One of the largest islands in Oceania, which is surrounded by a group of Melanesian islands, it lies some 750 miles east of Queensland, Australia. It was annexed by France in 1853 and became a penal colony to which over 30,000 prisoners were dispatched (1864–97). The native inhabitants (Kanaks) from here and from Vanuatu were imported as virtual slave labour by Australia in the nineteenth century, but forcibly repatriated from 1906 as part of the White Australia Policy. Military government gave way to a civilian administration in 1885, but in 1942–5 it was occupied by the USA and served as headquarters to the US armed forces in the South Pacific under Admiral Halsey. In 1946, it became a French Overseas Territory with limited self‐government, and thus an integral part of the administration of mainland France. As such, it has been represented in Paris since 1953 by one Senator, as well as two members in the Legislative Assembly. In the 1980s, there were sporadic violent outbursts by Kanaks demanding independence. Their demands were not shared by a majority of the population, which enjoyed considerable prosperity as a result of direct and indirect French state support. Its economy suffered from the Asian economic crisis from 1997, and the depressed prices for nickel, as it held 20 per cent of the world's nickel reserves. Politics remained polarized between (mostly Kanak) supporters for independence and their opponents. Some reconciliation was achieved by the Noumea Accord of 1998. It provided for an eventual vote on independence between 2014 and 2019, and instituted a distinctive New Caledonian citizenship.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Military History.