National flag of Fiji

Fiji’s flag flew for the first time on Independence Day, October 10, 1970. It includes the red, white, and blue Union Flag of Britain in the top left-hand corner and the shield from the Fiji Coat of Arms on a light blue background on the fly. The flag encompasses Fiji’s own colonial heritage in the Union Flag with a blend of historical continuity in the design of the shield. Fiji’s geographical design is highlighted by the blue background.

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Fiji’s National Coat of Arms

Fiji’s National Coat of Arms consists of the images of two Fijian Warriors wearing traditional garb holding handcrafted War Clubs on either side of a shield with the motto “Rerevaka na Kalou ka Doka na Tul” below the shield. These words mean “Fear God and honour the Queen.

The shield from the coat of arms has the image of a heraldic lion representing the colonial power that ruled over Fiji between 1874 to 1970. The Lion is holding a cocoa pod across the top.  Sugarcane, a coconut palm and bunch of bananas are represented in three of the shield’s sections.  The fourth contains the reproduction of a dove of peace, the main feature of the Cakobau Government’s flag before cession.

Above the Shield and between the two warriors is a depiction of the traditional drua (a sacred canoe), a double-hull sailing boat used to navigate between the Fijian Islands.

History of the National Flag 1970 – Present

A detailed commemorative article written in the Fiji Times, the national newspaper, by Sophie Foster pays tribute to Tessa Mackenzie one of the two entrants in the national competition to design the national flag, the other winner of this presidios honour was Robi Wilcock.  We have reproduced this article with a link to the source below.  The article details the journey over 50 years ago of the meaning and design of the insignia. 

Tessa Mackenzie received the 50th Fiji Independence Medal for her contribution to the nation.  A lifetime of honourable work for the community, and creating the emblem of the nation recognized around the world. 

The year was 1970, and across the country, there was a frenzied rush. The Queen had allowed the Fiji Independence Order on September 30th, which would come into effect just 10 days later. It didn’t allow for much time to get ready, but in two aspects at least Fiji was raring to go. One was the new national anthem. The other was the national flag. Just months before, Tessa Mackenzie was one of the thousands who heard about the national competition to find Fiji’s new flag. At the time she was a volunteer teacher in Veiuto, taking an art and craft class with primary school children. The prospect of designing the new national flag excited her, and she set about finding out more about how such flags are designed. Little did she know that her idea would result in one of the proudest moments of her life, watching her design being lifted to signal the start of a new nation. As she thought about what to put on the Fiji flag, Mrs Mackenzie says she wanted to keep something of Fiji’s history in the design she submitted.  

Her starting point was the national coat of arms, which has two Fijian warriors on either side of a shield.

“The shield I think was designed around 1906 by Lady Imthurne and she had put in several items with the idea that Fiji has a future in the new world. Coconuts did for a long time drive the economy of Fiji and bananas used to be great economic crop and of course sugar cane is still important. There was also the dove of peace, which was on Ratu Cakobau’s flag before cession,” Mrs Mackenzie says. 

Funnily enough, she says that if the coat of arms had been a bit fussier as in if it had more intricate designs in it she probably would have chosen something else to use for her national flag submission.

As for the inclusion of the Union Jack, Mrs Mackenzie says the decision to include it came about because that seemed to be how everyone was feeling at the time, sentimental about the past, optimistic about the future. “This was the mood of the time,” she says.

Her choice of colour for the background of the flag, she says, was an attempt to show “a pale blue background to represent the sea”.

Unbeknown to her, at the same time, another man Robi Wilcock was also thinking along the same lines. In fact, he and Mrs Mackenzie submitted exactly the same design to the competition. “I knew Robi Wilcock but we worked separately on the flag idea. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we had submitted the same idea and that it had been accepted,” she says.

In his book, “The Pacific Way: A Memoir”, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, who was chief minister at the time, explains the decision. “The Fiji national flag had to be designed, and this was done by competition when two entrants Mrs Murray Mackenzie and Mr Robi Wilcock – produced identical designs with the Union flag in the top left quarter and the shield of Fiji’s coat of arms in the fly – all on a background of Pacific blue,” he says.

