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Norfolk Island: A Small Realm That Is Commonwealth Games Bowl Powerhouse | Commonwealth Games 2022

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aAbout 2,000 people live on Norfolk Island, an Australian outer territory 1,400 kilometers off the coast of New South Wales. Amazingly, 10 of them (he’s 0.5 percent of the total population) are now in Birmingham to represent the island at the Commonwealth Games. All 10 play in Birmingham’s only sport, the Lawn Bowl.

A 35-square-kilometer piece of land in the vast Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia, Norfolk Island was first settled as a prison colony in the early 1800s. It was then abandoned and uninhabited until 1856, when he discovered that a growing community of descendants of the HMS Bounty rebels had reached Norfolk beyond the Pitcairn Islands, another British territory in the Pacific. moved. Many of today’s Norfolk Islanders are descendants of these settlers.

Norfolk was ruled from New South Wales for decades and was formally incorporated into Australia in 1913. In 1979, the islanders were granted limited autonomy by federal authorities, and an elected council was charged with governing Norfolk. This rare status allows them to participate in the Commonwealth Games, which, unlike the Olympics, allow participation from regions outside of certain states. Norfolk Island therefore joined the likes of the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man and Niue at the opening ceremony held in Birmingham last week.

“Norfolk Island has been at the Commonwealth Games since 1986,” explains the team’s mission chef, Cheryl Jelavich, who manages a local hospital. Since then, Island has competed in every game and won two bronze medals. The appearance at Birmingham is his tenth game for the island. “We are part of her 72 Commonwealth countries,” she says. “We have previously entered the competition as an external territory of Australia. Nothing has changed. It remains the same.”

Norfolk Island Bowling Team member Carmen Anderson. Women’s World Roan at a monument commemorating her Bowls Championship. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

While nothing may have changed on the sporting front, politically a lot has changed in recent years and participation in the Commonwealth Games has become symbolically even more important for Norfolk Islanders. The federal government abolished autonomy “to address sustainability issues”, including financial difficulties that arose. From 2016, Australian law applies to the islands and travel between Australia and Norfolk is considered domestic. The island is represented by the Commonwealth Government through the Australian Capital Territory. Newly elected Senator David Pocock recently visited.

The end of autonomy remains a painful point. Some locals advocate for Norfolk Island to separate from Australia and join New Zealand. This could allow greater autonomy (similar to Niue and the Cook Islands). Residents of Norfolk have called on the United Nations, represented by prominent barrister Jeffrey Robertson QC, to be added to the list of non-autonomous territories that have the right to self-determination under international law. I even petitioned the

In a recent column, former ACT Prime Minister John Stanhope criticized the reforms that have returned the island to “essentially colonial status.” he asked. [does] Is the Commonwealth going to deny the people of Norfolk Island a say in the governance of their communities and the same democratic rights enjoyed by, say, Canberra residents?”

Susie Hale, a Norfolk schoolteacher and mother of Ellie Dixon, the youngest bowler on the Birmingham team, says the competition is an important opportunity for Norfolk Islanders to be represented. Marching under the flag and singing the national anthem is one of the few opportunities for us to be publicly represented under the flag when all other rights and freedoms have been stripped from the people of Norfolk Island. One,” she says.

This is especially true for the descendants of the original Pitcairn settlers represented by the team. “They are very proud, very proud to represent the club, the sport and the country,” Jelavic says.

One Norfolk Islander who marched under the flag in Birmingham was Shay Wilson, who reached the semi-finals in bowling. Wilson, 23, will be competing in her second competition. She is considered a rising star in her community at Lorne Her Bowl in Norfolk. In her hometown, Wilson works as an early childhood education teacher. “She only does a few hours at the local bowling club in between,” she says.

Norfolk Islanders march at the opening ceremony.
Norfolk Islanders march at the opening ceremony. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Wilson faced Australian opponent Ellen Ryan in the semi-finals. In the Australia vs. Norfolk grudge match, Ryan ran out to lead 9–0 before Wilson leveled the score at 17-all. However, Wilson’s “loose end” (Bowles put him ahead by 21) saw the Australians win. Wilson failed to add her third medal to Norfolk’s all-time record, but after losing out to Malaysia’s Sita and Zarina of Malaysia in bronze medal deciders, she was positive about the tournament. looking back to

“I didn’t quite finish it, but I’m almost there,” she says. Putting it on the map: Clearly we are small beings in the middle of the ocean, and many people don’t know we exist.

Back in Norfolk, the locals are delighted with Wilson’s success and the strong performances of the other bowlers. Phil Jones, a bronze medalist in men’s triples at the 2018 Olympics but not at this time, said, “It’s an absolute buzz. The whole island is behind this team. Everyone’s watching.” , listening and talking. It’s all about the Commonwealth Games at the moment.”

Birmingham (or more precisely, Leamington Spa, where the Lawn Bowl is held) also feels the support from home. “Of course, we know everyone, so everyone’s very excited about us,” Wilson says.

Jones, a Norfolk sports elder, attributes the island’s bowling prowess to the opportunities offered by the game, in addition to regional tournaments such as the World Championships and the Pacific Games that welcome the region. “Everybody wants an opportunity to test themselves,” he says. “All our players [Commonwealth Games] Teams – They see what’s in front of them and get extra practice. ’ It helps them enjoy it too. “There’s a love of gaming there,” he adds Yelavich.

Carmen Anderson in action during the third round of the Women's Four at Leamington Spa.
Carmen Anderson in action during the third round of the Women’s Four at Leamington Spa. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Lawn Bowl competition at those games ends Saturday, but the Norfolk Island team already has its sights set on the 2026 game in Victoria. However, the sport has been dropped from Birmingham’s roster. Efforts are underway to resume shooting within four years, to give islanders a boost. “We’ll have to wait and see what the sports scheduled for the upcoming Olympics look like,” he says Yelavich.

Norfolk’s political standing is unbalanced, but Senator Pocock defends the islanders and says he may use his power in the Senate to push for reform, but the region’s relatives No matter what happens politically, Norfolk Island’s lawn bowlers will be back for the next Commonwealth Games.