Before 1961, Wallis and Futuna was a French protectorate, then a colony administered from New Caledonia. In 1961 it became a French overseas territory and in 2003 a French overseas collectivity. Wallis and Futuna is comprised of three volcanic islands (Wallis, Futuna and Alofi) and a number of tiny islets. It is located 280 km northeast of Fiji and 370 km west of Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean. The territory is split between two island groups (Wallis and Futuna) lying about 260 kilometres apart.
The population of Wallis and Futuna is approximately 12,000. The Wallisian and Futunan community in New Caledonia numbers some 35,000.
Wallisian and Futunans are French citizens and have the right to live anywhere in France. They are entitled to vote in local and national (French) elections. The President of the French Republic is the Head of State and represented in Wallis and Futuna by a Prefect, currently Jean-Francis Treffel. The prefect is the head of the territory with executive power. Although the prefect administers most sectors of government, they have no influence over customary matters. Wallis and Futuna is represented by one senator in the French Senate and one member of the French National Assembly.
The Territorial Assembly, comprising 20 elected members, is responsible for most social and economic matters. Members of the Assembly are democratically elected. The last elections was held on 26 March 2017. The Assembly’s decisions require the Prefect’s approval to become law.
There are also three municipal councils (Uvea on Wallis, and Alo and Sigave on Futuna), which are modelled on the monarchies (see below) and which have their own budget and responsibilities similar to those of a local council.
Under the 1961 statute, France agreed to maintain three monarchies (one in Wallis and two in Futuna) in which customary rights exist and co-exist within French law. The kings are remunerated by the French Government. Each customary monarchy consists of a king, appointed by the royal families, assisted by a prime minister and a ‘chefferie’, which is comprised of the village chiefs in the monarchy. The kings are responsible for managing land and familial disputes and for religious and customary ceremonies.
The three pillars on which Wallis and Futuna rest are Custom (empowered by monarchy), Catholic Church and the French State. There is little local sentiment in favour of independence from France but there is discussion about giving the Territorial Assembly greater autonomy over local affairs.
Wallis and Futuna is a member of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Island Development Fund, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, is an associate member of the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and has observer status at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).
The territory's other regional contacts are minimal, except with other French entities, New Caledonia and French Polynesia. A framework agreement governing institutional relations between Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia was signed in December 2003. The agreement commits New Caledonia and France to support the economic development of Wallis and Futuna, particularly regarding access to employment, social services and health arrangements.
The Australian Consul-General in Noumea is accredited to Wallis and Futuna.
Due to its low GNI, Wallis and Futuna is the only ODA-eligible French territory. The Australian aid program (through the Consulate-General in Noumea) offers Australian Award scholarships and the Consulate-General manages a Direct Aid Program (DAP). Following Cyclone Evan in December 2012, Australia provided $50,000 in funding for emergency relief and disaster recovery in Wallis and Futuna.
In 1999, Australia's scholarship program (Australia Awards) was extended to Wallis and Futuna. Since 2000, 15 students from Wallis and Futuna have received scholarships.
Trade and investment
Australia is Wallis and Futuna's fifth largest trading partner, after New Zealand, New Caledonia, Singapore and France, with an estimated value of imports into the territory of $67 million. Wallis and Futuna exports little, with only 36.6 tons of seafood and arts and crafts for a total value of $138,000 in 2013.
High-level visits and meetings
July 2011: Then Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, the Hon. Richard Marles, visited Wallis and Futuna to attend the 50th anniversary of its constitutional statute, in the capital Mata‘Utu.