Catherine McCoy is a seventh-generation Norfolk Islander. She never expected to be facing homelessness on the island she has called home her entire life.
Ms McCoy said since open immigration to the island from Australia was allowed in 2016, she had struggled to find stable housing that was suitable for both her and her son, who lives with disability.
She said, eventually, she was able to stay in a house at a heavily discounted price, thanks to the generosity of a local who was no longer living on the island.
"If it wasn't for this wonderful local, I wouldn't have had a home. I was trying to find homes for my couple of cats … and I was going to put them down until I found this home," she said.
Ms McCoy said islanders like herself had been struggling with a range of issues over the past few years — from housing affordability to shipping delays, resulting in food shortages — but that many who call the island home also felt that no-one was listening to their grievances.
Located approximately 1,700 kilometres off the east coast of Australia, Norfolk Island is renowned for its pristine coastlines and as an ideal tourist destination.
But in this upcoming election, locals must vote for a candidate based about 2,000 kilometres away in the electorate of Bean.
Shipping delays driving up cost of living
Geoff Bennett owns and manages a supermarket on Norfolk Island, and said shelves had been left bare multiple times in the past two years due to shipping delays.
He described the food crisis as "devastating" to locals and tourists and said not being able to speak with someone on the ground about the shortages only made it worse.
"The economy is getting smashed, our businesses are struggling, the cost of living is rising exponentially because without ships we're having to air freight a lot of stuff in," he said.
"Air freight is about $5 per kilo and if you've got 3 to 5 tonnes of milk, every litre is $5 freighted on top of the purchase price that you would have.
"So that's causing the cost-of-living index to rise exponentially."
That rise in the cost of living is being felt by people like Ms McCoy, who cares for her son full time and relies on Centrelink.
"It doesn't really make ends meet when you have to try and pay half of that to the rent alone. And then you go and buy the groceries for two weeks, and those groceries hit home," she said.
Mr Bennett said in addition to locals, food shortages were also impacting Norfolk Island's tourism industry.
Mr Bennett said while islanders had proposed solutions to the problem, international shipping laws were preventing ships from delivering food and supplies from Brisbane.
"It's that kind of bureaucratic nonsense that drives this community nuts. Because we can see the difficulties, but we can also see the solutions," he said.
In a statement, the shipping company that services Norfolk Island said it had been experiencing delays but had recently started deliveries from a new barge.
"More recently, disruptions have been a result of no lighterage service to Norfolk, which underpins our ability to provide a regular service to the island," the company said.
"[We] are committed to providing long-term, sustainable supply chain solutions for Norfolk Island and want to play a role in the decisions around infrastructure and government spend that will enable this."
Local member thousands of kilometres away
While the Queensland state government oversees the provision of some services on the island, like healthcare, aged care and education, Norfolk Island is not able to access state grants as it does not fall under any state or territory jurisdiction.
Norfolk Island's federal representative is the Member for Bean — based in the ACT — which locals say also contributes to them not getting the attention they need for the daily challenges they are facing.
The current Member for Bean, Labor's David Smith, visited the island once in 2019 at the start of his role.
He said he has since faced challenges getting to the island due to COVID-19.
But he agreed there were issues that need to be resolved on Norfolk Island.
"There is much work to do with the Norfolk community. This includes improving telecommunications, a sustainable freight solution as well as addressing local infrastructure challenges," he said.
And Mr Smith said, as the island's current federal MP, that he supported locals having a greater say in the day-to-day issues that affected them.
"We also recognise that an island that is financially strong and administratively sound is imperative."
Why doesn't Norfolk have local democratic representation?
In 2016, Norfolk Island was incorporated as an external Australian territory after receiving a government bail-out following the Global Financial Crisis.
Prior to that, the island maintained self-government as an external territory, with its own legislative assembly.
As a part of its trade-off for independence; Norfolk was granted a local regional council with five elected councillors. But the council struggled financially and was dissolved in December 2021 following an inquiry by WA MP Nola Marino.
The inquiry found the local council had mismanaged funds and administrator Michael Colreavy was appointed to oversee local affairsfor a period of three years.
In a press release, Minister for Territories Nola Marino said Mr Colreavy was expected to continue as administrator until 2024 but it was possible the council would be reinstated prior to that date.
Mr Colreavy said he heard grievances from locals about their lack of local representation often.
"The council was dismissed because it ran out of money and it was seeking a Commonwealth bailout."
Mr Colreavy said if the issues had not arisen in the first place, the council would not have been dissolved.
"But a period of calm and better financial, fiscal management needed to be put in place here to bring the council back to a healthy financial position. That's why this administration is in place."