Ask Australians what comes to mind with the words "Manus Island" and they will probably reply: "detention centres." And that's because, for the past few years, the small island off the coast of Papua New Guinea has pretty much solely made news for being home to one of Australia's controversial offshore detention centres.
Last year, the facility was shut down by the Australian Government, after the PNG high court ruled it was a violation of human rights—a decision that triggered a months-long blockade by the 600-odd men detained inside and made headlines around the world.
But you know: new year, new you.
In 2018, Manus Island wants to rebrand itself as a tourist hotspot. And the Australian Government is happy to foot the bill for its image makeover.
According to the ABC, Australia will pay $146,000 for a review into Manus Island's tourism industry. Over six months, research firm Abt Associates will be "identifying its various strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities for growth." They will also be asked to build a new tourism website for the island, which currently looks like this:
Manus Island only has two hotels, which have been used largely by police forces, foreign doctors, or journalists who sneak onto the island on tourist visas. PNG's tourism chief Jerry Agus acknowledged the island needs some work, but said travellers are missing out. "Manus has huge potential in terms of tourism," he told the ABC. "One of the greatest areas of strength they have in terms of tourism is diving, surfing is one of them, and there's a lot war relics in Manus Island as well."
There are still hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers held in temporary accommodation on Manus Island—some awaiting transfer to the US through a refugee swap deal, while others are unsure where they'll be sent next.
Last month, there were allegations that one man was stabbed with a screwdriver. "We got reports that a man had been mugged for his mobile phone by local people with a screwdriver, and that he'd been bashed in the face and got stab wounds to the upper chest and the neck," doctor David Berger told the ABC.
According to the Australian Border Deaths Database, six men held in detention on Manus have died since 2014.
But, hey, surfing and war relics!