Fascinating Fijian Honours System


Before the advent of Europeans, the indigenous people of Fiji had a tribal honor system. Warriors were given titles to reflect their success in battle, to acknowledge the warrior whose courage won the battle or the victorious warlord who commanded the joint forces of several tribes to slaughter their enemies with their lethal war clubs. The act of acknowledging the hard work and dedication of individuals or collective groups working together for the betterment of the community is still present today.  In the following article, we delve into how the honors system has evolved from these more tribal times, through the British colonial era, to becoming a sovereign democratic republic in the 1980s, and finally to its present form we see today.

Table of Contents

British Honours and Awards System

The late Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu
The late Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu | Image: Delaibatiki, 2020

When Fiji became a British colony in 1874, it was included in the British Honours and Awards system. Many Fijians won decorations and awards under this system until Fiji was declared a sovereign democratic republic on 7 October 1987 (113 years), following the second military coup of that year.

Notable was the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu (1918 – 1944), who died on 23 June 1944, at just 26 years of age, he was serving in the 3^ Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment in the Solomons.

The following details are given in the London Gazette of November, 2nd, 1944:

On June, 23rd, 1944 at Mawaraka, Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands, Cpl. Sefanaia Sukanaivalu crawled forward to rescue some men wounded when their platoon was ambushed. After recovering two men this N.C.O. volunteered to go alone through heavy fire to try and rescue another – but on the way back was seriously wounded and fell to the ground unable to move further. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to rescue him; and realising that his men would not withdraw while he was still alive Cpl. Sukanaivalu raised himself up in front of the Japanese machine gun and was riddled with bullets. This brave Fiji soldier, after rescuing two wounded men with the greatest heroism and being gravely wounded himself, deliberately sacrificed his own life knowing that in no other way could his men be induced to retire from a situation in which they must have been annihilated  (CWG, 2003).

His Victoria Cross citation reads: “The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:-No. 4469 Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, Fiji Military Forces.  (Bjornstad, 2003)

Other military honours won by Fijians includes The Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Medal, and Queen’s Gallantry Medal. In the field of service to the nation and humanity, such awards were bestowed on Fijians including Knighthoods in the Orders of Saint Michael and Saint George and the British Empire honour.

The National Order of Fiji

The later Brigadier General Ian Thorpe CBE with his honorable medals.
The late Brigadier General Ian Thorpe CBE | Image: NZherald, 2019

When Fiji was declared a Republic, its citizens could no longer be honoured or decorated by the British sovereign as it had its own Head of State, the President of the Sovereign Democratic Republic of the Fiji Islands.  On 8 March 1995, His Excellency Ratu Sir Kamisese Kapaiwai Tuimacilai Mara, GCMG, GCVO, KBE, KStJ, MSD gave his Presidential Assent to Act No. 7 of that year establishing the Honours and Awards of Fiji.

Fiji HONOURS AND AWARDS ACT, 1995 (ACT No.7 of 1995) PDF

Brigadier Thorpe has a long association with the Fiji Military Forces. He was Adjutant of the Ist Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment in Malaya (later Malaysia) when the late Ratu Sir Penaia Kanatabatu Ganilau, GCMG, KCVO, KBE, DSO, KStJ, MSD was a Lieutenant Colonel and Commanding Officer of the Battalion in 1955-1956. He was later contracted to command the Royal Fiji Military Forces from 1979 to 1982 after retirement from the New Zealand Army, and was recalled to establish the Fiji Military Forces Officers’ School after all foreign military assistance was cut off as a result of the military coups of 1987.

The idea of a National Order system was proposed by Brigadier Thorpe while he was the Commandant of the Officer Training School.

The Insignia

Top - Medal of the Order of Fiji recipients Kalione Nasoko and Samisoni Viriviri with the President Jioji Konrote. Bottom - Ratu Cakobau's war club, now the current mace of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji
Image Details: Top – Medal of the Order of Fiji recipients Kalione Nasoko and Samisoni Viriviri with President Jioji Konrote. Bottom – Ratu Cakobau’s war club, now the current mace of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji | Image: Supplied

Chancellor of the Order of Fiji. The President of the Republic is the Chancellor of the Order and wears the Chain of the Order, made up of two gold chains interspersed evenly with circular tagimaucia wreaths and the monogram of the initials of the Republic. (Above Image)

The central wreath is joined by ring clasps to a suspended monogram, also joined by ring clasps to the main eight-pointed gold star with the basic Order insignia of a four-quartered shield with a central red cross dividing the quarters, surrounded by a tagimaucia wreath.  The top left quarter is a Fijian canoe signifying the traditional maritime nature of the islands,  the top right contains sugar cane stalks signifying the importance of agriculture,  The bottom right quarter contains the ‘dove of peace that was a part of the flag of the short-lived Kingdom of Fiji prior to Cession in 1874, and, the bottom left contains a crossed pick and shovel reflecting the significance of mineral resources, particularly gold mining, in Fiji’s history.

