An Overview of Nauru: A South Pacific Island Nation

By: MapQuest Travel  | 
Nauru is the world's third smallest country by land area, a serene island nation in Micronesia. (c) HADI ZAHER / Getty Images

The Republic of Nauru, a hidden gem nestled between Australia and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, boasts the title of the world’s smallest republic. Known for its intriguing history, unique culture, and stunning natural beauty, Nauru offers an unforgettable experience for those who venture to its shores. But what really lies beneath the surface of this enigmatic island nation? Let’s embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of Nauru.

Short Summary

  • Nauru is a small island in the South Pacific Ocean with 10,000 people and distinct culture.
  • Phosphate mining has left an environmental impact on Nauru, but today it relies on aid and tourism to sustain its economy.
  • Australia provides trade, investment assistance as well as security cooperation to Nauru while offering travelers opportunities for exploration of its natural beauty and rich history.


Geography and Demographics

Nauru is situated in the South Pacific Ocean, between Australia and Hawaii, and has a land area of 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi). This tiny, oval-shaped island is the third-smallest country in the world, surpassed only by Vatican City and Monaco. Despite its small size, Nauru is home to approximately 10,000 people, making it the world’s second-smallest sovereign state in terms of population.

The island’s geography is characterized by a central plateau, a narrow coastal belt, and a few coral cliffs that surround the island. Nauru’s environment is severely impacted by phosphate mining, which has left 80% of the island barren and devoid of vegetation. Freshwater resources are limited, with the island relying on roof storage tanks that collect rainwater and desalination plants for its water supply.


Nauru’s distinct Pacific Island language is an important aspect of its cultural identity. The Nauruan language does not have any clear similarities to other languages in the Pacific region, making it a unique linguistic gem among the Pacific Islands.

History and Culture

Nauru’s history is as fascinating as its geography. The island was first settled by Micronesian and Polynesian people around 1000 B.C. European contact began in 1798 when British sea captain John Fearn discovered the island and dubbed it “Pleasant Island”. By the late 19th century, Nauru was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire, which introduced strict regulations and Christian missionaries to the island.

Following World War I, Nauru became a joint mandate under Australia, Great Britain, and New Zealand, and later a UN trust territory under Australian administration after World War II. Nauru finally gained its independence in 1968, becoming one of the world’s smallest independent states.


Nauruan culture is a rich tapestry woven from the island’s history and the influences of various colonial powers. The island’s unique language, traditional customs, and close-knit communities reflect its resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity.

Phosphate Mining and Economy

Phosphate mining has played a significant role in Nauru’s history and economy. The island is one of the great phosphate rock islands, and its phosphate mining industry began in the early 20th century. Pacific Phosphate Company and British Phosphate Commissioners were responsible for mining phosphate in Nauru, generating income that once made Nauruans among the wealthiest people in the world. The phosphate mining industry, however, has left a lasting impact on the island’s environment.

Today, Nauru’s economy faces numerous challenges. With phosphate reserves dwindling, the island has become heavily dependent on aid from countries such as Australia. The government has attempted to diversify the economy through ventures like offshore banking and selling passports. The most significant revenue stream for the island now comes from the presence of the regional processing center for asylum seekers and its ancillary service providers.


Despite these economic challenges, Nauru still possesses potential for growth. The island’s tourism sector, for example, could be further developed to attract more visitors and boost the economy. Additionally, regional and international collaborations can provide opportunities for economic growth and sustainable development.

Government and Politics

Nauru’s political system, in the Republic of Nauru, is a Westminster-style parliamentary system, which is common among many Commonwealth countries. The most recent elections were held on September 24, 2022, showcasing the island’s commitment to democratic governance. The President of Nauru, who serves as both head of government and head of state, is elected by and accountable to the unicameral parliament. The current President, Russ Kun, has been a Member of Parliament since 2013 and has previously held positions such as Minister of Finance, Ports, and Tourism.

The Cabinet, appointed by the president from among members of Parliament, plays a crucial role in the nation’s governance. Nauru’s police force is responsible for upholding internal security and, when necessary, external security. The island’s political landscape is shaped by its unique history, culture, and economic challenges, demonstrating the resilience of its people in the face of adversity.


