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Published: August 3rd 2008
Spear fisherman heading home with today's catch.
There is nowhere like Nauru. It is a fascinating place but its recent history has been rather tumultuous.
A very brief history - Nauru was inhabited by Micronesian and Polynesian people around 3000 years ago. Nauru was annexed by Germany in 1888 and phosphate was discovered in 1900. After WW1, Australia, New Zealand the UK became trustees of the island. Japanese forces occupied Nauru during WW2 and after the war, Australia, New Zealand and the UK continued their trusteeship of the country. Nauru became independent in 1968.
In 1989, Nauru took Australia, NZ and the UK to the International Court of Justice over their actions during the trusteeship period. The main issue was the devastation to the environment from the phosphate mine. The compensation case was eventually settled out of court.
Phosphate mining generated a huge income for the people of Nauru and the government through royalty payments. Up until the late 1990s, Nauru was one of the richest countries per capita in the world. Unfortunately, due to a combination of poor investments and corruption, most of the money received from phosphate has disappeared and Nauru is now one of the poorest countries in the Pacific, heavily reliant
on aid and external assistance. Phosphate mining has started again on the island but the income generated will not be at the same level as before.
In 2001, Australia established an immigration detention centre on Nauru as part of the 'Pacific Solution'. Nauru managed the centre and it provided a significant number of jobs and income for people on Nauru. The centre was closed in 2008. I visited the site during my stay and the main part of the centre is now the temporary site for the secondary school (while a new one is being constructed) and many of the office buildings are now government offices.
Nauru has been described as a big coral mushroom with the top of the coral mushroom the land above water and the stem under water. As a result, the beaches that fringe the island are mostly shallow and dotted with coral. The land then drops away and the water is quite deep with strong currents that do not make for good swimming. Most of the people live along the edge of the island with a few inland near Buada Lagoon. The rest of the island is made of coral pinnacles and this
is where most of the phosphate mining takes place.
I spent most of my time working but did get to explore the island and take some photos. One afternoon I drove around the country - just because I could! ;-) Bingo has taken off recently and every night (except Sunday) there are big crowds at the bingo houses where you can win motorbikes or cash prizes. Most nights were spent on the balcony of my motel watching the sunset and the local game of Aussie Rules in the carpark.
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