Global Education

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Tokelau

Map for Tokelau
  • Nukunonu, one of the three atolls that make up Tokelau, is a coral reef encircling a lagoon.
  • Fakaofo village square, Tokelau
  • The main street of Atafu village, Tokelau, at dawn

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Flag of Tokelau

Population:

1,337

Access to water:

97%
Did you know?

The highest point in Tokelau is only five metres above sea level.

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Geography

Physical geography

Tokelau is a group of three atolls (Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo) lying about 480 kilometres north of Samoa – about halfway between Hawai‘i and New Zealand in the Central Pacific Ocean. Collectively the total landmass of the atolls is 10 square kilometres. All three atolls are low-lying and enclose large lagoons. The highest point in Tokelau is five metres above sea level.

Climate

The climate is tropical with an average temperature of 20 °C. The weather is moderated by trade winds from April through to November. The atolls lie in the Pacific typhoon belt, making them susceptible to passing cyclones.

Environment

Green turtles, hawksbills and loggerhead turtles are known to nest on the islands, along with sea birds.

Tokelau soil is thin and moderately fertile, which means that it has few natural resources.

Population

The population of Tokelau is spread relatively evenly over the three atolls.

People

Culture and identity

Tokelau was originally settled by Polynesian people from surrounding island groups. The Tokelauan way of life, faka-Tokelau, is centred on family and community. Village life is based on strong community values, with affairs managed by a council of elders, taupulega, representing each family. Traditional skills include wood carving and mat making.

Health

Non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, are the major cause of death in Tokelau. Each of the three atolls has a hospital with a combined capacity of 24 beds.

Religion and beliefs

The population of Tokelau is largely Christian with a small population of Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Food and shelter

Life on the atolls is largely subsistence-based with a heavy reliance on fish and coconut. Other local foods include bananas, breadfruit, pandanus and papaya. The diet of Tokelau is supplemented by imported rice, flour and sugar.

Traditionally, Tokelauan homes were built of wood and palm leaves and designed to keep the inside temperature as cool and dry as possible. Today, concrete and corrugated iron are often used in construction.

Economy

Wealth and poverty

Tokelau relies heavily on aid from New Zealand, which makes up 96% of its budget. Money is also remitted to families from relatives in New Zealand.

Education and work

There are three schools in Tokelau, one on each atoll. All schools offer free and compulsory education from early childhood to year 11. The national curriculum aims to achieve quality and recognise indigenous identity.

Most people are employed by the government as public servants. Others perform agricultural tasks such as fishing and food production, as well as handicraft production and local village management.

Industries and products

Tokelau’s small size, isolation, and lack of resources greatly restrict economic development and confine agriculture to the subsistence level.

Agricultural products include coconuts, copra, breadfruit, papayas, bananas, pigs, poultry, goats and fish. Industry includes small-scale enterprises for copra production, woodworking, woven palm leaf goods, stamps, coins and fishing.

Trade

New Zealand is Tokelau’s main trading partner, with export commodities including stamps, copra and handicrafts and import commodities being foodstuffs, building materials and fuel.

Government

Tokelau is a non–self governing territory that has been administered by New Zealand since 1926. The New Zealand Foreign Minister has appointed the chiefs from each of Tokelau’s three villages to form the General Fono, which governs the country.

Achievements and challenges

Like many Pacific Island nations, Tokelau is extremely susceptible to the effects of climate change, which will present a major challenge if sea levels rise and cyclone activity increases. It is working with New Zealand to improve education, healthcare and infrastructure across the three atolls.

Links with Australia

Australia will work in partnership with Tokelau and New Zealand to develop a new initiative to improve early childhood education in Tokelau.

Nukunonu, one of the three atolls that make up Tokelau, is a coral reef encircling a lagoon.
Photo by CloudSurfer/Wikimedia http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
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Nukunonu, one of the three atolls that make up Tokelau, is a coral reef encircling a lagoon. Photo by CloudSurfer/Wikimedia http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Fakaofo village square, Tokelau
Photo by CloudSurfer/Wikimedia http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
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Fakaofo village square, Tokelau Photo by CloudSurfer/Wikimedia http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
The main street of Atafu village, Tokelau, at dawn
Photo by CloudSurfer/Wikimedia http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Print | Save
The main street of Atafu village, Tokelau, at dawn Photo by CloudSurfer/Wikimedia http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/