Fiji country brief
The Republic of Fiji is an archipelago of 322 islands, with an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.26 million square kilometers. According to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (2017), Fiji's total population is 884,887. Suva is Fiji's capital. Fiji's major languages are English, Fijian and Hindi, and its major religions are Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.
The head of government is Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe 'Frank' Bainimarama, leader of the majority party (FijiFirst) in the national legislature following the November 2018 election. Fiji's head of state, who is appointed by Parliament, is President Jioji Konrote. Opposition parties include the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), led by Viliame Gavoka, and the National Federation Party (NFP), led by Professor Biman Prasad.
Fiji's next election is scheduled for 2022.
Fiji became independent in 1970 after nearly a century as a British colony. On independence, Fiji adopted a constitutional democratic form of government based on the Westminster system. A series of coups (1987, 2000 and 2006) has slowed Fiji’s progress to its current parliamentary democracy under constitutional framework, governed by a single 51-member Parliamentary chamber.
The last coup occurred on 5 December 2006, led by then Commodore Bainimarama who was appointed Interim Prime Minister in January 2007. The Australian Government, in concert with other countries, the UN Security Council, the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, strongly condemned the military's unconstitutional removal of Fiji's elected government. While travel restrictions and the suspension of bilateral defence cooperation occurred, Australia maintained a substantial development assistance program to support the people of Fiji.
After significant progress towards democracy was made by Interim Prime Minister Bainimarama, then-Foreign Minister Julie Bishop lifted Australia's travel restrictions on 31 March 2014. National elections were held on 17 September 2014. Seen as a critical step in Fiji's peaceful transition to democracy, the Australian Government lifted all remaining restrictions and resumed its Defence Cooperation Program. Fiji was welcomed back into the Commonwealth on 26 September 2014 and into the Pacific Islands Forum on 22 October 2014.
On 10 October 2020, Fiji celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its independence. Australia took the opportunity to recognise the mark Fiji had made globally and regionally as a strong voice for sustainable development, a valued contributor to peacekeeping, and a formidable competitor on the sporting field. Australia looked forward to the next 50 years — and beyond — standing with Fiji and forging an even stronger future in our Pacific.
Australia and Fiji share a strong and enduring bilateral relationship, demonstrated by Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Bainimarama's signing of the 'Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership' on 16 September 2019. 'Vuvale' means family in Fijian. The term was chosen to reflect the depth, breadth and warmth of the relationship. The Partnership is broad-ranging and comprehensive and builds on the already strong foundations in the Fiji-Australia relationship. It paves the way for deeper security, economic and people-to-people links between both countries. It also commits Australia and Fiji to strengthening bilateral political cooperation.
Defence and security cooperation
There are longstanding connections between the Australian and Fiji military forces, including in global peacekeeping operations. Australia has committed to help redevelop Fiji's Blackrock Camp into a regional peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and police training centre. Australia handed over the first of two Guardian Class Patrol Boats, to replace Fiji’s existing Pacific patrol boats, in March 2020. The second boat will be commissioned in 2023.
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Australia and Fiji have extensive people-to-people links. Over 3,000 Australian companies do business in Fiji and 61,000 people born in Fiji live in Australia. Fiji is also one of the top destinations for Australians. Over 367,000 Australians visited Fiji in 2019 (see Fiji Bureau of Statistics).
There are regular two-way exchanges between Australia and Fiji, including through the Australia Awards, New Colombo Plan, Australian Volunteers Program, Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme.
On 11 October 2019, Fiji hosted the Prime Minister's XIII Rugby League matches against Australia. This was the first time these matches were played in Fiji. Under the new PacificAus Sports program, Australia supported Fiji's national netball team, the Fiji Pearls, to compete at the 2019 Netball World Cup. Australia is also sponsoring a Fiji Rugby League team, the Kaiviti Silktails, to play in the Ron Massey Cup again in 2021. We will continue to deliver sports for development outcomes through the Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP) Program.
In response to the Australian bushfire crisis, in January 2020 Fiji deployed a contingent from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) to assist recovery efforts in bushfire-affected communities around Orbost, Victoria. The RFMF ‘Bula Force’ deployment cleared over 170km of roads, created firebreaks and felled trees The presence and support of ‘Bula Force’ were welcomed by bushfire-affected communities and were a concrete symbol of the Vuvale Partnership in action.
More about Australia's Pacific engagement
Trade and investment ties
Fiji is one of seven upper middle-income countries in the Pacific. Australia is supporting Fiji's ambitions of achieving high-income status in the coming decades.
Fiji has a relatively diverse and sophisticated economy. Although the sharp decline in Fiji’s tourism sector due to COVID-19 is currently presenting significant challenges, Fiji’s economic growth has averaged at two per cent (real) since independence. Economic growth has been inclusive with consecutive governments supporting universal education, health and infrastructure.
Australia is one of Fiji's largest trade and investment partners. Two-way goods and services trade has been steadily increasing year-on-year, totaling $2.47 billion in 2019.
Major Australian merchandise exports to Fiji include wheat, liquefied propane and butane, meat and paper. Major Australian merchandise imports from Fiji include gold and garments.
Major Australian services exports to Fiji, and exports from Fiji, include personal travel and transport.
Australia is a major source of foreign investment for Fiji, valued at approximately $1.34 billion in 2018. Australian investment in Fiji is focused on tourism, the financial sector and manufacturing.
Fiji's investment in Australia was valued at $346 million in 2018.
For more information on the bilateral trade and investment relationship, please see the Fiji country fact sheet.
Australia and Fiji work closely together in multilateral forums as fellow members of the UN, World Trade Organization, Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum. Fiji was elected the UN Human Rights Council for the 2019-21 term, overlapping with Australia's 2018-20 term. Fiji's Presidency of the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, overseeing successful negotiations on the Rulebook and establishing the 'Talanoa Dialogue' ministerial-level review of global action on climate change. Australia provided $6 million to support Fiji's Presidency.