Cocos is also Australia territory, but has little practical value except for its strategic location well out into the Indian Ocean. There was action here in WWII and even WWI when a German raider was sunk by an Australian cruiser. It was also a refuelling stop for military aircraft in WWII and for early airliners going between Australia and Africa. Today it extends Aussie sovereignty far to the west. Other than that it is only a drain on the Australian economy. The only jobs for the population of 600 are with the government and most people receive some form of welfare or unemployment insurance. There is a minor tourist industry but it is very costly place to get to, so few tourists come. But it is loverly!
Cocos is also a significant destination for refugee boats although these ones come from Sri Lanka which is much further away and hence a more dangerous trip in the crappy old boats they use, with no trained or experienced crew. There is a small naval vessel on watch here and while we there they took several boats that been seized out to sea to burn.
For most of its history, Cocos-Keeling was owned by a Scottish family who imported labour to produce copra (dried coconut). As such it was part of the British Empire. After the family business went belly-up, the islands were British. A referendum was held to decide if they should become part of Indonesia or part of Australia. In spite of proximity and cultural links, the people chose to be part of the rich, democratic country rather than the poorer, autocratic (at the time) one.
|The beach at Direction Island is stunning.|