What does ‘free association’ actually mean?

Free association, or an associated state, is a nation that assumes responsibility for domestic affairs, but continues to depend on the colonial ruler for defence and foreign policy.


So, in Norfolk Islands case, it would mean that a newly formed Norfolk Island government, selected through a democratic electoral process, would be responsible for managing the local island affairs, while being a minor partner in a formal, free relationship with a larger nation, for instance, Australia.


An example is The Cook Islands: a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand.

Free Association means that:

  • laws are created locally, to suit local conditions while remaining relevant to life on island.

  • it addresses the weaknesses of our previous governance arrangements with regards to financial sustainability.

  • ensures Norfolk Island has the necessary powers required to govern effectively.

  • guarantees the fundamental right of the Norfolk Island People to determine their own future.

  • Allows Australia (for instance) to enjoy economic terms such as market access.

  • Enables both parties to form a mutually beneficial relationship that is economically feasible for both.