The Pacific is an incredibly diverse place. New Caledonia, situated within Melanesia, comprises of appropriately a 40% indigenous Kanak community, 29% European, around 9% from Wallis and Futuna, with the remaining from Tahiti, Indonesia, Vietnam, Vanuatu and various other Asian and Pacific island nations.
Earlier this month, I experienced my first cyclone whilst living abroad. It was an interesting experience receiving all the emergency alerts in French. You quickly learn how important it is to have a grasp on the French language to get around! Fortunately, cyclone Uesi passed over Nouméa with very minimal damage and just some much-needed rain.
I had the chance to drive through the mountains Mont-Dore, 30 minutes from Nouméa, the third largest commune of New Caledonia in terms of the number of people living there. The countryside here is very vast, with James Cook naming the island New Caledonia as it reminded him of the Scottish Highlands. Caledonia was the Latin word used by the Romans to name the north of Scotland.
I spent a few days at the Île des Pins (Isle of Pines), camping and exploring the island, which has a population of 2,000 people. Situated just over 100km from Nouméa, or a 20-minute flight, it is a pristine part of New Caledonia that is popular with tourists, with the island stretching 18km by 14km. I saw the caves (les grottes), swam in the natural pool (la piscine naturelle), did a trip on a dugout canoe (un pirogue) and a boat trip to visit some little islets. We also saw a group of rare pilot whales, which circled our boat for almost an hour. My trip consisted of lots of snorkelling and eating seafood!
Along with completing my university studies, it has been great to meet the new Australian Consulate General diplomatic team here in Nouméa. This year is an important one, celebrating the 80th anniversary of relations between Australia and New Caledonia. The Consulate General here was opened on 6 August 1940, making it the fourth-oldest diplomatic posting in Australia’s history, following London (1910), Ottawa (1939) and Washington (1940). I attended an official soirée at the Consul General’s residence to introduce the new Australian representatives.
Feature image: Alison Carrington, Australian Consul-General to New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia.
The Université de la Nouvelle-Calédonie also held a special conference for the exchange students, allowing us to learn more about the Kanak culture. Did you know that there are 28 indigenous Kanak languages spoken here, with 16 of them in danger of extinction?
I have now lived here for almost two months. I’m looking forward to many more opportunities to learn about the culture, meet new people and continuing to study my university course in French!
The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government.