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Cocos Islands

The Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands is an Australian external territory in the Indian Ocean, comprising a small archipelago approximately midway between Australia and Sri Lanka. It is part of Southeast Asia and is in the Southern Hemisphere. The territory's dual name (official since 1955) reflects that the islands have historically been known as either the Cocos Islands or the Keeling Islands. The territory consists of two atolls made up of 27 coral islands, of which only two – West Island and Home Island – are inhabited. The population of around 600 people consists mainly of Cocos Malays, who practise Sunni Islam and speak a dialect of Malay as their first language. The territory is administered by the Australian federal government's Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, and together with Christmas Island forms the Australian Indian Ocean Territories administrative unit. However, the islanders do have a degree of self-government through the local shire council. Many public services – including health, education, and policing – are provided by the state of Western Australia, and Western Australian law applies except where the federal government has determined otherwise. The islands were first discovered in 1609 by William Keeling, but no settlement occurred until the early 19th century. One of the first settlers was John Clunies-Ross, a Scottish merchant; much of the island's current population is descended from the Malay workers he brought in to work his copra plantation.