This Day in the Law
October 10

Fiji Gains Independence (1970)

On October 10, 1970, Fiji became a sovereign country and gained its independence from Great Britain. Fiji then created a bicameral parliamentary democracy modeled on the British government.

Some sources indicate that Fiji has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. However, little is known about Fiji prior to the first European settlements in the 17th Century. In fact, the Fiji Islands were often referred to as the "Cannibal Islands" by westerners because of the indigenous ways of the local people.

In 1871, Fiji established the very first western form of government under the direction of Fiji’s Chief, Ratu Seru Cakobau. Indigenous Fijian chiefs and some European settlers helped to create Fiji’s first Legislative Assembly. However, the British were on the move to colonize Fiji for its natural resources.

In 1874, Fiji became a British Colony and fell under the direction of a Governor General through the British Crown. For nearly 100 years Fiji remained a subject of the British Empire.

In the 1960s, the movement for national independence in Fiji grew. In 1965, Fiji delegates met British delegates at a constitutional conference in London to discuss independence and self-government for Fiji. The talks proved fruitful and Fiji would eventually gain its independence.

On October 10, 1970, Fiji officially gained its independence from Great Britain. One month later, Governor General, Sir Robert Sidney Foster, opened Fiji’s Parliament by officially addressing a joint session of Fiji’s House of Representatives and Senate.

Today, Fiji is comprised of over 330 islands located across 370 miles of ocean about 1,100 miles north or New Zealand. Fiji has a total land area of over 7,000 square miles and over 85% of this landmass is made up of its two largest islands, Vanua Levu and Viti Levu. The capital of Fiji is Suva, located on the southeast shore of the island Viti Levu.

Fiji is also one of the more developed Pacific island nations. Fiji’s trading partners Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Pacific Island countries such as Papua New Guinea and Samoa. Fiji exports many natural resources such as gold, mineral water, timber, fruits and vegetables, coconut oil, and fish.