Oceania Languages and Population

Oceania Language

The oceanic continent is home to 0.5% of the Earth’s population, but approx. a quarter of the world’s languages; however, most are spoken by only a few. In Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, as well as in New Zealand, native languages are predominantly Austronesian languages, especially from the Oceanic language group. In Papua New Guinea, in addition to Austronesian languages, a very large number of Papuan languages are spoken. The original languages in Australia are all attributed to the Australian language set, see Aboriginal (language); it is uncertain whether the extinct Tasmanian languages constituted a language set for themselves.

In recent times, creole language and pidgin language occupy a strong position. The same goes for French and especially English, which is the official language of many oceanic states and in several places has become quite dominant.

Oceania Population

The Oceania is the continent least populated in the world, with a population density of 5hab./km². Less than 1% of the world’s population inhabits the continent and almost half of its approximately 36.5 million inhabitants live on Australia’s southeastern coast. In the region the main urban agglomerations are Melbourne (4,347,955 inhabitants), Sydney (4,757,083), Adelaide (1,203,873) and Brisbane (2,274,600). The rest of the Australian territory has a demographic density of less than 1hab./km². In the great desert areas, in the north and central regions of the country live native peoples of Oceania, the aborigines, and livestock workers. According to Countryaah.com, in Oceania, the most populous country is Australia and the least is Nauru.

Adding the population of Australia to that of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, we reach the impressive number of 33 million inhabitants, that is, 92% of the entire population of the continent. See AbbreviationFinder.org. The rest of the population, equivalent to 8%, is distributed among the countless islands that form the Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia of the continent.

The urban population in Australia is 89% and in New Zealand 86%. In the case of Papua New Guinea, the population is mostly rural, with an urbanization rate of only 12%. Even though they are home to a large part of the continent’s total population, these countries are not very populated. Papua New Guinea has a population density of 11hab./km², while New Zealand has 16.5hab./km² and Australia, only 2.96hab./ km². The three countries, therefore, have extensive areas of demographic voids.

Samoa and Fiji are the islands in Oceania with the highest population densities. Samoa records 60hab./km² and Fiji, 148hab./km². In all of Oceania, only these two countries have a higher density than the world average, which is 57hab./km² (in 2016). Vanuatu and Salomão also have outstanding population densities, with 17hab./km² and 18hab./km², respectively.

The colonization of Australia and New Zealand occurred late (if compared with that in America), between the 18th and 19th centuries, and was carried out by the English. Together with them, European immigrants from different countries arrived in these countries, which resulted in the great ethnic and cultural diversity that has developed historically.

As in America, the native peoples of Oceania, such as the Aborigines and the Maori, were decimated because of the conflicts with the colonizers and diseases brought by them. Economic activities such as agriculture and mining expelled this portion of the population from their territories. Maori are only 10% of the New Zealand population today and Aborigines are only 3% of the Australian population.

As the colonization in Australia and New Zealand was of settlement, not of exploitation, these countries were able to develop throughout its history. For this reason, they are the only countries on the continent that have a developed economy. Investments in the social areas (health, education, employment, social security and social programs) have provided Australians and New Zealanders with a better quality of life, with access to services and infrastructure that are very different from the reality of the vast majority of countries in Oceania.

The immense inequality can be seen when we compare the statistics of the two developed nations with the other three that concentrate the majority of the population. In 2012, Australia and New Zealand each had an HDI of 0.929 and 0.908, a per capita income of 44 and 29 thousand dollars and a GDP of US $ 956.912 million and US $ 125 million, respectively. Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea each had, in the same year, an HDI of 0.688, 0.510 and 0.466, per capita income of US $ 4,000, US $ 1,000 and US $ 1,000, in addition to a GDP of US $ 3,085,000,000, US $ 552,000,000 and $ 8,935,000,000, respectively.

As can be imagined by analyzing the differences in the Human Development Index (HDI) of each country, the first two also have infant mortality rates and life expectancy much more satisfactory than the others.

Country Population growth (percent) Mortality / death rate (per 1000 residents) Nativity / birth rate (per 1000 residents)
Australia 1.6 (2017) 6.5 (2016) 12.5 (2016)
Fiji 0.7 (2017) 7.1 (2016) 19.4 (2016)
Kiribati 1.7 (2017) 7.0 (2016) 28.2 (2016)
Marshall Islands 0.1 (2017) 3.7 (2011) 31.2 (2011)
Micronesia Federation 0.6 (2017) 6.2 (2016) 23.7 (2016)
Nauru 4.5 (2017)
New Zealand 2.1 (2017) 6.6 (2016) 12.7 (2016)
Palau 1.0 (2017) 10.0 (2016) 12.0 (2016)
Papua New Guinea 2.0 (2017) 7.1 (2016) 27.6 (2016)
Solomon Islands 2.0 (2017) 4.8 (2016) 28.7 (2016)
Samoa 0.7 (2017) 5.0 (2016) 24.7 (2016)
Tonga 0.8 (2017) 6.0 (2016) 24.0 (2016)
Tuvalu 0.9 (2017)
Vanuatu 2.1 (2017) 4.8 (2016) 25.9 (2016)


Samoa, Monarchy of Oceania, in the Southern Hemisphere of the Pacific. Samoa is located about 3000 kilometers northeast of New Zealand and about midway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Make up the western part of the Samoa Islands. The state includes the main islands of Savai’i (1707 km2), Upolu (1119 km2), the smaller islands of Manono and Apolima as well as uninhabited small islands.

