Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but it enjoys a large degree of self-governance. Together with two neighbouring islands, it forms one of Australia's external territories.
Originally colonised by East Polynesians, Norfolk Island was colonised by Britain as part of its settlement in Australia in 1788. It then served as a convict penal settlement until 1794, when it was abandoned until 1856, when permanent residence on the island for civilians began. In 1901, the island became a part of the Commonwealth of Australia which it has remained until this day.
The evergreen Norfolk Island pine is a symbol of the island and thus pictured on its flag (see illustration). Native to the island, the pine is a key export industry for Norfolk Island, being a popular ornamental tree on mainland Australia, where two related species grow, and also in Europe.
Norfolk Island was first settled by East Polynesian seafarers either from the Kermadec Islands north of New Zealand or from the North Island of New Zealand. They arrived in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and survived for several generations before disappearing.
The first European known to have sighted the island was Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific on HMS Resolution. He named it after the Duchess of Norfolk, wife of Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1685–1777).
Sir John Call argued the advantages of Norfolk Island in that it was uninhabited and that flax grew there. In 1786 the British government included Norfolk Island as an auxiliary settlement, as proposed by John Call, in its plan for colonization of New South Wales. The decision to settle Norfolk Island was taken due to Empress Catherine of Russia's decision to restrict sales of hemp. Practically all the hemp and flax required by the Royal Navy for cordage and sailcloth was imported from Russia.
When the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson in January 1788, Phillip ordered Lieutenant Philip Gidley King to lead a party of 15 convicts and seven free men to take control of Norfolk Island and prepare for its commercial development. They arrived on 6 March 1788.
During the first year of the settlement, which was also called "Sydney" like its parent, more convicts and soldiers were sent to the island from New South Wales.