The tiny island nation (8.1 square miles) of Nauru once proudly boasted of having the highest income per inhabitant of any country. I knew the founding President Hammer DeRoburt (borne 1922-1992) and his wife personally and had been invited to be their guest on the inland.
At that stage, Nauru was a happy place for the indigenous population who employed the local Alice Islanders or Chinese to do most of the labouring jobs. They were free to play sport and party. Every child born to a Nauruan was considered a gift from God and a financial asset to the family. That child came with a substantial annual bonus payment as a result of the earnings from the royalties paid by British Phosphates Commission.
Still, the Nauruan government were not happy.
They felt maligned by the British, ripped off as the lower income earner as British Phosphates pillaged the very substance of the island leaving ugly scars as it mined and exported the phosphate deposits that covered inland Nauru.
Then the phosphate was depleted, the British left, and Nauru fell victim to bad investments. Nauru House (now called 80 Collins Street, and with a new facade) was a controversial pebbled concrete building, at the time, it's 52-stoy towers were the tallest in Melbourne. The building was designed by architectural firm Perrott Lyon Timlock & Kesa. Many beautiful and historical buildings were torn down, irrevocably altering the landscape of Collins Street, much to the displeasure of many locals who considered Nauru House to be an eye-sore.
What followed was decades of mismanagement, corruption, and spiraling loans to General Electric, estimated to amount to approximately A$227 million, and the NPRT was forced to sell off Nauru House to pay loans.
For some time, Nauru ceased to make world news. There were no big money stories to interest the press. Money on the island accustomed to a free-spending lifestyle was dwindling.
Then came the refugee crisis and the Australian Government's decision to house refugees offshore, instead of humanely resetting refugees in Australia.
Australia and Nauru joined forces to reopen detention centres on Nauru four years ago. Australia is pouring an obscene (given how that money could be better used to assist refugees in Australia) tens of millions of dollars into the Nauruan economy. Who is this money helping? Certainly not the refugees. Today's news headlines are:
I am considering writing a historical fiction novel set in Nauru.
My memories of the first family, the DeRoburts brings back wonderful memories. I saw them as beautiful caring people. Their humanity touched me in a way that I'll never forget. They cared deeply for others, not just the Nauruans. I witnessed that care shown to Alice Islanders. With my personal knowledge of Nauruans, I'm more inclined to believe that it's been the sophisticated business negotiators from outside the island who have led most of the corruption. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammer_DeRoburt
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