Those who advocated overthrow by force or violence of the established government of Norfolk Island;

          7. those without current passports; and

          8. those who had been deported in pursuance of any Act of Australia or Ordinance of Norfolk Island.

It also prohibited entry of persons who failed to pass a dictation test in any language approved by the Minister.

Provision existed for exemptions of certain specified persons and these categories are set out below:

          1. Members of the King’s regular land and sea forces;

          2. Master and crew of any public vessel of any government;

          3. Master and crew of any other vessel during its stay at Norfolk Island;

          4. Persons accredited to the Government of Australia or sent by any government on any special mission; and

          5. Persons who held a certificate of exemption (specified in the Ordinance) signed by the Administrator.

The Ordinance provided legal machinery for the removal from the Island of those persons who breached its provisions.

There were distinct inadequacies in this Ordinance. On the one hand, it did not offer control by the authorities over those whose conduct warranted it. Control could not be exercised over persons not specified in the categories mentioned above, except in some cases by the somewhat unsatisfactory method of prescribing a dictation test.

On the other hand, it did not offer security of tenure to those who were suitable for entry into the community, in that the dictation test could be applied at any time during an entrant’s first three years in Norfolk Island. No provision was made to exempt persons born in Norfolk Island and, presumably, they also could be subjected to a dictation test on their return to the Island and if necessary classified as prohibited immigrants.

Although these inadequacies existed the number of persons who went to live in Norfolk Island from 1922 to the mid l960s was not significant and except for minor instances immigration problems were not experienced.

In the early 1960s both visitors and settlers started to increase The Norfolk Island Council unanimously resolved in September 1965 that there was an urgent need to amend extensively the 1922 Ordinance in order to introduce more stringent control on immigration and to abolish the unsatisfactory dictation test

Some two years later, legislation was passed the immigration (Temporary Provisions) ordinance 1967 (No 5)) to bridge the gap pending the making of a completely new Ordinance relating to immigration and deportation This temporary measure commenced operation on 5 October 1967 and provided that all persons who entered Norfolk Island and wished to stay in excess of thirty days needed to have a permit.

There were exceptions (similar to those in the 1922 Ordinan, in the following cases:

          1. Members of the Queen’s regular land or sea forces;

          2. Master and crew of public vessels or government vessel

          3. Master and crew of any other vessel during its stay in Norfolk Island;

          4. Persons accredited to the Australian Government, or sent by any government on a special mission;

          5. Persons who held a current certificate exempting them from a dictation test on re-entry into Norfolk Island under the Immigration Restriction Ordinance 1922—1964; and

          6. Persons who held a current certificate of exemption under that Ordinance.

The issuing of permits was a matter for the Administrator (or his authorised officer) who held authority to grant or refuse permits. Permits could be granted for specific or indefinite periods and the former could be cancelled by the Administrator in his discretion. Permits became invalid on a person’s leaving the Island if a validating notation was not endorsed on the permit.

Persons who did not obtain permits, as required by the ordinance, became prohibited immigrants and provision was made for their deportation from the Island. Persons aggrieved by a decision of the Administrator could appeal to the Minister.

These temporary measures, whilst still permitting unrestricted tourist movement with a maximum stay of thirty days, provided the necessary control over the considerable increase in new settlers. Figures extracted when the Ordinance was made in September 1967 in respect of those who entered Norfolk Island during the previous three years and remained were:

September 1964-65 - 37

1965—66 - 66

1966—67 - 184

However, some shortcomings were apparent. The most outstanding was that an Island-born person who re-entered the Island was also subject to the inconvenience of applying for a permit and the risk of refusal at the Administrator’s discretion.

Eventually a new ordinance, the Immigration Ordinance 1968 (No. 7), was promulgated and commenced to operate on 1 November 1968. It ended a period in which much doubt and worry had existed over the final form of immigration controls.

A subsequent referendum held in the Island showed a substantial majority in favour of a policy of restricted immigration into Norfolk Island and supported the Council’s unanimous resolution of 1 October 1968 to accept the 1968 Immigration Ordinance.

Current situation

The Immigration Ordinance 1968 (No 7) still governs both immigration and deportation With its introduction the earlier ordinances (No 4 of 1922 and No 5 of 1967) were repealed The Ordinance provides that persons who wish to enter Norfolk Island for a period in excess of thirty days must make application to the Administrator, or his authorised officer for permission to do so.

Policy to supplement this legislation received Ministerial consent on 23 January 1969, after the Norfolk Island Council by resolution approved ‘the criteria, policy principles, administer practices and guidelines to be applied to the 1968’ at its meetings of 15 and 17 October 1968.

Three categories of permits may be granted pursuant to the Ordinance. They are:

          1. Temporary entry permits;

          2. Entry permits not being temporary entry permits (commonly known as enter and remain permits);

          3. certificates of declaration of residential status.

An elaboration of these three categories follows:
  1. Temporary entry permits

These are basically granted in three categories:

            1. those deemed to be granted to visitors for a period of thirty days:

            2. those granted to persons to enter and take a term of duty or temporary employment in the Island:

            3. those granted to persons with the intention of settling in Norfolk Island and initially serving a probationary and exploratory period before being considered for a long-term permit.

Temporary entry permits cannot be granted for periods in excess of six months but no statutory limit applies in respect of the number of them that can be granted. Policy dictates that temporary entry permits be issued for temporary purposes and holders must have a return or onward ticket from Norfolk Island and be in sound health; they may have their permits endorsed with conditions appropriate to the circumstances.

