The municipality of the Shire of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands encompasses all of the Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The islands are an Australian Territory located in the Indian Ocean at Latitude 12 deg 10' South longitude 96 deg 50' East. The islands lie 2,768 km north-west of Perth, 3,685 km due west of Darwin, approximately 900 km south-south west of Christmas Island and approximately 1,000 km south-west of Java and Sumatra. The highest point above sea level is 9 metres which is located on South Island. The islands in the southern atoll comprise an area totalling 14 square kilometres.
The two inhabited islands are Home Island, the home of the Cocos Malay community and the Shire Office, with a population of 466, and West Island on which is located the airport, Government offices, the homes of virtually all Government and contracted employees, and some private residences, with a population of 141.
North Keeling Island, an atoll approximately 27 km north of the southern atoll is protected as a World Heritage Reserve under the control of Parks Australia Cocos (Keeling) Islands (previously called Australian National Conservation Agency).
The only passenger transport connection with the rest of the world is by an air service to Christmas Island and Perth. Currently this service operates twice weekly with additional flights during peak periods.
The climate is sub-tropical with mean daily maximum temperatures ranging from 28 deg C (August) to 29.9 deg C (February/March) and mean daily minimum temperatures ranging from 23.4 deg C (August/September) to 24.9 deg C (March/April). Relative humidity ranges from 72% to 78%. The islands are affected by cyclonic conditions, but are rarely in the direct path of cyclones.
The Cocos Malay community speak Cocos Malay with English as a second language. Bahasa Indonesia and English are taught in the schools. Islam is the religion of the Cocos Malay people.
On the 1st July 1992 the Territories Law Reform Act came into effect by which the Commonwealth Government applied Western Australian laws to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The Local Government (Transition) Ordinance 1992 established the Shire of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands by absorbing its predecessors the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Council. Through the Applied Laws (implementation) Ordinance 1992, the Local Government Act 1995 (WA) (Cocos (Keeling) Islands) became the legal charter for the Council. From the 1st July 1996, the Local Government Act 1995 (WA) (Cocos (Keeling) Islands) superseded the previous Local Government Act.
The Council is therefore required to operate as if it were a West Australian local government subject to the laws of that State in respect of all operations.
The Shire Council inherited all the assets, liabilities, rights and obligations of the former Cocos (Keeling) Islands Council that existed at the commencement of the Territories Law Reform Act 1992. The employees of the former Council became the employees of the new Shire Council. The municipality is not divided into wards. The first full election under the Local Government Cocos (Keeling) Islands was held in May 1993.
Over the next ten years the Shire’s role progressively evolved as the Commonwealth divested itself of a range of functions normally undertaken by local government and as a result restructured its own functions on the islands.
The Commonwealth has now withdrawn all of its on island administration functions from the Territory and exercises its functions offices on Christmas Island and in Perth and Canberra.