Australia's Role in Nauru

As Nauru’s primary provider of trade, investment, security, and development assistance, Australia plays a pivotal role in the island’s economy and international relations. In the following subsections, we will explore the various aspects of the bilateral relationship between Nauru and Australia, focusing on development assistance and security cooperation.

Australia provides a range of development assistance to Nauru, including financial aid and technical assistance.


Australian Development Assistance

Australia has provided Nauru with development assistance in numerous areas, including improving public sector management, investing in nation-building infrastructure, and supporting human development initiatives. By providing technical assistance, advice, and financial support, the Australian government has collaborated with the government of Nauru to increase economic growth opportunities.

Australia is the largest donor of development assistance to Nauru, accounting for approximately 15 percent of domestic revenue in 2014-15. This aid has been instrumental in helping Nauru address various challenges, including limited resources, a small population, and a fragile economy.

Security and Defense Cooperation

Nauru and Australia have a longstanding security cooperation that includes:

  • defense
  • law enforcement
  • transnational crime
  • climate
  • disaster resilience

The Memorandum of Understanding on security cooperation affirms Australia’s position as Nauru’s primary security partner and addresses domestic and transnational security challenges.

The Australian police force contributes to the preservation of internal security in Nauru by providing training and capacity building. This strong security partnership demonstrates the mutual commitment of both countries to maintaining regional stability and addressing shared security challenges in the Pacific region.


Challenges and Opportunities

Nauru faces a multitude of challenges, including:

  • Environmental issues such as droughts, storms, and rising sea levels due to climate change
  • Economic struggles due to limited resources, a small population, and a dwindling phosphate industry
  • Social issues including unemployment, poverty, and limited access to healthcare and education

These challenges pose significant obstacles for the ocean island nation.


Despite these challenges, Nauru possesses potential opportunities for growth and development. The island’s tourism sector could be cultivated to attract more visitors, creating jobs and boosting the economy. Additionally, regional and international collaborations can help Nauru address its challenges and capitalize on opportunities for sustainable development.


Regional Involvement and International Relations

Nauru participates in regional and international organizations, such as the Pacific Islands Forum, the Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations, demonstrating its commitment to regional cooperation and engagement with other Pacific Islands.

The island’s relationship with the Marshall Islands is a testament to their shared commitment to regional security and stability. Nauru and Curtis Island also maintain a strong partnership, fostering regional development and economic growth through collaboration.


Nauru’s participation in regional organizations and its relationships with other countries highlight its commitment to addressing shared challenges and fostering regional stability. These connections provide essential support and resources as Nauru navigates its unique challenges and opportunities.

Travel and Tourism

For visitors seeking to explore the hidden gem of Nauru, there are a variety of attractions to discover. Some of the sites that showcase the island’s natural beauty and rich history include:

  • Anibare Bay
  • Central Plateau
  • Japanese Guns
  • Nauru Government House
  • Parliament House

Accommodations in Nauru range from hotels and resorts to guesthouses, catering to a variety of traveler preferences.


Transportation options within Nauru include car rental, taxi, and bus services, providing convenient ways to explore the island’s attractions. Australians planning to visit Nauru should consult the Smartraveller travel advice to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.


Communication and Infrastructure

Nauru relies primarily on satellite technology for its internet and mobile services. The island’s network infrastructure is susceptible to adverse weather conditions and has limited coverage, resulting in highly restricted and unreliable internet access. Despite these challenges, 93% of the population has access to the internet.

The island’s transportation infrastructure is also limited, with only one airport and one port to facilitate travel to and from Nauru. Although these constraints present challenges for the island’s communication and infrastructure, Nauru continues to persevere and adapt in the face of adversity.



Nauru, the world’s smallest republic, is a fascinating and resilient nation with a rich history, unique culture, and stunning natural beauty. While the island faces significant challenges in areas such as environment, economy, and social issues, it also possesses potential opportunities for growth and development. Through regional involvement, international relations, and the enduring strength of its people, Nauru continues to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The story of Nauru is a testament to the power of resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity.

This article was created using AI technology.