Global Education

Teacher resources to encourage a global
perspective across the curriculum

Fiji

Map for Fiji
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  • An instructor assists two young men to examine an engine.
  • Luggage is loaded onto a small plane at the airport in Fiji.
  • A farmer uses two bullocks to ploughing a grassy field.
  • Students work in groups at Lami Convent, Suva, Fiji.
  • Two female students prepare a salad in a kitchen at the Australia-Pacific Technical College in Fiji.
  • A health worker discusses babies’ health with mothers, Fiji.
  • Pieces of red clay pottery with raised circular patterns have been joined together to form a pot. .
  • Cultural, linguistic and biological evidence indicates people of the Pacific Islands travelled west through South-East Asia.

Case studies

People of the Pacific

Cultural, linguistic and biological evidence indicates people of the Pacific Islands travelled west through South-East Asia.
The origin stories of Pacific Islanders and scientific evidence provide insights into the formation and history of settlement of the Pacific Islands.
Read more

South Pacific sea level monitoring

A weather-monitoring station in Kiribati.
Sea level monitoring stations in the south-west Pacific are collecting data to assist nations to prepare for climate change.
Read more
Flag of Fiji

Population:

874,742

GNI per capita (PPP $US):

7,390

Population living on less than US$1.25 per day:

5.9%

Adult literacy rates:

93.7%

Access to water:

96.3%
Did you know?

The name Fiji comes from the Tongan name ‘Viti’.

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Geography

Physical geography

Fiji is made up of about 330 islands, of which about 100 are inhabited. It covers a land area of 18,376 square kilometres and stretches across 1.3 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean. The larger islands are volcanic and have a sharp, rugged relief, although none of the volcanoes is presently active. Suva, the capital, and the highest peak, Mount Tomanivi (1,324 metres) are located on the largest island, Viti Levu. The rivers form rich and fertile deltas, and coastal plains provide the main agricultural areas. The Great Sea Reef stretches on along the western side of the islands.

Climate

Fiji has a tropical climate with temperatures averaging around 30 °C with very slight seasonal temperature variations. Cyclones and hurricanes bring high winds and rainfall from November to April. Rainfall in Fiji is variable and is influenced by the topography and prevailing trade winds.

Environment

More than half of the land area is covered in forest. Rainfall influences the natural vegetation with the wetter, windward side of the highlands being heavily forested and the drier sides being dominated by savannas and coarse grasses. Coconut groves predominate in the coastal regions. Mangrove forests are found in a few coastal lagoons.

The monkey-faced bat is Fiji’s only surviving native mammal and is listed as critically endangered. Fiji is also home to about seventy species of birds and three of the world’s seven turtle species – the green, the hawksbill and the leatherback – nest in Fiji. The varied sea life includes many species of coral, sponges, tropical reef fish, rays, sharks, dolphins and whales.

Population

More than half of Fiji’s total population lives in urban areas. Most of the population lives on Viti Levu, the largest of the islands. Suva, the capital, is the largest city. Other urban centres include Lautoka, Labasa, Nausori and Nadi.

People

Culture and identity

People of Melanesian and Polynesian descent settled Fiji about 3,500 years ago. They are now called the ‘Lapita people’ after a distinctive type of fine pottery they produce. The descendants of these people make up 56% of the population. European settlement began in the 17th and 18th centuries. About 60,000 Indians were brought to work in the sugar plantations between 1879 and 1916 and thousands more Indians migrated in the 1920s and 1930s. The Indo-Fijian population formed the core of Fiji’s business class. Social unrest has prompted many Indo-Fijians to emigrate, reducing the population to 37% of the total population. Other Pacific Islanders and Chinese make up the rest of the population.

Indigenous Fijians follow their traditional rites and practices, which include mekes (narrative dances), bure (house construction), yaqona (kava ceremonies), masi (bark or tapa-cloth making), ibe (weaving mats from pandanus) and pottery.

Fijian culture also reflects its Indian heritage and there is a sense of national pride associated with being from Fiji regardless of the ethnic community a person is from. Regardless of background all communities join in all celebrations. Some local artists mix aspects of languages and traditional instruments from each culture.

Health

Fiji has a comprehensive healthcare system and some indigenous Fijians use herbal medicines. Unlike other tropical countries, Fiji is free of malaria and yellow fever. The country guards itself against human, animal and vegetable pests and diseases through an effective quarantine system. Compared to other developing countries, the infant mortality rate is low at 19 per 1,000 live births and life expectancy is 72 years (female: 75 and male: 69). Most people have access to improved water sources and about 87% of the population has access to sanitation. Child immunisation is almost universal and Fiji has a very low prevalence of HIV/AIDS, 0.2%.

