Palm Project

Background & history of Vanuatu

New Hebrides was the colonial name for the Island group in the South Pacific that now forms the nation of Vanuatu. The New Hebrides was colonised by both the British and French in the 18th century shortly after Captain James Cook visited the islands.

What made their colonisation unique was the fact that both France and England ruled at the same time from 1906 to 1980. They called it a Condominium, the locals and Father Walter Lini referred to their reign as the ‘Pandemonium’.

The long history between the French and English colonisers, meant there was no co-operation between them. The Condominium simply divided the country into two separate communities governing their respective areas as they saw fit, emphasizing dualism to the point of near absurdity, with no thought as to the future cost to the local communities.

With both French and English speaking schools, language was a serious barrier to the operation of this naturally inefficient system, this continued even after independence and Bislama creole spoken by all Ni-Vanuatu represented an informal bridge between the British and the French speaking camps. Bislama is spoken widely today as a bridge between different village dialects. It is a form of Pidgin English comprising 70% English and the 30% French.

Vanuatu gained independence on the 30th of July 1980. With no universal infrastructure in place, services and amenities have suffered badly. There is very little government funding for health or education, and the remote islands are forced to survive independently.