Following the Southern Cross

Bus service
Some migrants continue to operate businesses in Fiji, like this bus service owned by a Victorian Fiji Indian family.
Source: Museum Victoria Fiji Community Photographic Collection

Ethnic Fijians’ love of sport and art is based on a deep connection with the land of Fiji, through their role as both traditional and legal land owners. Fiji Indians were largely denied the chance to own land. They found other paths for expressing their cultural identity through education, business and entrepreneurship.

In the early 1960s, British colonial authorities adopted ‘localisation’, a policy of replacing expatriates with local workers. This opened up opportunities for all Fiji-born people and enabled more Fiji Indians to move from agricultural labour into business, law and the public service. The quest for vidya (learning) was the key to this new world, and success in vy-a-par (business and enterprise) the symbol of a new identity for Fiji Indians. They were the entrepreneurs and the backbone of a rapidly modernising economy.

The coup in 1987 destroyed homes and businesses and wound back new freedoms. Thousands of Fiji citizens left the islands, including more than a quarter of the Fiji Indian population. Many of the Fiji Indians who settled in Victoria started new independent ventures, often in the retail and small business sectors.

Their success has allowed their children to embrace many different opportunities in Australia. Fiji Indians in Victoria have also supported projects to help children and young people in Fiji go to school, continuing the connection between education, success and Fiji Indian identity.

Image Gallery

Fiji Indian sellers Indian labourers A Fiji Indian teacher Article from The Age, 8 October 1987 Article from The Age, 8 October 1987