Repopulation Government of the Pitcairn Islands

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The People of Pitcairn Island

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The majority of Pitcairn Islanders are descended from the nine mutineers of Bounty who, led by Fletcher Christian, landed there in 1790 with six Polynesian men, twelve Polynesian women, and an infant girl. The next reliable estimate of the population was given by Captain Folger of Topaz in 1808 when it was 35, and by 1856, the year of the migration to Norfolk Island, it had increased to 194. By 1864, a total of 43 people had returned to Pitcairn and in 1937 the population reached its peak of 233. For some time it remained between 130 and 150, however it has slowly decreased. In 1999, 44 Pitcairners and six expatriates resided on the island, and in 2013 there were 46 Pitcairners and nine expatriates.

It is interesting to note that while other populations in the Pacific were declining, Pitcairn’s population was increasing at a rate of over 3 percent annually during the period 1808 to 1856 and about 2.5 percent in the period 1864 to 1937. The decline of the resident population from its pre-Second World War peak of 233 to 86 in 1963 is attributable to migration, principally to New Zealand. Migration offered the younger generation an opportunity to improve their economic status.

From the earliest days of the settlement, people from other countries and nationalities have settled and married into island families.

Today the majority of school age children tend to leave the island at the age of 15 to attend secondary school in New Zealand. Students may be granted a bursary for secondary education in New Zealand by the Government. There is also an opportunity for students to have further funding for tertiary education or training. Like other populations, the continuous outward flow of the younger generation has been a concern to the island for many years.

Life on Pitcairn has always been – and still is, because of its isolation - physically demanding and challenging. The island population is ageing, with only 5 children and few adults in the age bracket 20 to 40. The community needs to expand and increase if it is to sustain itself. The island needs more people, especially fit and able younger people, and the Pitcairn government is actively encouraging immigration by advertising and putting things in place with infrastructure, legislation and policies.