Christmas Island in focus for research opportunities

Scientific organisations, universities and Australian Government representatives will gather in Canberra today to discuss opportunities to capitalise on Christmas Island’s (CI) unique ecosystems, species and conservation value. 

The Research Roundtable, being held in Canberra on 28 February, will comprise scientific experts as well as local leaders from Christmas Island and the neighbouring Cocos (Keeling) Islands. 

In December last year, I announced a new economic diversification package for CI. 

As outlined in the community-led Our Christmas Island 2030 Strategic Plan, the CI community’s goals for the future include opportunities for international education, research and development to capitalise on the Island’s extraordinary environment.

In line with this aspiration, the Research Roundtable is a key element of the Government’s plan to help to layer and diversify the local economy. Funding has also been provided to develop a business case for a potential research centre to be established on the Island. 

As many of you will be aware, CI attracts bird watchers and nature lovers from all over the world. It is home to one of Australia’s most unique national parks which provides habitat for endangered, vulnerable, threatened and migratory species. There are more than 250 endemic species on CI. CI is also known to many as the ‘Kingdom of the Crabs’ due to the diverse array of land crabs, including the robber, or coconut crab – the largest land crab in the world. The marine zone of the Park supports more than 600 fish species, including migratory whale sharks, and other species such as threatened green and hawksbill turtles. 

This gives CI a unique and logical natural competitive advantage in research and education opportunities, as part of a broader economic strategy.

Scientific experts, local representatives and universities with research expertise and capability in island ecology, species management and conservation, marine ecology, agriculture and tropical medicine have been invited to attend the Roundtable to share ideas and, collectively, identify CI’s untapped potential for scientific research and education. 

A key focus of discussions will be identifying research opportunities and developing a long term strategy to support research and education. The Roundtable will also discuss the potential focus, scope and use of a research centre on the island.

As I said during my visit to CI last year, the Australian Government is committed to helping the community diversify the local economy by encouraging collaborations and partnerships to support research activities. 

I look forward to reporting back to you on the outcomes from the Roundtable and planned next steps, including community involvement as we move forward.

The Australian Government’s economic diversification package complements actions already under way, including a Strategic Assessment of Christmas Island, a review of tourism and development of a Tourism Action Plan, along with delivery of initiatives in the Strategic Plan.