Reflections on the last 12 months

Media Release
21 April 2018

I commenced my term on Norfolk Island on 2 April 2017 and can hardly believe it's been over a year already, so I thought it would be timely for me to provide an update to the community reflecting on my past 12 months here on the Island.

From day one in this role I have endeavoured to engage as broadly as possible with the community, both in an official capacity and through conversations with business owners, community organisations and clubs I have been involved with. My approach as Administrator has been to have an ‘open door’ for community members seeking information or providing suggestions or feedback in relation to the changed governance arrangements on Norfolk Island since 2015.

I recognise that this has been a most challenging time for many on Norfolk Island, indeed change is never a comfortable or a simple process. My door remains open and as difficult as it may be to come forward, where members of the community have questions or constructive suggestions, I encourage you to do so and welcome your input.

This is a community with so much capacity and as I learned very quickly upon my arrival a community with resilience and strength, certainly characteristics needed when living in such an isolated part of the world. People who call Norfolk Island home are justifiably proud of the resourcefulness that remains an integral part of the Norfolk Island ‘character’.

It is my firm belief that by harnessing the intrinsic capacity contained within the Norfolk Island community, in partnership with the Norfolk Island Regional Council and, where appropriate, accessing the resources of the Australian Government, anything is possible. The future is indeed a very positive one for this community.

Clubs and volunteer associations are more often than not the measure of the vibrancy of small regional communities. The participation in volunteering, sporting clubs and other community organisations on Norfolk Island is extraordinary, as is the breadth of different clubs and associations, within which the community can participate.

In my own case I have been an active member of the Norfolk Island Golf Club, the Squash Club, the Triathlon Club and more recently the Norfolk Amateur Theatrical Society. I also try to attend meetings of both the Lions and Rotary Clubs of Norfolk Island.

At Government House I have had the privilege to host a number of community functions, be they in honour of visiting dignitaries, providing support for new economic initiatives or to mark significant days on the local or national calendar. Most recently I hosted a community reception for Air Chathams and hope to see them establish a direct service between Norfolk Island and New Zealand soon.

Perhaps one of my most memorable functions was presiding over an Australian Citizenship Ceremony in the middle of last year. Five new citizens took their oath of allegiance to the nation they have chosen to call home. For them and for me this was a most humbling and moving experience, one I shall never forget. From time to time it would do us all well to reflect on truly how fortunate we are to call ourselves Australians, when compared to so many other nationalities around the globe.

Congratulations to all those who represented Norfolk Island in the Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast. To the competitors and officials I say very well done! Your personal achievements are significant and special mention must go to Ryan Dixon, Phil Jones and Haydn Evans for their bronze medal performance. Personally, the highlight has been seeing the genuine pride with which the community shared in your participation and success. It was truly wonderful to see.

Looking forward

Over the coming months, you will notice additional upgrades to infrastructure for essential services, including Norfolk Island Health and Residential Aged Care Service (NIHRACS) and the Norfolk Island Central School. There will be a full update on these in a future edition the Norfolk Islander soon.

You will also notice more work being done in KAVHA, including repairs to Cemetery Road and stabilisation of the New Military Barracks Officers Mess verandah. The Department and the KAVHA Advisory committee has recognised the need to keep the community better informed about activities at KAVHA and to increase community involvement in the site. You will therefore be hearing from me more regularly on this, as Chair of the Committee, throughout the year.

From 1 July 2018, modern awards will take effect on Norfolk Island. I hope that all participants in the group and one-on-one sessions run by the Fair Work Ombudsman this week found them useful and informative. This is a significant change for many businesses on Norfolk Island. I will be asking the Department of Jobs and Small Business and the Fair Work Ombudsman to provide further information to both employers and employees about what these changes mean and to closely monitor the impacts.

As most of you would be aware, the application of the majority of NSW laws to Norfolk Island is currently suspended. I can confirm this general suspension of the NSW laws will continue for the foreseeable future to ensure there is adequate time for consideration, consultation and discussion with the Norfolk Island community about any changes.

This week we welcomed Jan Johnson, the new Regional Investment Officer for Norfolk Island. Jan is employed through the RDA Mid North Coast, a very experienced regional development organisation, who also supports Lord Howe Island. She will be tapping into the national Regional Development Australia network to support local businesses, the Norfolk Island Regional Council and the community to attract both public and private investment. Jan's role will build on the work already undertaken by the Hindle Enterprise Group, and I would like to acknowledge and thank them for their contribution towards setting the course for the Island's economic development.

Finally, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Mayor, Robin Adams, and Councillors for their commitment and efforts listening to and representing the community. Over the next year I hope that we can continue working together to achieve the community's vision of being ‘the best small island in the world’.

Eric Hutchinson