Main Content

Australia - Oceania :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands Print
Page last updated on August 03, 2020
View 1 photos of
  • Introduction :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Background field listing
    There are 27 coral islands in the group. Captain William KEELING discovered the islands in 1609, but they remained uninhabited until the 19th century. From the 1820s to 1978, members of the CLUNIES-ROSS family controlled the islands and the copra produced from local coconuts. Annexed by the UK in 1857, the Cocos Islands were transferred to the Australian Government in 1955. Apart from North Keeling Island, which lies 30 kilometers north of the main group, the islands form a horseshoe-shaped atoll surrounding a lagoon. North Keeling Island was declared a national park in 1995 and is administered by Parks Australia. The population on the two inhabited islands generally is split between the ethnic Europeans on West Island and the ethnic Malays on Home Island.
  • Geography :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Location field listing
    Southeastern Asia, group of islands in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Indonesia, about halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka
    Geographic coordinates field listing
    12 30 S, 96 50 E
    Map references field listing
    Southeast Asia
    Area field listing
    total: 14 sq km
    land: 14 sq km
    water: 0 sq km

    note: includes the two main islands of West Island and Home Island

    country comparison to the world: 241
    Area - comparative field listing
    about 24 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC
    Land boundaries field listing
    0 km
    Coastline field listing
    26 km
    Maritime claims field listing
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
    Climate field listing
    tropical with high humidity, moderated by the southeast trade winds for about nine months of the year
    Terrain field listing
    flat, low-lying coral atolls
    Elevation field listing
    lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
    highest point: South Point on South Island 9 m
    Natural resources field listing
    Land use field listing
    agricultural land: 0% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 0% (2011 est.)
    forest: 0% (2011 est.)
    other: 100% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land field listing
    Population distribution field listing
    only Home Island and West Island are populated
    Natural hazards field listing
    cyclone season is October to April
    Environment - current issues field listing
    freshwater resources are limited to rainwater accumulations in natural underground reservoirs; illegal fishing a concern
    Geography - note field listing
    islands are thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation; site of a World War I naval battle in November 1914 between the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and the German raider SMS Emden; after being heavily damaged in the engagement, the Emden was beached by her captain on North Keeling Island
  • People and Society :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Population field listing
    596 (July 2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 237
    Nationality field listing
    noun: Cocos Islander(s)
    adjective: Cocos Islander
    Ethnic groups field listing
    Europeans, Cocos Malays
    Languages field listing
    English 22.3%, Malay (Cocos dialect) 68.8%, unspecified 8.9% (2016 est.)

    note: data represent language spoken at home

    Religions field listing
    Muslim (predominantly Sunni) 75%, Anglican 3.5%, Roman Catholic 2.2%, none 12.9%, unspecified 6.3% (2016 est.)
    Population growth rate field listing
    0% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 194
    Population distribution field listing
    only Home Island and West Island are populated
    Infant mortality rate field listing
    total: NA (2018)
    male: NA
    female: NA
    Life expectancy at birth field listing
    total population: NA (2017 est.)
    male: NA
    female: NA
    Total fertility rate field listing
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate field listing
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS field listing
    HIV/AIDS - deaths field listing
  • Government :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Country name field listing
    conventional long form: Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands
    conventional short form: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
    etymology: the name refers to the abundant coconut trees on the islands and to English Captain William KEELING, the first European to sight the islands in 1609
    Dependency status field listing
    non-self governing territory of Australia; administered from Canberra by the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport
    Government type field listing
    non-self-governing overseas territory of Australia
    Capital field listing
    name: West Island
    geographic coordinates: 12 10 S, 96 50 E
    time difference: UTC+6.5 (11.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    Administrative divisions field listing
    none (territory of Australia)
    Independence field listing
    none (territory of Australia)
    National holiday field listing
    Australia Day (commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of Australian settlers), 26 January (1788)
    Constitution field listing
    history: 23 November 1955 (Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955)
    amendments: amended many times, last in 2016
    Citizenship field listing
    see Australia
    Suffrage field listing
    18 years of age
    Executive branch field listing
    chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia General Sir Peter COSGROVE (since 28 March 2014)
    head of government: Administrator Natasha GRIGGS (since 5 October 2018)
    cabinet: NA
    elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Australian prime minister; administrator appointed by the governor general for a 2-year term and represents the monarch and Australia
    Legislative branch field listing
    description: unicameral Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council (7 seats; members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms with half the membership renewed every 2 years)
    elections: last held in October 2017 (next to be held on 31 October 2019)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; composition - men 5, women 2, percent of women 28.6%
    Judicial branch field listing
    under the terms of the Territorial Law Reform Act 1992, Western Australia provides court services as needed for the island including the Supreme Court and subordinate courts (District Court, Magistrate Court, Family Court, Children's Court, and Coroners' Court)
    Political parties and leaders field listing
    International organization participation field listing
    Diplomatic representation in the US field listing
    none (territory of Australia)
    Diplomatic representation from the US field listing
    none (territory of Australia)
    Flag description field listing
    the flag of Australia is used
    National anthem field listing

    note: as a territory of Australia, "Advance Australia Fair" remains official as the national anthem, while "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see Australia)

  • Economy :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Economy - overview field listing
    Coconuts, grown throughout the islands, are the sole cash crop. Small local gardens and fishing contribute to the food supply, but additional food and most other necessities must be imported from Australia. There is a small tourist industry.
    GDP (purchasing power parity) field listing


    GDP - real growth rate field listing
    1% (2003)
    country comparison to the world: 183
    Agriculture - products field listing
    vegetables, bananas, pawpaws, coconuts
    Industries field listing
    copra products, tourism
    Labor force field listing
    Labor force - by occupation field listing

    note: the Cocos Islands Cooperative Society Ltd. employs construction workers, stevedores, and lighterage workers; tourism is the other main source of employment

    Unemployment rate field listing
    0.1% (2011)
    60% (2000 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    Budget field listing
    revenues: NA
    expenditures: NA
    Fiscal year field listing
    1 July - 30 June
    Exports field listing


    Exports - commodities field listing
    Imports field listing


    Imports - commodities field listing
    Exchange rates field listing
    Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -
    1.311 (2017 est.)
    1.3442 (2016 est.)
    1.3442 (2015)
    1.3291 (2014)
    1.1094 (2013)
  • Communications :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Telecommunication systems field listing
    general assessment: telephone service is part of the Australian network; an operational local mobile-cellular network available; wireless Internet connectivity available
    domestic: local area code - 08
    international: international code - 61 8; telephone, telex, and facsimile communications with Australia and elsewhere via satellite; satellite earth station - 1 (Intelsat)
    Broadcast media field listing
    1 local radio station staffed by community volunteers; satellite broadcasts of several Australian radio and TV stations available (2017)
    Internet country code field listing
  • Military and Security :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Military - note field listing
    defense is the responsibility of Australia; the territory has a five-person police force
  • Transportation :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Airports field listing
    1 (2020)
    country comparison to the world: 218
    Airports - with paved runways field listing
    total: 1 (2019)
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
    Roadways field listing
    total: 22 km (2007)
    paved: 10 km (2007)
    unpaved: 12 km (2007)
    country comparison to the world: 213
    Ports and terminals field listing
    major seaport(s): Port Refuge
  • Transnational Issues :: Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Disputes - international field listing