Samoa became the first state in Oceania in 1962 (named West Samoa until 1997). The country is west of the date line (since 2011). The capital is Apia.

Samoa (the name) is of unknown origin and significance.

National anthem is ‘O le Fu’a ole Sa’olotoga o Samoa’/ ‘The Banner of Freedom’.

Geography and environment

The two main islands of Savai’i (Salafal) in the west and Upolu are the peaks of volcanoes and rocky islands with steep coasts partially surrounded by coral reefs; they are separated by the Strait of Apolima. The bedrock is lava and tough. The other islands make up about one percent of the land area and are smaller and lower; Rose Island is an atoll. There are coral reefs off the coast. From several crater lakes, streams with waterfalls flow. The highest point is Mauga Silisili 1858 meters above sea level, on the Savai’i.

The two main islands have fertile valleys with dense evergreen rainforest including coconut palms, screw palms and ferns. Much of the lowland forest has been lost at harvest. Swamps and mangrove vegetation are found in low lying areas. There are large barren lava areas on the Savai’i. 28 percent of land plants are endemic (native).

The only naturally occurring mammals are flying dogs and small bats. Rats and pigs are introduced by humans. There are 37 species of terrestrial birds, of which 84 percent are endemic, including tooth pigeon. On the coast there are many species of seabirds, including frigate birds, tropical birds and nodules. There are 19 species of reptiles, including sea turtles, and a stray snake (boa) on land. Amphibians are missing. There are more than 400 species of fish on the coasts.

Samoa has a tropical rainy climate with an annual average temperature of 26.5 o C and rainy season from November to April. In Apia, the annual rainfall is about 3000 millimeters; in mountain slopes it can reach 6000-7000 millimeters. Tropical hurricanes can occur in December-March and cause major devastation.

People and society

According to the census (2001), 92.6 percent were Samoan, seven percent were Eurozone (of mixed Polynesian and European origin) and 0.4 percent were European. (The World Factbook 2015)

19.1 percent of the population is urban (2015). Nearly ¾ of the population lives on Upolu and the small islands of Apolima and Manono.

Life expectancy at birth is 76.48 years for women and 70.58 for men (2015). Birth rates are high, but there is relatively large emigration. The majority of ethnic Samoans live in other countries today.

57.4 percent of the population were Protestants among various denominations and 19.4 percent were Roman Catholics; the Mormons make up 15.2 percent. 13.7 percent were Methodists (2011). (The World Factbook 2015)

The official languages are Samoan and English.

State and politics

Samoa is a constitutional and parliamentary-democratic monarchy characterized by a mixture of Samoan and English traditions.

The head of state, ‘O le Ao o le Malo’, is elected by parliament for five years after his predecessor’s death, titled ‘royal son’. The executive power lies with the prime minister, who is elected by parliament, and a government appointed by him. The Parliament, ‘Fono’, has 49 members; 47 is elected for five years from districts of Samoan and two by non-Samoan citizens. There are two four political parties.

Samoa is divided into eleven political disputes called ‘itumalo’.

The country has no defense but a police force, the Samoa Police Force. Since 1962, Samoa has a defense and friendship agreement with New Zealand.

Samoa is a member of the UN and most of the UN’s special organizations, the Commonwealth, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Cotonou Agreement.

Economy and business

The most important agricultural products are coconuts, cocoa, coffee, pineapple, papaya, bananas and taro, as well as breadfruit, yams and corn. Cattle, goats, pigs and chickens are the most important livestock. Fishing is very important.

The industry includes the production of copra and clothing, as well as the production of cables and car parts.

Since the mid-1990s, tourism has been growing rapidly, accounting for about 95 percent of GDP. Samoa’s main trading partners are Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Knowledge and culture

It is a 10-year compulsory schooling. The elementary school is 6 years old and high school 7 years old. Higher education is provided at The National University of Samoa (NUS), The University of the South Pacific (USP) and The Oceania University of Medicine (OUM) as well as Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC).

Two daily newspapers and two weekly newspapers are published. There are two radio channels and one television channel; sections of the population watch American Samoa television.

Albert Wendt (1939-) writes novels, plays and poetry. Another well-known poet is Sapa’u Ruperake Petaia (1951-) and the poet and novelist and painter Sia Figiel (1967-).

Song is central to Samoan music. Typical musical instruments are conclave, hollowed out drums, guitar (guitar) and ukulele. During World War II, American music became popular. Today, pop, rock, rap and hip hop are popular genres. The band ‘Past to Present/Ilanda’ (1990-2006) achieved great international success.

The traditional dance is’siva’ with graceful hand and foot movements to music.’sasa’, ‘malu’ulu’ and ‘fa’ataupatit’ are group dances.

Both women and men are tattooed. Patterns or pictures are painted on cloths (‘siapo’) of bark. Fatu Akelei Feu’u (1946-) is a well-known painter.

‘The Orator’ (‘O Le Tulafale’) from 2011 was the first Samoan feature film.

The most popular sports are rugby, Samoan cricket (kirikiti) and volleyball.

Oceania Languages and Population

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