Nauru Flag

The Republic of Nauru

An oval-shaped island lying near the equator, Nauru is the smallest republic in the world
  • Capital: Owing to its small size, Nauru has no capital
  • The Republic of Nauru comprises a small oval-shaped island in the western Pacific Ocean, Nauru lies 42km (26 miles) south of the equator. Its nearest neighbour is Ocean Island (Banaba, part of Kiribati), 305km (190 miles) to the East. It is 4,000km (2,485 miles) from Sydney.
  • Area: Total land area 21 sq km (8.1 sq miles).
  • Topography: Phosphate mining in the central plateau leaves a barren terrain of jagged coral pinnacles, up to 15m (49ft) high. A century of mining has stripped four-fifths of the total land area. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, exposed at low tide and dotted with pinnacles. The reef is bounded seaward by deep water, inside by a sandy beach. Landward from the beach lies a 150–300m (492-984ft) wide fertile coastal strip. Coral cliffs surround the central plateau. The highest point of the plateau is 65m (213ft) above sea level.
  • Climate: The climate is tropical, with sea breezes. North-east trade winds blow from March to October. Day temperatures 24º-34ºC, average humidity 80%. Rainfall is erratic and heavy; average annual rainfall is 2,060mm. The monsoon season is November to February.
  • Nauru is threatened by the ‘greenhouse effect’: if global warming of the earth causes sea levels rise, the habitable low-lying land areas will be at risk from tidal surges and flooding.
  • Vegetation: The only fertile areas are the narrow coastal belt, where there are coconut palms, pandanus trees and indigenous hardwoods such as the tomano tree, and the land surrounding Buada lagoon, where bananas, pineapples and some vegetables are grown. Some secondary vegetation grows over the coral pinnacles.


  • Population: 10,000 (mid-1992 est.) There is a fluctuating population of overseas workers. Birth rate 19.8 per 1,000 (1987–90/91). Life expectancy 68 years in 1993. The Nauruan people are mainly of mixed Polynesian, Micronesian and Melanesian origin, but are most closely related to the Polynesians. More than half the population are Nauruan; the rest are other Pacific Islanders, with smaller numbers of Chinese and Europeans.
  • Religion: Christian, mostly Nauruan Protestant Church.
  • Language: Nauruan and English are spoken, but only English is written.
  • Education: Free and compulsory, age 5–16. There are six infant schools, two primary schools, a secondary school and a technical school; also a mission school. Scholarships are available for higher education overseas.
  • Health: There is a high incidence of diabetes, cancer and hypertension, partly explained by the switch to a westernised diet. Alcoholism is a serious problem. There is no malaria. Medical and dental treatment is free for all Nauruans and for Government employees and their families. Number of people per physician is low, at 700 (mre).
  • Employment: The Nauru Phosphate Corporation employs Nauruans and about 3,000 overseas workers (mainly Chinese, Filipinos, I-Kiribati and Tuvaluans). Other Nauruans are employed in public administration, education and transport.


  • Media: The fortnightly Bulletin is the main newspaper. Radio Nauru began broadcasting in 1968, supplemented by a satellite telecommunications centre in 1975. A television service was started in 1991.
  • Post: Nauru is a member of the Universal Postal Union and issues its own stamps. Mails are carried by all aircraft and most ships.
  • Telecoms: IDD (code 674) is available. There is a modern internal and international telephone service. Telex and telegram facilities at Nauru Government Communications Office.


  • Road: A sealed road 19km (12 miles) long circles the island. Several miles of road run inland to Buada District and the phosphate areas. A regular local bus service operates around the island. Hire or self-drive cars available. A 5km (3-mile) railway serves the phosphate workings and carries the phosphate to the coast.
  • Sea: The Nauru Pacific Line, owned by the Nauru Local Government Council, operates commercial cargo services. The Nauru Phosphate Corporation also charters vessels. Nauru is a partner in the Pacific Forum Line.
  • Air: Nauru’s national airline is Air Nauru.

Legal system

  • The judiciary consists of a District Court, a Central Court and a Court of Appeal. The Republic also has its own Chief Justice.

Macro-economics and finance

  • Unit of currency: Australian dollar (A$), valued at A$1.32 to US$1 (3 November 1995).
  • Overview: Phosphate revenues appear to give Nauru a high per capita income, although exact figures are not available. However, the cost of living is high, approximating to that in Australia. The country is heavily dependent on imports for basic necessities: practically all foodstuffs, consumer and capital goods are imported, as is much of the water.
  • GDP: £100.74m (1991).
  • Investment: Past surpluses from the phosphate industry have been invested abroad, to provide income when the phosphate runs out. A 1994 audit of the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust found that around US$8.5m had been lost through bad investment and corruption.
  • Aid: Net total ODA (official development assistance) received, US$4.5m (1990–2 average), including US$4.3m average from other DAC countries.
  • Banking: The Bank of Nauru is owned by the Government. Set up in 1976, it took over the Nauru operations of the Bank of New South Wales.
  • Currency restrictions: None.
  • Regional affiliations: Nauru is a member of the South Pacific Commission, the South Pacific Forum, the Economic and Social Council for Asia, the Asian Development Bank.