Above the shield is a replica of Ratu Cakobau’s war club, now the current mace of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji (Image Above).  An important historical artefact in its own right.  The Mace represents the authority of the Speaker in the House. It is carried into the chamber by the Mace Bearer whenever Parliament meets.  Ratu Seru Cakobau gave the war club as a gift to Queen Victoria of Great Britain in 1874 when Fiji became part of the British Empire. The war club stayed in Great Britain until 1932 when it was returned to Fiji by King George the 5th. (Fiji Government, 2018).

It is made of a type of hardwood called “gadi”. Ratu Seru Cakobau named the war club Ai Tutuvi Kuta I Radini Bau translated as “The Kuta (water reed) coverlet of Radini Bau (wife of the Roko Tui Bau)”. The club was embellished with silver palm leaves and doves as symbols of peace and tranquillity when Ratu Cakobau converted to Christianity.  At the start of each sitting day in the Chamber, the Mace is carried into the House by the Mace Bearer where it is placed on the central table. The crown of the Mace always points to the Government side of the chamber. The Mace sits on the central table as long as the House is officially sitting and the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker presides (Fiji Government, 2018).

The Military Classes Military personnel are also entitled to be recommended for the award of any of the classes in the Order. The military insignia differ in that the star incorporates two crossed swords replacing the diagonal points of the star, and the ribbon includes a thin red stripe in the middle of the white stripe in the centre (Image Below)

Fiji College Of Honour And Awards

To honour of the late Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, the design of the ribbon depicts the bright crimson and white of the tagimaucia flower (Medinilla waterhousei), which is emblematic of Ratu Sir Penaia’s home island of Taveuni.
Image Details: To honour of the late Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, the design of the ribbon depicts the bright crimson and white of the tagimaucia flower (Medinilla waterhousei), which is emblematic of Ratu Sir Penaia’s home island of Taveuni.

The Fiji Honours System was created in 1995 by an Act of Parliament to provide for the establishment of Honours and Awards in Fiji. Therefore, the Fiji Honours System is governed by the “Honours and Awards Act 1995, 1997 and 2016 amendments”. It is a system whereby the citizens of Fiji recognise the contribution of individuals to the enhancement of Fijian society and its people (OP, 2022).

Table: General Division (Fijian Honours System)

Companion of the Order of FijiOfficer of the Order of FijiMember of the Order of FijiMedal of the Order of Fiji
CFGeneral JPG 4000×4720 1 1OF jpg 6000×4000 2MF jpg 6000×4000MOF jpg 6000×4000 1
For eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Fiji or to humanity at large.
The star in a silver metal is suspended from the ribbon by two ring clasps and carries the same tagimaucia wreath and shield design as the Chancellor insignia. This is a’neck’ order worn with a 1.25 inch wide ribbon on investiture and subsequently with a miniature ribbon in normal wear. Companions of the Order are entitled to the post-nominals ‘CF’.
For distinguished service of a high degree to Fiji or to humanity at large.
This smaller star insignia is worn on the left breast suspended from the normal ribbon by a ring clasp. Officers of the Order of Fiji are entitled to the post-nominals ‘OF’.
For meritorious service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group.
The star is the same size and design as that of the Officer insignia, but wholly of silver colour. It is worn on the left breast with the usual ribbon. Members of the Order of Fiji are entitled to the post-nominals ‘MF’.
The Order has an associated medal to be awarded for service worthy of particular recognition.
The insignia for this class is an enlargement of the circular design in the star of the senior classes as a round medal of silver metal suspended from the ribbon with a bar clasp. This also is worn on the left breast. Recipients of the Medal of the Order of Fiji are entitled to the post-nominals ‘MOF’.
Charter for the Order of FijiCharter for the Order of FijiCharter for the Order of FijiCharter for the Order of Fiji

Table: Civilian Bravery Awards

The Fiji bravery decorations are provided for the recognition of brave acts in other than warlike situations. President’s Cross, Medal President’s and Medal Bravery Medal. (Presidents Office, 2022)

President’s CrossPresidents MedalBravery Medal
Presidents Cross RibbonRepublic of Fiji: President's MedalBravery Medal Ribbon
President Cross Medal Fiji 1President Medal Medal Fiji 1Bravery Medal Fiji 1
Companions of the Order are entitled to the post-nominals ‘PC’.Companions of the Order are entitled to the post-nominals ‘PM’.Companions of the Order are entitled to the post-nominals ‘BM’.

