Norfolk Islanders

Where some Norfolk Islanders settled: the New Norfolk area (AOT, PH2/1/26)

Norfolk Islanders were those settled in Norfolk Island from 1788, mainly convicts and soldiers. They married and raised families, living by farming. As early as 1790 the British government questioned the viability of Norfolk Island and ordered its closure. This information was not well received by the population, most of whom were now free by servitude, as the thought of having to start again was not welcome. Later the government again attempted to move the people from the island, and a list of names was drawn up in 1804 of those wishing to go to Van Diemen's Land. But by 1806 the governor's patience was wearing thin as only five settlers had voluntarily left Norfolk Island. Between November 1807 and October 1808, 568 settlers were sent to Hobart Town, and more went to Port Dalrymple in 1813.

When the settlers arrived in Hobart Town they found stores were in short supply, making it almost impossible to feed and clothe them. Their arrival did make a vast difference to the new settlement, in bringing not only new blood, but also many young people of marriageable age. Norfolk Islanders were given land grants in New Town, Sandy Bay, Clarence Plains and New Norfolk. Those in the north went to Norfolk Plains (Longford). Early historians regarded Norfolk Islanders either with indifference or as shiftless and lazy, but they had a difficult job in trying to clear and till virgin soil with poor quality tools, and though many failed, others did succeed in Van Diemen's Land.

Further reading: I Schaffer & T McKay, Exiled!, Hobart, 1992; R Wright, The forgotten generation of Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land, Sydney, 1986.

Irene Schaffer