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Hey! Australia Is Getting Control Of A Whole New Island Tomorrow

In a referendum on whether residents should have a say in determining the island's political status, 634 locals voted “yes” and 266 voted “no”.

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A tiny, beautiful, speck of an island in the South Pacific Ocean is about to become part of Australia.

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Surrounded by coral reefs and studded with pine trees, Norfolk Island is a naturally and politically unique part of the world that has long been governed by its own rules: residents who don't give way to cows face a fine.

First inhabited by Polynesians and later spotted by Captain Cook in 1774, the island has been used twice as a penal colony and has been self-governed by an independent legislative assembly since 1979.

But thanks to the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015 the island will go from a non-mainland, self governing, Australian territory to part of New South Wales. Residents will start to pay Australian tax and gain access to Medicare and welfare.

This is all happening because the island's economy was hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2008 and tourism - the island's main industry - plummeted by 40%.

Norfolk Island Tourism / PR IMAGE

Chief minister David Buffett announced in 2010 the island would surrender its self-government in return for a Commonwealth bailout, and a plan for Norfolk Island to be absorbed into the Australian taxation and social welfare systems was mapped out.

Instagram: @rachelbartholomeusz

"This is Australia's government taking responsibility for Australian citizens - just about everybody who lives on this island - and making sure they get the services every other Australian has," Australian administrator Gary Hardgrave told Al Jazeera.

But not everyone on the island is happy about the change.

Tomorrow #NorfolkIsland will be absorbed into NSW against the wishes of the majority of the community. #auspol

The president of the Chamber of Commerce on Norfolk Island, John Brown, has said the island's population is not ready to become part of the state of New South Wales on Friday.

Tim Vollmer

"I would have thought by now that those who are imposing the change would have had a four or five page booklet that I could get hold of to tell me exactly what the implications of the changes are to be," he told Radio New Zealand.

"But nothing such as that is available."

The island is home to just over 2000 permanent residents, many of whom can trace their ancestry back to the island's first British settlers, descendants of the crew who staged a mutiny on a ship.

Instagram: @norfolk

“We are Norfolk Islanders. We are not Australians. Why are they denying us that?” former chief minister Lisle Snell told BuzzFeed News in April.

Norfolk Islanders will be voting (compulsorily for the first time) in Saturday's election and represented by a single federal member of the House of Representatives, the Member for Canberra, and senators for the ACT.

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

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