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Australia Taking Over Local Government On Tiny Bankrupt Island

The old government buildings and remains of the penal colony in Kingston, the capital of Norfolk Island, located about 1,000 miles northeast of Sydney, in a photo taken in 2006.

Australia has announced that it is revoking self-government on tiny Norfolk Island, where ancestors of the original HMS Bounty mutineers settled in the mid-19th century.

The move was announced after it became clear that the island, a former penal colony with just 1,800 inhabitants, was facing bankruptcy.

"The reality is, infrastructure on Norfolk Island is run down, the health system not up to standard and many laws are out of date with all other Australian jurisdictions," Assistant Minister for Regional Development Jamie Briggs said in a statement quoted by The Australian Associated Press.

Residents of Norfolk will begin paying federal taxes to Canberra in July 2016. In return, they will get access to social services, including Medicare and pharmaceutical benefits, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Descendants of the Bounty mutineers — 193 men, women and children — arrived on Norfolk Island in 1856 after setting sail from Pitcairn Island 4,000 miles to the east, where only a small number of residents remained behind.

The original mutineers seized control of the Bounty in 1789, setting Capt. William Bligh and loyal members of his crew adrift in a small boat.

Bligh eventually reached Timor with all hands. The mutineers, led by Master's Mate Fletcher Christian, first called at Tahiti, where the men retrieved local brides, and then settled on isolated (and mischarted) Pitcairn Island, where they hoped to evade British authorities. Today, Pitcairn, Britain's smallest colony, is home to fewer than 50 islanders — all related to the original mutineers.

Beginning in 2000, police uncovered widespread allegations of child sexual assault on Pitcairn that went back decades on the largely autonomous island. Eventually, most of the island's residents were caught up in the scandal, as alleged perpetrators, accomplices or victims. Four years later, seven island men, including Mayor Steve Christian, a descendant of Fletcher Christian, were found guilty of charges related to sexual offenses.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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