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Nauru country brief

Nauru country brief


Nauru is an island republic in the Pacific Ocean, 42 kilometers south of the Equator and 4,000 kilometers northeast of Sydney. A raised, fossilised coral atoll, Nauru is one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean – the other two being Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia. Nauru has a total land area of 21 square kilometers.

Nauru has a population of approximately 13,000 people, most of whom are indigenous Nauruans predominantly of Micronesian origin. Non-Nauruans are principally other Pacific islanders, Chinese, Australian and Filipino expatriates, as well as other temporary residents (primarily asylum seekers and refugees).

Political overview

Nauru is one of the world's smallest independent states. Its constitution, adopted upon gaining independence in 1968, established it as a republic with a Westminster-style parliamentary system of government. The President is elected by, and responsible to, the unicameral parliament and is both head of government and head of state.

As there are no political parties in Nauru, all Members of Parliament (MPs) stand as independents. MPs are elected every three years by Nauruan citizens over the age of 20. At its first sitting, where possible, parliament chooses a speaker, a deputy speaker and chairs of committees before proceeding to elect the President from among the remaining members. The president then appoints a minimum of four members of parliament to join him (or her) in forming a cabinet. Following elections on 24 August 2019, Lionel Aingimea was appointed as President.

Bilateral relations

Australia enjoys good relations with Nauru and is its largest trade, investment and development assistance partner. The Australian Government upgraded its mission in Nauru from consulate-general to high commission in August 2009. In 2017, Australia and Nauru agreed an Aid Partnership Arrangement outlining our mutual priorities and joint commitments for Australia's development assistance through to September 2019.

In September 2012, Australia established a regional processing centre in Nauru for the purpose of processing asylum seekers' international protection claims.

Australia's Seasonal Worker Programme, led by the Department of Jobs and Small Business, connects workers from Nauru and other Pacific islands with Australian employers experiencing labour shortages, typically in rural and remote areas. In 2015-16, Nauru sent a cohort of 17 workers to Queensland and Victoria. Up to 2,000 workers from Nauru and a number of other Pacific island nations also now have access to the Pacific Labour Scheme, which commenced on 1 July 2018. The scheme enables workers to take up low and semi-skilled work opportunities in rural and regional Australia for up to three years.

People-to-people links

Every year, a number of Australia Award and Australia Award Pacific Scholarships are offered for Nauruans to study abroad at selected Australian and Pacific regional universities.

Australia and Nauru also enjoy strong diaspora, alumni and professional linkages.

Development assistance

More information on our development assistance to Nauru.

Direct Aid Program

Australia's Direct Aid Program in Nauru supports projects which directly contribute to the welfare and the income-generating capacity of poor or disadvantaged groups, or enhance the long-term productivity and sustainability of the physical environment.

Find out more about the Direct Aid Program

Economic overview

Nauru's economy faces significant constraints common to other small island states. These include its small size, remoteness, a harsh natural environment with infertile soils, limited exploitable resources and the need to create jobs and promote growth for an expanding population.

Pelagic fish abound in Nauruan waters, but Nauru has been unable to establish a substantial fishing industry of its own. Fees from fishing licenses issued to distant water fishing nations are an important source of revenue for Nauru.

Royalties from the declining phosphate industry currently only offer a modest revenue stream to Government. However, revenue associated with the presence of the regional processing centre and its ancillary service providers represents Nauru's most significant revenue stream. The significant increase in the expatriate population has resulted in major increases in revenue from customs duties and other fees and levies. This increased economic activity has also resulted in Nauru now enjoying high levels of employment.

Trade and investment

Australian merchandise exports to Nauru in 2017 totaled $49.3 million (principally meat, motor fuel and civil engineering equipment and parts).

High level visits

December 2013: then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP, led a parliamentary delegation to Nauru, accompanied by Senator Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Members of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek and Matt Thistlethwaite, and the then Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja AM.

April 2017: then Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells undertook an official visit to Nauru to formalise a new Aid Partnership arrangement and visit projects funded through the Australian aid program.

April 2017: then President of Nauru Baron Waqa undertook a state visit to Australia to meet Australian leaders and officials from the Asian Development Bank, as well as share in lessons learnt from Australia's infrastructure and sustainable energy facilities. The President visited Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.

January 2018: The Governor-General of Australia (Peter Cosgrove) undertook an official visit to commemorate Nauru's 50th anniversary of independence. His program included a meeting with then President Waqa, and attendance at the official flag-raising ceremony and other functions, He also undertook a tour of the Republic of Nauru Hospital, which was redeveloped over 2015-2017 with funding from Australia.

June 2018: The Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone, visited Nauru to meet Nauruan gender-equality 'champions' from across government, NGOs and the private sector, and discuss proposed initiatives to be delivered under the new gender country plan for Nauru.

August 2018: Then President Waqa visited Sydney to meet then Prime Minister Turnbull to discuss Nauru's preparations for the Pacific Islands' Forum.

September 2018: Australia's Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne, and Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Anne Ruston, attended the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' meeting. The visit also provided an opportunity to open a new sports complex, launch a gender country plan under the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program and announce new Australian aid funding for elections support and public health.

Visitor information

Australians travelling to Nauru are advised to consult the Smartraveller travel advice.

Last Updated: 11 September 2019
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