Cocos (Keeling) Islands

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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 CLUNIE-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

Location

Southeastern Asia, group of islands in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Indonesia, about halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka

Geographic coordinates

12.30° S, 96.50° E

Area 241/257

total: 14 sq km

land: 14 sq km

water: 0 sq km

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

Area - comparative

about 24 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km

Coastline

26 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical with high humidity, moderated by the southeast trade winds for about nine months of the year

Terrain

flat, low-lying coral atolls

Elevation

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m

highest point: unnamed location 5 m

Natural resources

fish

Land use

agricultural land: 0%

arable land 0%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 0%

forest: 0%

other: 100% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

NA

Natural hazards

cyclone season is October to April

Environment - current issues

freshwater resources are limited to rainwater accumulations in natural underground reservoirs

Geography - note

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

Nationality

noun: Cocos Islander(s)

adjective: Cocos Islander

Ethnic groups

Europeans, Cocos Malays

Languages

Malay (Cocos dialect), English

Religions

Sunni Muslim 80%, other 20% (2002 est.)

Population 237/238

596 (July 2014 est.)

Population growth rate 197/233

0% (2014 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Life expectancy at birth

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Total fertility rate

NA

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

NA

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

NA

HIV/AIDS - deaths

NA

Government

Country name

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

Government type

NA

Capital

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

none (territory of Australia)

Independence

none (territory of Australia)

National holiday

Australia Day, 26 January (1788)

Constitution

23 November 1955 (Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955); amended many times, last in 2010 (2015)

Legal system

common law based on the Australian model

Citizenship

see Australia

Suffrage

18 years of age

Executive branch

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 (nonresident) Barry HAASE (since 6 October 2014)

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 for a 2-year term and represents the monarch and Australia

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council (7 seats; members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms with a portion of the membership renewed every 2 years)

elections: held every two years with half the members standing for election; last held in October 2011 (next to be held in October 2013)

Judicial branch

highest court(s): 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

none

Political pressure groups and leaders

The Cocos Islands Youth Support Centre

International organization participation

none

Flag description

the flag of Australia is used

National anthem

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

Economy - overview

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)

$NA

GDP - real growth rate 172/225

1% (2003)

Agriculture - products

vegetables, bananas, pawpaws, coconuts

Industries

copra products, tourism

Labor force

NA

Labor force - by occupation

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

Unemployment rate 203/207

60% (2000 est.)

Budget

revenues: $NA

expenditures: $NA

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Exports

$NA

Exports - commodities

copra

Imports

$NA

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs

Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -

1.33 (2015)

1.04 (2013)

1.04 (2013)

0.97 (2012)

0.97 (2011)

Communications

Telephone system

general assessment: telephone service is part of the Australian network; an operational local mobile-cellular network available; wireless Internet connectivity available

domestic: NA

international: country code - 61; telephone, telex, and facsimile communications with Australia and elsewhere via satellite; satellite earth station - 1 (Intelsat) (2001)

Broadcast media

1 local radio station staffed by community volunteers; satellite broadcasts of several Australian radio and TV stations available (2009)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 0 (2004)

Television broadcast stations

4 (2007)

Internet country code

.cc

Internet hosts 99/232

42,820 (2012)

Transportation

Airports 216/236

1 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)

Roadways 222/223

total: 22 km

paved: 10 km

unpaved: 12 km (2007)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Port Refuge

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

none