Today marks the 50th anniversary of Nauru gaining its independence from Australia. The island is celebrating the occasion in a grand way with many dignitaries from the around the world arriving on the island to pay their respects.
The Republic of Nauru became an independent nation on January 31, 1968. The date is very significant in the history of Nauru, as this day marked the 22nd anniversary of the return of the Nauruans from Truk. Since then, the Independence Day of Nauru is celebrated as a national holiday.
In the years leading to its independence, Nauru had been ruled and governed by a number of nations. Towards the end of the 19th century, Nauru was colonized by Germany. The Germans soon discovered Nauru’s huge phosphorus reserves and started mining its natural resources. After the end of World War I, Nauru was governed jointly by Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, in accordance with the League of Nations mandate.
During World War II, Japan occupied Nauru and used it as an air base. Post World War II, Nauru was again placed under the governance of these three nations, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, with Australia providing the actual administration.
After the Japanese troops captured Nauru on March 22, 1945, they sent 1200 Nauruans to the Chuuk Islands as laborers. Following the defeat of the Japanese, 737 Nauruans returned to their homeland on January 31, 1946. To commemorate this historic event, January 31 was chosen as the Independence Day of Nauru.
A former Nauru MP now living in New Zealand, Roland Kun, says the 50th anniversary is a big deal and it’s right that the people are marking the occasion, but he agrees the island remains economically reliant on Australia. “Nauru is also hosting the offshore processing center for asylum seekers in partnership with Australia and that is bringing in a significant part of the economic base of the country at present. Unfortunately, as that happens, I am of the view that a large part of the development work on the island has fallen on the wayside.”
The national flag of Nauru was chosen through a local design competition. The flag depicts the geographical position of Nauru, a degree below the equator. Equator is represented by a golden horizontal line while Nauru is represented by 12-pointed white star. While each of the 12 indigenous tribes of the island symbolizes a point, the white color represents phosphate, the source of this island nation’s wealth. The flag has a blue background, which symbolizes the Pacific Ocean.
Happy Birthday Nauru!