Living the Dream
I met up with a friend for coffee and she asked lots of questions about the places that I have lived overseas. I talked about living for a couple of months, in 1997, on Cocus (Keeling) Island when my husband was working there. The islands are a Territory of Australia. I had stayed in Melbourne because of a teaching contract but was able to take extra leave and spend a couple of months living there with my husband. My friend had not heard of this place, so I decided to post a short blog about this beautiful island. For me, it was paradise and I was so happy living there that I considered applying for a teaching position at the school on West Island and hoping to settle there for a few years, but other things happened and it was not to be. I loved living so close to the ocean and enjoyed taking ferry rides to the other islands. I took lots of quiet walks around the beach as well as spending afternoons reading and relaxing on a beach where there was no one around except for the occasional windsurfers in the distance. It was an amazing, quiet and relaxing paradise.
The Cocus Keeling Islands are in the Indian Ocean, northwest of Perth, Australia and south-west of Jakarta, Indonesia. There are 27 coral islands but only two main islands are inhabited. West Island is where the airport is and where I lived and Home Island is where a small group of Cocus Malay people live. They speak a dialect of Malay as their first language. Home Island is a short ferry ride from the West Island and there are ferry trips to Direction Island, Prison Island and other islands which all have beautiful beaches.
The Cocus Story
Locals on the islands refer to their home as Cocus. Cocus refers to the coconut trees on the island and the name Keeling is used to differentiate from the Cocus islands in other parts of the world. The islands were discovered in 1609 by William Keeling, who was a sea captain, but there was no settlement until the early 19th century when John Clunies Ross, a scottish trader, made a brief landing and returned later with his family with the intention of commencing a settlement on the islands. The family occupied the island for 150 years. In 1955, the islands became a Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia and in 1978, they purchased all the land from the Clunies Ross family, except for the family home. In 1984, the Cocus-Malay population voted to integrate with the Australian community in an Act of Self-Determination supervised by the United Nations and now the Territory is supervised by the Australian Government. The Cocus Malay people live on Home Island and most of the people associated with the Australian government departments and administration live on West Island. The climate is tropical and temperatures range from 23 degrees C to 30 degrees C and it’s humid.
For me, life on Cocus (Keeling) Islands was paradise and a place that I dream of returning to, but I know that it would have changed over the years and I might be disappointed!