Table: Notable Sportsman Recipients

Iliesa DelanaIliesa Delana – Paralympian High JumpVijay SinghVijay Singh – World Class Golfer
Chris CracknellChris Cracknell – Rugby Sevens CoachBen RyanBen Ryan – Rugby Sevens Coach

Table: Ribbon Chart

RibbonOrders – Decorations – MedalsRibbonOrders – Decorations – Medals
Republic of Fiji Military Forces
Presidents War CrossPresidents War Cross (PWC) – Operational Gallantry Awards Sub-Categoryno ribbonCommendation for Leadership – Leadership Awards Sub-Category
Fiji Cross of GallantryCross of Gallantry (CG) – Operational Gallantry Awards Sub-CategoryMeritorious Service Decoration RibbonMeritorious Service Decoration
Medal for GallantryMedal for Gallantry (MG) – Operational Gallantry Awards Sub-CategoryMeritorious Service Award RibbonMeritorious Service Awards
no ribbonBattle Commendation – Operational Gallantry Awards Sub-CategoryService DecorationService Decoration
Distinguished Command Cross RibbonDistinguished Command Cross (DCC) – Leadership Awards Sub-CategoryService Award AwardService award
Command Medal RibbonCommand Medal (CM) – Leadership Awards Sub-CategoryGeneral Service Medal RibbonGeneral Service Medal
Prison Service Division
no ribbonEfficient Service DecorationFiji Prison Service Long Service and Good Conduct Medal RibbonFiji Prisions Long Service and Good conduct Medal
Fiji Prisons Distinguished Service Award RibbonDistinguished Service Award
Fiji Police Division
Fiji Police Medal RibbonFiji Police MedalPolice Overseas Service MedalPolice Overseas Service Medal
no ribbonFiji Police Service Medal
Fire Services
Fire Service Meritorious Service Medal RibbonFire Services Meritorious Service MedalCivil Service Medal RibbonFiji Civil Service
Fire Service Long Service Medal RibbonFiji Fire Service Long Service Medal

YouTube Video: Investiture Ceremony Fiji


  • British Empire – a British and Commonwealth award for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown
  • Democratic – of, relating to; or favoring democracy, a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.
  • Distinguished Conduct Medal  A decoration established in 1854 by Queen Victoria for gallantry in the field by other ranks of the British Army. The medal was also awarded to non-commissioned military personnel of other Commonwealth Dominions and Colonies
  • Distinguished Service Order – is awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.
  • Knighthoods in the Orders of Saint Michael and Saint George – Awarded to men and women who hold high office or who render extraordinary or important non-military service to the United Kingdom in a foreign country, and can also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs
  • Military Cross – The MC is granted in recognition of “an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land” to all members of the British Armed Forces of any rank.
  • Military Medal – The Military Medal (MM) was a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British Army and other arms of the armed forces, and to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle on land
  • Queen’s Gallantry Medal – Awarded for exemplary acts of bravery where the services were not so outstanding as to merit the George Medal, but above the level required for the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery (“Queen’s Gallantry Medal”, 2022)
  • Sovereign Nation – A nation that has one centralized government that has the power to govern a specific geographic area. Under the definition set by international law, a sovereign nation has a defined territory with just one government. These nations have a permanent population and can enter into relations with other sovereign countries.
  • Republic – A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president
  • Victoria Cross – is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour “in the presence of the enemy” to members of the British Armed Forces and may be awarded posthumously.


  • Ben Ryan (rugby union). (2022, November 1). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Bjornstad, W. (2003). Sefanaia Sukanaivalu. Find a Grave. Link
  • British Empire Medal. (2022, November 23). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Chris Cracknell. (2022, November 15). In Wikipedia. Link
  • CWG (2006). Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu. Commonwealth War Graves. Link
  • Delaibatiki, N. (2020). One Of Fiji’s True Heroes Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice For The Cause Of Our Freedom. Fiji Sun. Link
  • Distinguished Conduct Medal. (2022, August 24). In Wikipedia. Link>
  • Distinguished Service Order. (2022, December 9). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Fijian Honours System. (2022, May 12). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Fiji Government (2018). The Mace Of Parliament. Fiji Parliament. Link
  • Iliesa Delana. (2022, June 20). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Indiannewslink (2019). Fiji honours Murray McCully with the highest Award [Photograph].
  • Medals UK (2021). Orders, Decorations and Medals of Fiji Ribbon Chart [Photograph].
  • Makiha, K. (2019). Obituary: Brigadier General Ian Thorpe laid to rest in full military funeral. Rotorua Daily Post. Link
  • Military Cross. (2022, December 6). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Military Medal. (2022, November 13). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Office of the President. (2019, November 25). Fijian President officiates the Investiture Ceremony [Video]. YouTube. Link
  • OP (2022). The Fiji Honours System. Office of the President. Link
  • OP (2022). The Order Of Fiji. Office of the President. Link
  • Order of Fiji. (2022, June 21). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Order of St Michael and St George. (2022, December 12). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Queen’s Gallantry Medal. (2022, September 1). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Vijay Singh. (2022, December 8). In Wikipedia. Link
Sponsored Announcement
Events Calendar
Sponsored Announcement