The flying canoe

In 1928, Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm landed in Suva on their trans-Pacific flight. For most people in Fiji, this was their first glimpse of an airplane, and crowds flocked to see it in Albert Park. It is believed that the word waqavuka was first used to describe
Southern Cross.
Source: Collection: National Library of Australia, 8392/102

Tradition tells of the founding of Fiji by Lutunasobasoba, who arrived from Tanzania, Africa, by canoe. He, his wife, Nai, and their five children are the legendary ancestors of the ethnic Fijian people.

The first European contact took place in the early nineteenth century, and in 1874 Fiji was ceded to Britain. Between 1879 and 1916 the colonial government brought in about 65,000 indentured labourers from India to work in the sugar cane fields. A segregated society was founded on European administration, Fijian land ownership and Indian labour.

Fiji achieved independence in 1970, but political and social systems based on ethnic division continued. A coup in 1987 was followed by extended periods of upheaval and two further coups, in 2000 and 2006. Although Fiji Indians were the main targets of violence and discrimination, all people in Fiji suffered economically and socially. This troubled history has affected the ties between Victoria’s Fiji communities, and created an underlying fragility in their relationships.

Many migrants came to Australia to escape unrest, but they have strong connections with family, friends and communities in Fiji, and many return to visit on a regular basis. In times past, the canoe connected the islands of Fiji to the world. Today, it is the waqavuka, or ‘flying canoe’: the airplane.

Image Gallery

1930s photograph of an Indian family Clipping from The Age, 8 October 1987 Clipping from The Age, 8 October 1987 “Pretty please!?!” (Gareth Evans to Sitiveni Rabuka in Fiji after coup).1988 Victorian Fiji Indian soccer team travels to Fiji