Christmas Island

Country Summary



Although Europeans sighted the island in 1615, it was named for the day of its rediscovery in 1643. The discovery of phosphate deposits led to the UK annexing the island in 1888, and in 1958, the UK transferred sovereignty to Australia.



total: 135 sq km
land: 135 sq km
water: 0 sq km


tropical with a wet season (December to April) and dry season; heat and humidity moderated by trade winds

Natural resources

phosphate, beaches

People and Society


2,205 (2016 est.)

Ethnic groups

Chinese 70%, European 20%, Malay 10% (2001)


English (official) 27.6%, Mandarin 17.2%, Malay 17.1%, Cantonese 3.9%, Min Nan 1.6%, Tagalog 1%, other 4.5%, unspecified 27.1% (2016 est.)


Muslim 19.4%, Buddhist 18.3%, Roman Catholic 8.8%, Protestant 6.5% (includes Anglican 3.6%, Uniting Church 1.2%, other 1.7%), other Christian 3.3%, other 0.6%, none 15.3%, unspecified 27.7% (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

1.11% (2014 est.)


Government type

non-self-governing overseas territory of Australia


name: The Settlement (Flying Fish Cove)

Executive branch

chief of state: King CHARLES III (since 8 September 2022); represented by Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia General David HURLEY (since 1 July 2019)
head of government: Acting Administrator Sarah VANDENBROEK (since 4 October 2022)

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Christmas Island Shire Council (9 seats; members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms)


Economic overview

high-income Australian territorial economy; development through government services and phosphate mining; operates Australia’s Immigration Detention Centre; increasing tourism and government investments; sustained environmental protections

Agricultural products



tourism, phosphate extraction (near depletion)

Exports - partners

Malaysia 36%, New Zealand 21%, Indonesia 20%, Australia 10% (2019)

Exports - commodities

calcium phosphates, fertilizers, valves, air pumps, industrial printers (2019)

Imports - partners

Australia 80%, United States 7%, Canada 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, iron structures, aircraft, crustaceans (2019)

Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -
1.311 (2017 est.)

Page last updated: Tuesday, January 10, 2023