Cocos (Keeling) Islands governance and administration


The Cocos (Keeling) Islands became an Australian Territory in 1955. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955, is administered by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development on behalf of the Minister with responsibility for Territories. The Act provides the legislative basis for the Territory's administrative, legislative and judicial systems. In 1984 the Cocos (Keeling) Island community voted in favour of integration with Australia in an Act of Self Determination supervised by the United Nations. At this time the Australian Government gave a commitment to the people of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to respect their religious beliefs, traditions and culture.

An Administrator appointed by the Governor-General is the most senior Australian Government representative and represents the Minister. The Administrator is based on Christmas Island. The Territories Law Reform Act 1992 amended the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 to apply various Commonwealth Acts and the law of the State of Western Australia to the Territory. This introduced a contemporary body of Australian law and was a major step in extending to the residents of the Territory the same rights responsibilities and obligations as enjoyed by their fellow Australians.

Local Government legislation based on that of Western Australia was introduced in 1992. The first Shire Council was elected in 1993. The Shire Council is comprised of seven members and has similar responsibilities to a local government on the Australian mainland.

At the Federal level the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are an electoral district of the Commonwealth Division of Lingiari in the Northern Territory.

Australian Government services

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has overall responsibility for the Territories including the provision of state-type services. However, additional government services to the Indian Ocean Territories such as those involving quarantine and customs are the responsibility of the relevant Australian Government agencies. All service delivery arrangements are undertaken by the Western Australian Government.

State type services

State type services are provided through:

  • Service Delivery Arrangements (SDAs) between the Australian Government and Western Australian State Government agencies;
  • direct administration by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development; and
  • contractual arrangements with other organisations.

Service Delivery Arrangements in place

In 2014 there were 40 WA Agencies providing services to the Indian Ocean Territories. A multi-year project to review and renegotiate each of these SDAs commenced in 2014 with services commencing from 1 July 2015 under the first group of SDAs to be renegotiated. As new SDAs are negotiated, Fact Sheets will be developed to provide information about the services available through SDAs and how IOT residents can access these services.

AgencyServices provided
Department of Agriculture and Food To minimise the impact of invasive animals and plants on the economy, environment and lifestyle on the Indian Ocean Territories (IOT)
Department of the Attorney-General Access to the justice system including:
  • Court Services
  • Registry Office
  • State Solicitors Office, and
  • Public Advocate.
Breastscreen WA Screening and diagnostic mammography services.
Department for Child Protection and Family Support Professional supervision and support for the IOT Social Worker to promote responsibility and growth in family and community life and contribute to the protection and care of children.

Administration of the applied legislation concerning working with children.
Department of Commerce (including WorkSafe) Information to business and consumers, and the development and enforcement of consumer protection legislation.

Information to employers and employees, and the development and enforcement of occupational safety and health legislation.

Energy safety regulatory services.
Department of Corrective Services Offender management services.
Department of Culture and the Arts Broad policy and planning services, arts development services (including art funding administration), art gallery services, museums services, and cultural planning services.
Disability Services Commission Support and services to people with disabilities in the IOT.
Economic Regulation Authority of WA Promote economically efficient outcomes in the IOT at the lowest practicable regulatory cost through efficient and effective independent regulation, independent advice to the Commonwealth and advancing the debate on economic regulation.
Department of Environment Regulation Protection and enhancement of the IOT environment through the implementation of applied environmental protection law, including regulation of prescribed premises, emissions and wastes, and incident protection and response.
Equal Opportunity Commission of WA Information and advice on equal opportunity and human rights issues and the investigation of complaints under the applied equal opportunity legislation.
Department of Finance (including Public Utilities Office) Provide purchasing, contracting and consulting solutions for Commonwealth public works as required.

Advice on energy policy and regulatory matters in the IOT.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Support to volunteer brigades including planning, training, and equipment.

Community education on safety issues, and compliance with building safety requirements.
Department of Fisheries Procedural and technical advice in relation to aquaculture proposals and management of fish resources.
Department of Health Regulatory, advisory and other support services as required in the delivery of whole-of-health services.
Health and Disability Services Complaints Office Handling of complaints about the provision of health services in the IOT.
Department of Housing Advice and support to the Administration Housing Unit for the effective administration of social housing in the IOT.
Insurance Commission of Western Australia Provide Compulsory Third Party Insurance services for motor vehicle personal injuries in the IOT.
Department of Lands Provide advice on policy, law and practice in regard to Crown land.
Land Information Authority (Landgate) Land information services, including registration of title, and geographic and cadastral information.

Impartial valuation services supporting asset management and revenue collection.
Legal Aid Western Australia Provision of quality legal services to those in need, and assistance to the community in accessing justice.
Department for Local Government and Communities Ensuring compliance with applied local government legislation, and faclilitating the development of local government for the elected body, and the communities.