Religion and beliefs

Various religious beliefs coexist in Fiji. Nearly all of the indigenous Fijians are Christian; more than three-quarters are Methodist. Most of the Indo-Fijians are Hindu, while some are Muslim, Sikh or Christian.

Degei, the snake god, is the greatest of all Fijian gods. Firewalking as a custom is practised by the Sawau tribesmen. The yaqona (kava) drinking ceremony is an important religious and civil, public and personal ceremony for developing relationships. The tabua, a whale’s tooth, is a symbol of peace used in settling disputes.

Food and shelter

Taro and cassava, starchy root vegetables, are the staples of the indigenous Fijian diet. Leafy green vegetables and a variety of tropical fruits such as mango, papaya and bananas are eaten. Lolo or coconut milk is used in the preparation of many dishes. Beef, pork, chicken and seafood are the main forms of protein.

Traditional Fijian homes are built of wood and have a thatched roof and woven flooring. The kitchen is a separate structure. Urban houses are constructed of wood, tin and cement.

Economy

Wealth and poverty

Fiji is one of the better-developed economies of the Pacific region with a relatively high level of income (US$4,880 per capita GNI). Many educated Fijians work overseas and send money home to help their families.

Education and work

Education is free and compulsory for the 5 to 16 age group. Classes are taught in the pupil’s parent tongue (Fijian for the Fijians and Hindi or Urdu for the Indo-Fijians) for the first few years before they are continued in English. Tertiary institutions include vocational and technical colleges and the University of the South Pacific, University of Fiji and the Fiji National University, which are all located in Suva.

About 70% of the population are employed in agriculture and the remainder in industry and services.

Industries and products

Agriculture and tourism are the main industries in Fiji. Sugarcane is a key resource as are forests, minerals and fish. The country’s exports consist of sugar, molasses, coconut oil, gold, copra, silver, clothing, timber and processed fish.

Trade

Fiji’s main exports are sugar, clothing, gold, timber, fish, molasses and coconut oil. The main export destinations are United States (14.6%), Australia (13%) and Japan (7%). The main import items are manufactured goods, machinery, petroleum products, food and chemicals from Singapore (33%), Australia (15.5%) and New Zealand (14.5%).

Government

Fiji’s interim leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, took power in a military coup in December 2006. The interim government was widely criticised by the international community. After declaring that elections would not be held until 2014, Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth in 2009.

Since the 2006 coup greater restrictions have been placed on freedom of speech in Fiji. In 2010 the interim government established the Fiji Media Industry Development Authority, which prevents the release of material that the government deems undermines or threatens the public interest or order.

Achievements and challenges

Fiji’s position in the central Pacific and its forest, mineral, and fish resources makes it one of the most developed of the Pacific Island economies. However, four coups in 20 years have led to serious political and social upheaval.

Drought and cyclonic storms accompanied by heavy rainfall are natural hazards. Development has led to major environmental issues such as coastal damage around tourist resorts, increased demand for water and safe waste disposal, deforestation and soil erosion.

Low investment, uncertain land ownership rights, and the interim government’s ability to manage its budget are concerns. Income from the key industries, sugar and tourism, and from remittances have been reduced in recent years. 

Social tensions especially between the indigenous Fijians and the Indo-Fijians are also ongoing challenges. Women in Fiji are more vulnerable to poverty due to their limited involvement in formal employment, increasing rates of divorce and separation, and associated problems of collecting maintenance and support payments. In addition, women’s lack of inheritance rights to land and other major assets constrains their access to credit.

Social unrest has prompted many Indo-Fijians to emigrate, resulting in a drop in their population to 37% of the total.

Links with Australia

Australia and Fiji have had strong partnerships for many years but the coup in December 2006 has led to strong condemnation of the military’s unconstitutional removal of Fiji’s elected government, travel restrictions and suspension of defence cooperation.

The Australian aid program has maintained its commitment to the people of Fiji through support for essential services such as healthcare and education. It also supports programs that build the resilience of disadvantaged communities and provide economic opportunities for them.

Two-way trade between Australia and Fiji has declined since 2000, largely due to a reduction in Australian exports of refined petroleum and falling textiles, clothing and footwear trade. In 2012 trade amounted to AUD471 million (Australian exports to Fiji AUD304 million; Fiji exports to Australia AUD167 million).

In 2011 there were 56,979 Fiji-born people in Australia, with most living in New South Wales (32,304), followed by Queensland (11,401), Victoria (9,714) and South Australia (1157). The remainder reside in the other states and territories.