Although they are an Australian territory, many people in Australia are unfamiliar with the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a pair of atolls and 27 coral islands some 2,700km north-west of Perth. They are midway between Australia and Sri Lanka, and closest to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The religion is Islam and the two main islands (Home Island and West Island) are only inhabited by about 600 people.
I was born to a sixth-generation Australian father and a Cocos/Christmas Islander mother in Port Hedland, north-western Australia, in the mid 1980s. My parents raised me to feel a close connection to the ocean and to nature.
While originally from the Cocos Islands, my grandfather and grandmother moved over to Christmas Island in the 1950s, due to unfair treatment by those governing the island. My grandparents told us that many Islanders worked collecting coconuts for export and, instead of paying them cash, they were paid with food tokens.
The Islanders’ access to the food stores was restricted, which seems a horrible way to control people. At one stage, the Islanders were almost starving, so my grandfather and some other men broke into the storage shed and took some food for the people…