Christmas Island

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Although Europeans had sighted the island at least as early as 1615, it was only named in 1643 for the day of its rediscovery. The island was annexed and settlement began by the UK in 1888 with the discovery of the island's phosphate deposits. Following the Second World War, Christmas Island came under the jurisdiction of the new British Colony of Singapore. The island existed as a separate Crown colony from 1 January 1958 to 1 October 1958 when its transfer to Australian jurisdiction was finalized. That date is still celebrated on the first Monday in October as Territory Day. Almost two-thirds of the island has been declared a national park.



Southeastern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of Indonesia

Geographic coordinates

10 30 S, 105 40 E

Map references

Southeast Asia


total: 135 sq km
land: 135 sq km
water: 0 sq km
country comparison to the world: 222

Area - comparative

about three-quarters the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


138.9 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12nm
contiguous zone: 12nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200nm


tropical with a wet season (December to April) and dry season; heat and humidity moderated by trade winds


steep cliffs along coast rise abruptly to central plateau


lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Murray Hill 361 m

Natural resources

phosphate, beaches

Land use

agricultural land: 0% (2011 est.)
arable land: 0% (2011 est.)/permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.)/permanent pasture: 0% (2011 est.)
other: 100% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land


Population distribution

majority of the population lives on the northern tip of the island

Natural hazards

the narrow fringing reef surrounding the island can be a maritime hazard

Environment - current issues

loss of rainforest; impact of phosphate mining

Geography - note

located along major sea lanes of the Indian Ocean

People and Society


2,205 (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 231


noun: Christmas Islander(s)
adjective: Christmas Island

Ethnic groups

Chinese 70%, European 20%, Malay 10% (2001)
note: no indigenous population


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.)
note: data represent language spoken at home


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.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 12.79%(male 147/female 135) (2017 est.)
15-24 years: 12.2%(male 202/female 67) (2017 est.)
25-54 years: 57.91%(male 955/female 322) (2017 est.)
55-64 years: 11.66%(male 172/female 85) (2017 est.)
65 years and over: 5.44%(male 84/female 36) (2017 est.)
population pyramid:

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Population growth rate

1.11% (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 97

Population distribution

majority of the population lives on the northern tip of the island

Sex ratio


Infant mortality rate

total: NA (2018)
male: NA
female: NA

Life expectancy at birth

total population: NA (2017 est.)
male: NA
female: NA

Total fertility rate


HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths



Country name

conventional long form: Territory of Christmas Island
conventional short form: Christmas Island
etymology: named by English Captain William MYNORS for the day of its rediscovery, Christmas Day (25 December 1643); the island had been sighted by Europeans as early as 1615

Dependency status

non-self governing territory of Australia; administered from Canberra by the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport

Government type

non-self-governing overseas territory of Australia


name: The Settlement (Flying Fish Cove)
geographic coordinates: 10 25 S, 105 43 E
time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
etymology: self-descriptive name for the main locus of population

Administrative divisions

none (territory of Australia)


none (territory of Australia)

National holiday

Australia Day (commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of Australian settlers), 26 January (1788)


history: 1 October 1958 (Christmas Island Act 1958)
amendments: amended many times, last in 2016 (2017)

Legal system

legal system is under the authority of the governor general of Australia and Australian law


see Australia


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 Natasha GRIGGS (since 5 October 2018)
elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Australian prime minister; administrator appointed by the governor general of Australia for a 2-year term and represents the monarch and Australia

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Christmas Island Shire Council (9 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 2 years with half the members standing for election; last held on 21 October 2017 (next to be held in October 2019)
election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - independent 9; composition as of 17 October 2015 - men 7, women 2, percent of women 22.2%

Judicial branch

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


International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of Australia)

Diplomatic representation from the US

none (territory of Australia)

Flag description

territorial flag; divided diagonally from upper hoist to lower fly; the upper triangle is green with a yellow image of the Golden Bosun Bird superimposed; the lower triangle is blue with the Southern Cross constellation, representing Australia, superimposed; a centered yellow disk displays a green map of the island
note: the flag of Australia is used for official purposes

National symbol(s)

golden bosun bird

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 - overview

The main economic activities on Christmas Island are the mining of low grade phosphate, limited tourism, the provision of government services and, since 2005, the construction and operation of the Immigration Detention Center. The government sector includes administration, health, education, policing, customs, quarantine, and defense.

GDP (purchasing power parity)


Agriculture - products



tourism, phosphate extraction (near depletion)

Labor force



revenues: NA
expenditures: NA

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June



Exports - commodities




Imports - commodities

consumer goods

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home

(31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -
1.311 (2017 est.)
1.3442 (2016 est.)
1.3442 (2015)
1.3291 (2014 est.)
1.1094 (2013 est.)


Telephone system

general assessment: service provided by the Australian network
domestic: local area code - 08; GSM mobile-cellular telephone service is provided by Telstra as part of the Australian network
international: international code - 61 8; ASC submarine cable to Singapore and Australia; satellite earth station - 1 (Intelsat provides telephone and telex service) (2019)

Broadcast media

1 community radio station; satellite broadcasts of several Australian radio and TV stations (2017)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 790
percent of population: 35.8% (July 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 224

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of Australia



1 (2013)
country comparison to the world: 217

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1


total: 18 km (2017)
standard gauge: 18 km1.435-m (not in operation) (2017)
note: the 18-km Christmas Island Phosphate Company Railway between Flying Fish Cove and South Point was decommissioned in 1987; some tracks and scrap remain in place
country comparison to the world: 134


total: 140 km (2011)
paved: 30 km (2011)
unpaved: 110 km (2011)
country comparison to the world: 204

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Flying Fish Cove

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international


Flag of Christmas Island

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