The islands of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno (commonly known as Pitcairn) make up a single territory, the last remaining United Kingdom Overseas Territory in the Pacific Ocean. Much of the period under review (1 July 2018–30 June 2019) followed a similar path to that of the previous twelve months, with the local community exploring various [End Page 256] opportunities for consolidating and strengthening their extremely vulnerable position, while also being constrained by well-entrenched issues, such as population size, economic viability, external perceptions of the local community, and the continuing saga of Brexit. In addition, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (fac) undertook an investigation into the overseas territories (ots), the findings of which had some potentially important implications for Pitcairn.
Let us begin this review with a consideration of Pitcairn's extremely small population. The local newspaper, Pitcairn Miscellany, reported that on 24 March 2019 the island's population was only thirty-seven—a near historically low figure. There were fifteen women, nineteen men, and three children (Pitcairn Miscellany 2019b, 9). Although the overall figure is reduced slightly by the fact that at the age of thirteen children continue their schooling in New Zealand, the current workforce is still only about thirty. Pitcairn Councillor Leslie Jaques suggested the number was "too low and which [sic] means things don't happen and don't get done" (Richardson 2019). Commenting on this situation, one observer who had spent some time on the island suggested that the community was "on the precipice of extinction" (Richardson 2019).
The tenor of a piece by Nigel Richardson in the Telegraph was highly critical and did not help Pitcairn's cause at all. The article was entitled "Secrets of Pitcairn, the Tropical Island that Covered Up a Child-Sex Scandal," and it focused on the experiences of a photographer who had spent some time on the island. The article began by stating that, "rocked by child-abuse scandals, the locals were hostile and a culture of silence culminated in the worst experience of [the photographer's] life." It suggested that Pitcairn was introverted, that the Islanders disliked outsiders, and that the experiences of the photographer showed "that their ideas about relationships and sex have not come on very far." The alleged response from a leading member of the community was, "If you [make a complaint] you're jeopardising our future" (Richardson 2019). The agenda of the article was quite clear, but it did highlight some of the key issues that Pitcairn is really struggling to overcome.
The Islanders tried to draw a line under the sex abuse scandals. On 30 November 2018 the Child Safeguarding Memorial was unveiled (pic 2018b, 2). It read, "To say we're sorry does not seek punishment or blame, it doesn't say they were right and we were wrong, just that we have learnt and understand the error of our ways." Whether a long-delayed plaque with some wording on it that fails to accept full culpability is sufficient is certainly open to debate. Considered within the context of the Telegraph article, one might have to argue that it is not.
Nevertheless, the local council remained committed to its new settlers program; it established "The New Settlers Orientation Group" (pic 2019a, 1) and approved long-term visitor visas to aid settlement (pic 2018a, 3). At least two new applications to settle were approved during the period under review, but a recent [End Page 257] arrival departed. This was reported in the Pitcairn Miscellany : "For the past 9 months a Gentleman from Europe has been living upon Pitcairn as an intending resident. It is with sadness to report that his settlement appears to have been unsuccessful, as in late August he chose to depart" (2018c, 4). So it is clear that despite significant investment, time, and promotion, the settler program has not proved to be a success so far.
One factor is of course the remoteness of Pitcairn, including the difficulties Islanders face in accessing medical services. This was starkly highlighted in a story in the Pitcairn Miscellany, which described the journey of an Islander who required medical attention (2018d, 8). The trip from...