Christmas Island

Country Summary

Introduction

Background

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

Geography

Area

total: 135 sq km

land: 135 sq km

water: 0 sq km

Climate

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

Population

2,205 (2016 est.)

Ethnic groups

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

Languages

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.)

Religions

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

Government type

non-self-governing overseas territory of Australia

Capital

name: The Settlement (Flying Fish Cove)

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia General David HURLEY (since 1 July 2019)

head of government: Administrator Natasha GRIGGS (since 5 October 2017)

Legislative branch

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

Economy

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

NA

Industries

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)


Page last updated: Thursday, May 12, 2022