Digesting the New Caledonia Referendum Result: Process, Outcome and Implications

With 56.4 per cent of New Caledonians voting to remain a part of France and 43.6 per cent voting for full independence, the long-awaited referendum was much closer than many expected.

Heavily Kanak areas voted 80-90 per cent for independence, and under the terms of the Noumea Accord New Caledonia will be allowed to hold two further referenda on the question of independence: one in 2020 and, if that is unsuccessful, another in 2023. The 4 November vote was thus far from the end of the matter.

On 20 November, the Department of Pacific Affairs (ANU) hosted four experts on New Caledonian politics to discuss the process, outcome and implications of the referendum.


Dr Stewart Firth Stewart Firth is a Fellow at DPA, with long experience of the Pacific Islands and a particular interest in decolonisation in the region. He is also chair of the Pacific Editorial Board for ANU Press.


Denise Fisher Denise Fisher, currently Visiting Fellow at ANU Centre for European Studies, is a former senior Australian diplomat who has served in Yangon, Nairobi, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and Washington. She was appointed Australian Consul-General in Noumea and Australia’s High Commissioner in Zimbabwe. Her book France in the South Pacific was published by ANU Press in 2013. She writes for the Lowy Institute and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Nic Maclellan Nic Maclellan is a correspondent for Islands Business magazine (Fiji), and reported on the 2018 referendum for the regional news service Pacnews. He is author of a number of articles on French policy in the Pacific, and co-author with the late Jean Chesneaux of La France dans le Pacifique - de Bougainville à Moruroa (Editions la Découverte, Paris) and After Moruroa – France in the South Pacific (Ocean Press, New York and Melbourne).

Scott Robertson Scott recently completed his PhD examining how the debate on citizenship has been shaped by the decolonisation process in New Caledonia following the Noumea Accord, resulting from fieldwork undertaken in New Caledonia between 2015 and 2016. This included a three month period spent at the University of New Caledonia as a recipient of the Oceanian Scholarship. Prior to his PhD, Scott taught English at the University of New Caledonia between 2011 and 2012.

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