Around The World: Fiji Indians - From Immigration to Emigration. Portrait of an ever Shrinking Minority
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Diwali celebration in Fijian style held at the Girmit Cultural Centre in Lautoka, Fiji
The first Indian indentured immigrants went to Fiji in 1879, the last in 1916. By 1987, when the first military overthrew a democratically elected government, Indo-Fijians were half the population of the country. After the coup, what had been a trickle until then turned into a torrent as skilled men and women left for other shores, draining the country of much-needed talent and skill. Now, Indo-Fijians constitute about a third of the population and are declining. The best and the brightest have left, and those who remain in Fiji dream of leaving one day.
This talk will provide an insight into a massively complex social phenomenon, how it came about and where it is going. It is a problem experienced in microcosm by many other Indian diasporic communities descended from the indenture experience. Fiji was once dubbed a ‘Little India of the Pacific.’ Future generations, disbelieving, will wonder why.
About the Speaker
Professor Lal was born in Fiji and educated there (BA), Canada (MA) and Australia (PhD). He has taught History at the Universities of the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Hawaii at Manoa and for 25 years at the Australian National University. He has written extensively on Fijian and Pacific history and politics and visited all the major Indian diasporic communities in the West Indies, the Indian Ocean and Africa, and is the General Editor of ‘The Encyclopaedia of the Indian Diaspora.’
He has been widely honoured for his scholarship, and has received the Fellowship of the Australian Humanities Academy, the Centenary Medal of the Government of Australia for his contribution to the Humanities, an Order of Fiji for his distinguished service to the public life of his native country, and a Member of the Order of Australia from Her Majesty the Queen for his contribution to Pacific scholarship. In 2009, Professor Lal and his wife were banned for life from returning to Fiji for their principled opposition to coups there. He continues to read and write imaginatively to protect memory from the ravages of time and the culture of forgetfulness.