The Fijian community
There are many different ethnic groups among Fijians. The two largest groups are indigenous Fijians (Taukei and Rotumans), and Fijians of Indian descent (Indo-Fijians or Fiji Indians). Indo-Fijians are descended from the 60,000 Indians who were hired by British colonists to work in Fiji’s sugar industry. Conditions were harsh, and out of their hardship they developed a unique culture.
Because of the ethnic diversity of Fijian people, it is difficult to gauge the number living in New Zealand.
First waves of immigration
Throughout the 19th century Fiji attracted New Zealand planters, traders and missionaries. Close relations between the countries continued into the 20th century, especially in military defence, nursing and education. As connections increased, more Fijians looked to settle in New Zealand. Some came on temporary work schemes and stayed.
Twice in 1987 Fiji’s military force overthrew the nation’s government, causing political, economic and personal crisis. Thousands fled for the security of countries such as New Zealand. During the military rule that followed, many Indo-Fijians emigrated to avoid persecution. Farmers who feared their land leases would not be renewed also came. Politicians sought refuge in New Zealand and started groups that campaigned to restore democracy in Fiji.
Another coup in 2000, when civilians took members of the government hostage, unleashed violence aimed mostly at Indo-Fijians, and prompted Fijians of many ethnic groups to emigrate.
Community and culture
Community associations and clubs help to keep the Fijian culture alive in New Zealand. The Fiji Association began in Auckland in 1977. It organised sporting and cultural events, and sponsored dancers and musicians from Fiji and India. A number of women’s societies were set up in the 1990s to give practical and legal support for women facing domestic or immigration problems.