Licensing, monitoring and support services for childcare providers.

Implementation of programs for social inclusion, and development of partnerships with non-government organisations.
Main Roads Western Australia Provision of road funding and traffic management in cooperation with local government.
Department of Mines and Petroleum Registration of IOT mineral titles and advice on associated environmental matters.

Regulation of resources safety issues, including the storage, transport and handling of dangerous goods.
Ombudsman WA Provide a system for handling complaints about the administrative actions of State government agencies in the IOT which are within the Commissioner's jurisdiction.
Department for Planning Planning, legal and administrative advice to ensure the use and development of land in the IOT is consistent with strategic planning, policy guidelines and planning standards.

Provision of advice and assistance to the Commonwealth on a broad range of transport and coastal facilities issues.

Administration of Crown land in the IOT.
Public Trustee Trustee services, including the preparation of wills and provision of executor and administrator services for IOT residents.
Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor Liquor licensing services, including compliance audits and investigations.
Department of Regional Development Advice and assistance with community capacity building and regional development, including support for IOT telecentres.
Department of Sport and Recreation Provide advice on the sporting and recreational infrastructure needs in the IOT, and support and advice to sporting and recreational groups in the IOT.
State Library of Western Australia Provide IOT local authorities and associated bodies with leadership, library materials, information and support services.
Department Training and Workforce Development Monitoring and assessment of the compliance of IOT vocational and adult education and training providers with legislative requirements. Registration and monitoring of IOT apprentices and trainees.
Department of Transport Provide advice that is consistant as far as practicable with WA's transport system, for an efficient, safe, effective transport system in the IOT
Department of Treasury Collect and remit state-type revenue to the Commonwealth in accordance with applied legislation.
Department of Water Assist the department to achieve sustainable water resource management in the IOT through the provision of advice and support as requested.
Water Corporation The administration and management of the water and wastewater asset management system for the IOT.

The operation and routine maintenance of the electricity generation and distribution system on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Workcover Administers the applied workers' compensation legislation for the benefit of injured workers.


The Australian Government contracts the provision of educational services on Cocos (Keeling) Islands to the Western Australian Department of Education. The Cocos (Keeling) Island's District High School (CKIDHS) provides school-based education for kindergarten to year 10 students under the Western Australian curriculum.

The school:

  • Is small, modern and well-equipped with a developmental learning focus.
  • Is self-managing and reports to the District Director for audit purposes.
  • Enjoys a great deal of flexibility in decision making and employs a variety of innovative programs to cater for the diverse needs of its student population.
  • Currently has about 145 students enrolled from pre-primary to year 10. About two thirds are primary students, up to year six and the remaining one third secondary students in years seven to 10. Approximately three quarters of students have English as a second language while the remainder are expatriate mainland students.
  • Has two campuses, Home Island with approximately 60-plus students pre-primary to year six and West Island with 80-plus students pre-primary to year 10.
  • Considers early childhood education very important and operates both four-year old and full time five-year old programs on both campuses and
  • Operates a vigorous bilingual program with tuition in Cocos Malay and English. English is the language of immersion and Indonesian is offered as part of the Languages Other Than English (LOTE) program.

Health services

The Indian Ocean Territories Health Service (IOTHS) operates a clinic on both Home Island and West Island. A doctor, nurses, health workers, a community services officer and a dental assistant reside on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Both clinics are open Monday to Friday. The doctor consults regularly on both Islands, however, it is necessary to make an appointment to see the doctor in all but emergency situations.

Like many other remote locations on the mainland, specialist services are not usually available on Cocos. Some specialists, for example dentists and paediatricians, visit Cocos on a regular basis. If a person needs medical attention which cannot be provided locally, appointments may be arranged for Cocos residents to travel to Christmas Island or Perth as required.

If an emergency is beyond the capacity of local resources the doctor may recommend evacuation to Perth.


The Australian Federal Police (AFP) provides community policing services on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. In addition to the normal police functions the AFP carry out other duties such as:

  • immigration, quarantine and customs processing of aircraft, visiting ships and yachts, and
  • coordination of emergency operations.

The importation of any firearms or ammunition to Cocos is prohibited without an approved permit.

Other services

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is also responsible for a range of other State-type services, including:

  • electricity to the Island through the Indian Ocean Territories Power Authority (IOTPA)
  • staff and public housing
  • water and wastewater services under contract to Water Corporation)
  • airport management (under contract to PDL Toll)
  • port operations (under contract to Patrick Ports), and
  • Motor Vehicle Registry (operated by the Shire of Cocos (Keeling) Islands).

Local government services

The Shire of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is responsible for the provision of local government services to the Islands.