Until 1975, Tuvalu was part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. In the early 1970s the Polynesian Ellice Islanders expressed their desire to separate from the Micronesian Gilbertese and proceed toward true independence. In a 1974 referendum, the Tuvaluans voted overwhelmingly to become a separate unit. Britain acceded to the wish in 1975, and on October 1, 1978, after only five months of full internal self-government, Tuvalu became a fully independent nation.
Political independence has greatly benefited Tuvalu, since it would have received far less attention and economic aid as an outer-island group of Kiribati. In 1995, politicians removed the Union Jack from the country's flag in a bid to establish a republic and out of dissatisfaction with the amount of financial assistance their country was receiving from Britain. Two years later there was a change of government and the old flag was brought back. Tuvalu is a member of the Commonwealth and United Nations.
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