Physical economy

  • Phosphate mining: The economy is based on phosphate mining, export of phosphate providing the island’s only income, apart from overseas investment. About 2m tons of high grade phosphate are mined every year. Phosphate deposits will probably be exhausted by the end of this century.
  • Agriculture: Fruit is grown by individuals on a very small scale, for home consumption.
  • Fishing: The Government hopes to develop a local fishing industry. The Nauru Fishing Corporation was formed in 1979.
  • Tourism: There is virtually no tourism at present.
  • Energy: The generators of the Nauru Phosphate Corporation supply full electricity.

Traveller information

  • Public holidays: Nauru’s most interesting public holiday is Angam Day (26 October). The word Angam means homecoming and this day commemorates the various times in history when the size of the Nauruan population has returned to 1,500, which is thought to be the minimum number necessary for survival. Other public holidays are New Year’s Day (1 January), Independence Day (31 January), Easter (5-8 April), Constitution Day (17 May), Christmas Day and Boxing Day (25 and 26 December).
  • Time: GMT plus 12hr.
  • Electricity: 110/240 volts AC, 50Hz.
  • Driving: Vehicles keep to the left. A national driving licence is acceptable. There is an island speed limit of 30mph.
  • Departure tax: A$10.
  • Business and social conventions: The atmosphere is generally informal and friendly. Diplomacy and tact are preferable to confrontation. Shirt and smart trousers or skirt are acceptable business wear, except on very special occasions.


  • First inhabited by seafaring Polynesian and Melanesian explorers, Nauru had little contact with Europeans until whaling ships and other traders began to visit in the 1830s. Grouped in clans or tribes, the Nauruans traced their descent on the female side. They believed in a female deity, Eijebong, and a spirit land, also an island, called Buitani.
  • The introduction of firearms and alcohol destroyed the peaceful co-existence of the 12 tribes living on the island and led to a ten-year internal war, which reduced the population from 1,400 (1843) to around 900 (1888).
  • The island was allocated to Germany under the 1886 Anglo-German Convention. Phosphate was discovered a decade later and the Pacific Phosphate Company started to exploit the reserves in 1906, by agreement with Germany. The island was captured by Australian forces in 1914 and in 1920 the League of Nations gave Britain, Australia and New Zealand a Trustee Mandate over the territory. The three Governments established the British Phosphate Commissioners, who took over the rights to phosphate mining.
  • Nauru was damaged by German naval gunfire and later by Allied bombing in the 1939–45 war. Following Japanese occupation, 1,200 Nauruans were deported to work as labourers in the Caroline Islands, where 463 died. The survivors were returned to Nauru in January 1946. After the war, the island became a UN Trust Territory, in line with the previous League of Nations mandate, and it remained one until independence in 1968. A plan by the partner Governments to resettle the Nauruans on Curtis Island, off the north coast of Queensland, Australia, was abandoned in 1964 when the islanders decided to stay put.
  • In 1967, the Nauruans contracted to purchase the assets of the British Phosphate Commissioners and in June 1970 control passed to the Nauru Phosphate Corporation.


    • Nauru became independent as a Republic in 1968, and joined the Commonwealth as a Special Member. Special Members take part in all Commonwealth activities except Heads of Government Meetings; they are not assessed, but make a voluntary contribution towards the running of the Secretariat. They are eligible for all forms of technical assistance.
    • Sir Hammer DeRoburt, independent Nauru’s first Head of State, was unseated by Parliament in 1976; but, re-elected two years later, he went on to win further elections in 1980, 1983, 1986 and 1987. In August 1989 he lost a vote of confidence. His successor, Kenas Aroi, suffered a severe stroke that November, so was not able to stand for re-election. Bernard Dowiyogo, an ally of Aroi, was elected President. Dowiyogo was re-elected in November 1992 and again in September 1993, after resigning in response to an unfavourable vote in Parliament.
    • In 1993, following a US$72m claim filed by Nauru at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Australia agreed out-of-court to pay compensation for the ecological damage caused by phosphate mining. Britain and New Zealand have pledged contributions of US$8m each. At the 1994 Small Island States Conference on Sustainable Development, the Nauru Government announced plans to rehabilitate the island.

Constitutional structure

  • The Consitution provides for a unicameral Parliament, whose 18 members are elected by universal adult suffrage every three years, from eight constituencies. The President is elected by Parliament and is both Head of State and Head of the Executive. The Cabinet consists of the President and four or five members of the legislature, chosen by the President. Voting is compulsory for all Nauruans over the age of 20.The Nauru Local Government Council, besides fulfilling the traditional functions of local government, also manages the Nauru Corporation, the Nauru Pacific Line and other bodies. It is responsible for overseas investments.
  • Last elections: September 1993
  • Next elections: 1996
  • Head of State: The President, HE Mr Bernard Dowiyogo
  • Head of Government: The President