At 30 June 1976, the number of current temporary entry permits totalled 289 and covered 205 men, 211 women and 96 children, a total of 512 persons. During the twelve-month period to 30 June 1976, 655 temporary entry permits were granted. The Ordinance provides for one permit to be granted in respect of a husband, wife and children 16 years and under.

Comparative figures in the years from the date of the intro­duction of the Ordinance to the present are set out below:

Granted during Permits current at

1 July to 30 June 12-­month period 30 June

Total adults Total permits

1.11.1968 to 1969 129 * *

1969 to 1970 211 * *

1970 to 1971 374 153 116

1971 to 1972 433 231 177

1972 to 1973 471 270 211

1973 to 1974 564 333 243

1974 to 1975 598 364 266

1975 to 1976 655 416 289

* Figures not available

  1. Entry permit not being a temporary entry permit

(i.e. an enter and remain permit)

These are granted to persons who have the intention of settling in Norfolk Island indefinitely. In its initial application these permits were also granted to persons who entered the Island on a tour of duty for two to three years, e.g. bank managers, school teachers and the like. The issue of enter and remain permits was on Ministerial instruction discontinued on 3 May 1974.

This class of permit is not limited by specific dates validity, but may be endorsed with conditions appropriate circumstances. Policy dictates that the granting of enter and remain permits should be determined on the following criteria

            1. Character;

            2. Health;

            3. Capacity for self—support;

            4. Value to the Norfolk Island community
            5. Inclusion within an annual quota — initially fixed at ninety persons per annum but amended with Ministerial consent to fifteen permits per annum as from 30 November 1971 and

            6. Special conditions such as special affinity or business entry.

Enter and remain permit holders are not required to hold return or onward tickets from Norfolk Island, As mentioned earlier and for reasons explained later the issue of enter and remain permits was suspended on 3 May 1974.

At 30 June 1976 the number of current enter and remain permits totalled twenty-seven and covered twenty-two men and twenty-three women plus twenty-one children – sixty-six in all.

Figures showing the number of enter and remain permits granted to date since the introduction of the 1968 Ordinance are as follows:

Period Permits issued in

1 July to 30 June 12-month period

On introduction to bring some

persons within the new Ordinance 110

1.11.1968 to 1969 45 (quota of 90)

1969 to 1970 32 (quota of 90)

1970 to 1971 33 (quota of 90)

1971 to 1972 52 (quota of 90)

1972 to 1973 15 (quota of 15 permits introduced)

1973 to 1974 7 (issue of enter and remain permits

suspended on 3 May 1974)

  1. Certification of declaration of residential status

Persons born in Norfolk Island and those who have a special relationship with residents of Norfolk Island are entitled to be declared residents of the Island without the necessity of any authority exercising discretionary power over their application. That is, it is mandatory for the Administrator to declare these persons residents when they apply. The special relationships to residents are specified in s. l7(l) of the Ordinance.

On introduction of the 1968 Ordinance, letters were dispatched in early December 1968 to those persons who were born in Norfolk Island, or who otherwise appeared to meet the provisions of the abovementioned section, advising them of the opportunity to seek a certificate of declaration such certificate embracing one’s spouse and children, A similar letter was sent to those who appeared entitled to apply for residential status under the new Ordinance by a discretionary decision of the Administrator.

In response to those letters 347 certificates, covering approximately 400 people, were issued.

Those not mentioned in s.l7(l) and not covered by transitional provisions need to progress through a temporary entry permit, an enter and remain permit and then, after five years ofordinarily living in Norfolk Island out of the past seven years, may apply to be declared a resident. Applications are considered subject to s.17(2) of the ordinance which reads,

…the administrator may, in his discretion, declare the applicant to be a resident

  1. If the applicant has been ordinarily resident in Norfolk Island for not less than five years during the seven years immediately preceding the date of the application;

  2. If the applicant is ordinarily resident in Norfolk Island at the time when he makes the application;

  3. If the applicant is of good character;

  4. If the applicant has an adequate knowledge of the English language;

  5. If the applicant intends if declared to be a resident, to continue to reside ordinarily in Norfolk Island; and

  6. If the applicant has been assimilated into the Norfolk Island community,

Policy ordains that names of applicants for resident status (other than those specified in s.17(1)) must be published in the Norfolk Island Government Gazette and no determination is to be made on applications until after a period of thirty days following publication This period affords councilors and members of the public an opportunity to raise objections to the applications. The names of persons granted resident status are to be promulgated in the Norfolk Island Government Gazette.

Figures showing the number of certificates of residential status issued pursuant to s.17(2) granted since the introduction of the Ordinance are as under:

Period Certificates issued in

1 July to 30 June 12-month period

On introduction ofordinance 347 (granted under both s.l7(1)

and s.l7(2)

1.11.1968 to 1969 -

1969 to 1970 3

1970 to 1971 10

1971 to 1972 14

1972 to 1973 15

1973 to 1974 39 (quota of 15 certificates p.a. ceased; see later)

1974 to 1975 13

1975 to 1976 7

Persons aggrieved by the decision of an Administrator may appeal to the Court of Petty Sessions in some instances and to the Minister in others. Where an appeal is lodged against refusal to grant residential status, the Minister appoints a Commissioner to investigate and report on the matter. The Minister on receiving the Commissioner’s report then exercises his discretion by upholding or reversing the Administrator’s decision.

In summary, the Immigration Ordinance 1968 provides control over all persons who enter the community, whether as visitors, temporary employees, tour of duty employees or intending settlers. It provides an official and secure status for those, born in the Island and, after a preliminary period, offers security of tenure to those in the new settler category.

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