Nauru, where Gillard may one day wed Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott is a beautiful boy. His straight hair, perfect eyes, ears and nose. No, I am not talking about the Opposition Leader but the 3.47kg baby boy in Nauru who now bears his name.
On the way into Nauru Hospital on Sunday June 12, Nauru Foreign Minister Dr Kieren Keke warned Mr Abbott that he should watch out if a child was born while he was in the maternity unit.
Nauru mothers often name their babies after the first person they see, he explained, and there are plenty of Nauruans named after celebrities. “You might have a few questions to answer,” Dr Keke said with a laugh.
Sure enough, Mr Abbott walked into the nursery just as a nurse was tending to a newborn baby boy who still had an oxygen mask on his face. News filtered back to Mr Abbott that the infant had been named after him as he flew home to Australia.
The births page in Nauru’s newspaper, Mwinen Ko, confirms his mother Lucinda Detogia named her baby boy Tony Abbott. An accompanying photograph shows a beaming Ms Detogia and baby Tony.
A year ago this week, Julia Gillard was born in Nauru, the tiny island nation just south of the equator where Mr Abbott wants to send asylum seekers as John Howard did under the so called ‘Pacific Solution.’
Baby Julia turns one this Friday, the anniversary of the Prime Minister’s rise to the nation’s top job, and would have to be the only Julia Gillard in the world with cause to celebrate. In Nauru, a first birthday celebration is bigger than a 21st bash.
However, her parents apparently had a change of heart. Julia Gillard is remembered by locals but the name was never registered with Nauru’s births authority. Perhaps her parents have seen Newspoll and chose a new name.
Aside from Australian politicians, there are plenty of Nauruans named after Australian sports stars, mainly AFL players.
One Nauruan government worker said she had several cousins called Akermanis, after AFL Brownlow Medallist Jason Akermanis. She also had other cousins called Riewoldt after the famous AFL family while Rioli is also a popular first name in Nauru along with Jesaulenko.
Sometimes families will couple the celebrity names with a traditional Nauruan name but usually the AFL player’s surname serves as the first name.
Nauru, population about 10,000, is a nation obsessed with AFL. School children started playing in the 1930s after many left the island to go to school in Victoria. There are eight clubs, many with adopted Australian names.
When Mr Abbott visited Nauru for 30 hours, he had intended to meet with a Nauruan teen who is likely to play for the new Greater Western Sydney Giants.
Weight lifting is Nauru’s other favourite sport. Their president Marcus Stephen is a Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Nauru is a nation obsessed with sport but also beset by tragedy. Its generation aged over 60 has been almost wiped out by heart disease and diabetes.
The island nation is little more than 20km in diameter but became one of the wealthiest places on earth due to a phosphate mining boom. Nauru owned expensive real estate in Australia, sponsored shows in London and children were sent to Australia for schooling.
Remnants of the boom are everywhere. Decaying buildings, maintenance stopped when it appears the moment the money ran out, closed restaurants, unfinished renovations and rundown schools.
Dr Keke, who is a GP, said one of the results of the boom was people turned to tinned food, driving the diabetes epidemic. There is almost no arable land on the rocky island so the tinned food was flown in when Nauruans had money to splash out.
Dr Keke said the bust had an unintended benefit because Nauruans started eating fresh food from closer to home. In an awkward moment on the hospital visit, Mr Abbott asked if doctors could perform knee replacement operations.
Dr Keke explained there was no need, most Nauruans never lived long enough to need new joints. Nauru’s infant mortality also jumped in the late 1990s and has only recently started to come down.
The nation is turning a small surplus but relies on Australian aid. It is a turnaround from when Nauru was unable to pay public servants for months on end.
Baby Tony Abbott is at least beginning life at the turn of his country’s fortunes.
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