Ashmore and Cartier Islands
The Territory of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands is an external territory of Australia consisting of two groups of small low-lying uninhabited tropical islands in the Indian Ocean situated on the edge of the continental shelf north-west of Australia and south of the Indonesian island of Rote.
The territory includes Ashmore Reef (West, Middle, and East Islets) and Cartier Island (70 km east) with a total area of 199.45 km2 (77 sq mi) within the reefs and including the lagoons, and 114,400 m² of dry land. They have a total of 74.1 km (46 mi) of shoreline, measured along the outer edge of the reef. There are no ports or harbours, only offshore anchorage.
Nearby Hibernia Reef, 42 km (26 mi) Northeast of Ashmore Reef, is not part of the territory but rather belongs to Western Australia. It has no permanently dry land area, although large parts of the reef become exposed during low tide.
Cartier Island Marine Reserve includes the entire sand cay of Cartier Island, the reef surrounding it, the ocean for a 7.2 km (4 mi) radius around the island, and 1,000 m (3,300 ft) below the seafloor. It was proclaimed in 2000.
- Ashmore Reef 155.40 km2 (60 sq mi) area within reef (including lagoon)
- West Islet, 51,200 m² land area;
- Middle Islet, 21,200 m² land area;
- East Islet, 25,000 m² land area;
- Cartier Reef (44.03 km² area within reef (including lagoon)
- Cartier Island, 17,000 m² land area;
The territory is administered from Canberra by the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, which is also responsible for the administration of the territories of Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Jervis Bay Territory and Norfolk Island. As part of the Machinery of Government Changes following the 2010 Federal Election, administrative responsibility for Territories was transferred from the Attorney General's Department to the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport. Defence of Ashmore and Cartier Islands is the responsibility of Australia, with periodic visits by the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. The vessel ACV Ashmore Guardian is stationed more-or-less permanently off the reef. The islands are also visited by seasonal caretakers and occasional scientific researchers.
Ashmore Reef is called Pulau Pasir by Indonesians, and considered part of Rote Ndao Regency of East Nusa Tenggara province. In the Rote Island language, it is called Nusa Solokaek. Both names have the meaning Sand Island.
Ecology and environment
Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve
The Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve was established in August 1983 and covers 583 square kilometres (225 sq mi). It is of significant biodiversity value as it is in the flow of the Indonesian Throughflow ocean current from the Pacific Ocean through Maritime Southeast Asia to the Indian Ocean. It is also in a surface current west from the Arafura Sea and Timor Sea.
The Reserve comprises several marine habitats, including seagrass meadows, intertidal sand flats, coral reef flats, and lagoons, and supports an important and diverse range of species, including 14 species of sea snakes, a population of Dugong that may be genetically distinct, a diverse marine invertebrate fauna, and many endemic species, especially of sea snakes and molluscs. There are feeding and nesting sites for Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Green Turtles. It is classified as an Important Bird Area and has 50,000 breeding pairs of various kinds of seabirds. A high abundance and diversity of sea cucumbers, over-exploited on other reefs in the region, is present, with 45 species recorded.
A memorandum of understanding between the Australian and Indonesian governments allows Indonesian fishermen access to their traditional fishing grounds within the region, subject to limits.
Cartier Island Marine Reserve
Economy and migration
There is no economic activity in the Territory. As Ashmore Reef is the closest point of Australian territory to Indonesia, it was a popular target for people smugglers transporting asylum seekers to Australia despite its only wells being infected with cholera or contaminated and undrinkable. Once they had landed on Ashmore, asylum seekers could claim to have entered Australian territory and request to be processed as refugees. The use of Ashmore for this purpose created great notoriety during late 2001, when refugee arrivals became a major political issue in Australia. As Australia was not the country of first asylum for these "boat people", the Australian Government did not consider that it had a responsibility to accept them.
A number of things were done to discourage the practice such as attempting to have the people smugglers arrested in Indonesia; the so-called Pacific Solution of processing them in third countries; the boarding and forced turnaround of the boats by Australian military forces, and finally excising Ashmore and many other small islands from the Australian migration zone. Two boatloads of asylum seekers were each detained for several days in the lagoon at Ashmore after failed attempts by the Royal Australian Navy to turn them back to Indonesia in October 2001.
- States of Australia Retrieved 2011-06-23
- Assistant Director, Territories and Disaster Reconstruction Division (16 June 2012). "Territories of Australia". Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
- Ashmore Reef, Ashmore and Cartier Islands (external territory of Australia)
- The Settlement of Papela[dead link]
- Annotated Ramsar List.
- Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve and Cartier Island Marine Reserve Management Plans, Australian Government, Department of Environment
- Inside Indonesia[dead link] Anita Roberts "Don't let them drown" Inside Indonesia Apr–Jun 2001, vol. 64
- Bizarre Happenings at Reef, Royal Australian Navy News, 28 June 1999, accessed 29 July 2010
- "The Annotated Ramsar List: Australia". The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. 4 January 2000. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ashmore and Cartier Islands.|
- Ashmore and Cartier Islands entry at The World Factbook
- Geoscience Australia—Ashmore and Cartier Islands
- Department of the Environment and Heritage—Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve
- Department of the Environment and Heritage—Cartier Island Marine Reserve[dead link]
- First on list of Australian islands
- "Ashmore Reef Belongs to Indonesia," posted on East Timor Action Network. 
- "Ashmore Islands are member of ARABOSAI" [dead link]