In November 1914, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands played host to Australia’s ‘first victory’ of World War I – the battle of the HMAS Sydney and the SMS Emden. A hundred years after the fact, the descendents of the sailors who fought returned to share in a legacy of valour and compassion, often overlooked in this remote tropical ‘paradise’.
The isolation the Cocos Islands is both a blessing and a curse. Marooned two thousand kilometres from the Western Australian coast and nine hundred kilometres from Christmas Island, it costs $17 for two litres of fresh milk and women have to relocate the mainland for even routine childbirth. But alongside this comes island quirks like a golf course stretched across an international runway, a functioning ‘I-O-U’ system for goods in town and a hire-car company imploring drivers to leave the keys in the car at all times so they don’t get lost.