He says the choice of pale blue set Fiji apart from its neighbours. “At independence a visiting dignitary said to me, ‘I’m very disappointed to see that you as an Oxford man have chosen Cambridge blue for your flag!’ A Cambridge friend of mine is convinced that I still believe he realised this all the time and never said a word. But in fact it differentiated us from the dark blue of a number of our Pacific neighbours.”

When the Fiji flag was raised for the first time at Albert Park on October 10, 1970, the ceremony broke somewhat with the norm elsewhere around the world.

“I had seen films of independence ceremonies elsewhere, where the British flag had been lowered at midnight and the new independence flag raised, both to frenzied cheering. I did not think this appropriate to our relationship with the British Crown. We decided to have a final beating of retreat before independence when the Union flag would be lowered with the quiet dignity and respect our long association warranted. It was a moving occasion,” Ratu Mara said.

So it was that after the Union Jack was lowered on October 9, 1970, the way was clear for Mrs Mackenzie’s design to be raised the next day as the symbol of a new nation.

Ratu Mara says: “At Albert Park, our ceremony began with a bare flag pole, and the people were able to show their unrestrained enthusiasm when the Fiji national flag was unfurled for the first time, and thousands of schoolchildren excitedly waved a forest of newly minted Fiji flags”. At that exact moment when the new flag was raised, Mrs Mackenzie watched with emotion from the rooftop of Government Buildings. “I was standing on the top of the roof because my husband Murray was a civil servant at the time. So we were fortunate that we had a nice view from there,” she says. “I remember that I made a dress of pale blue for myself and two pale blue shirts for my sons to wear. I had embroidered my design onto the dress and the shirts, with the Union Jack on one side and the shield from the Coat of Arms on the other. It felt great to just be there watching history unfold. I think it does make a nice flag.”

She is also a major advocate for keeping the flag. “After so many years, this flag has become well-known worldwide. It’s everywhere tourists T-shirts, documents, international papers … It symbolises Fiji. If we change it, then we will have lost about 40 years or so of publicity.”

In fact, when the National Council for Building a Better Fiji was considering the pros and cons of changing the national flag, Mrs Mackenzie told them just that. “It’s our history and you can’t ignore it.”

Today, though the items have turned the palest of blues, Mrs Mackenzie still has that Fiji Independence Day dress and shirts that she embroidered for her sons. She says she will treasure them always, along with the flag that signalled the start of a new nation

Flag Change Proposals (2015-2016)

In 2015, The Prime Minster Frank Vorege Brainimarama, signaled his governments intentions to change the National Flag, by launching a national flag designing competition, very similar to the 1970’s model, the reasoning behind this announcement was to refresh the national symbol, replacing the colonial icons, with a genuinely indigenous expression of the countries present and future goals.  The government’s aim was to hoist the new flag on 11 October 2015, the 45th anniversary of independence.

The competition captured the people imagination, with people from all the different cultures of Fiji, the competition received over 2000 designs, that had to be shortlisted by the designated Fiji National Flag Committee to just 23 entrants (Images Below).    

However on 17th August 2016, after several delays, opposition groups, national disasters and the international sporting achievements of the Fiji Sevens in the Olympics, the government voted against the change, Bainimarama publicly announced that the government was abandoning plans to change the flag.

Bainimarama, who witnessed on-site Fijian men’s rugby sevens team’s Rio Olympic gold medal victory in Brazil, said it has been “deeply moving” as prime minister to see the way Fijians rally around the national flag as the Pacific Island nation won its first-ever Olympic gold medal. As Fijians continue recovering from Tropical Cyclone Winston, which claimed 44 lives and left a path of massive destruction in February, it is “a question of resetting national priorities,” Bainimarama said, adding that the cost of any flag change is better spent at the present time assisting Fijians back on their feet. “I urge every Fijian to display our flag when our victorious sevens team returns to Fiji on Sunday and during our special national holiday on Monday. It is a time to celebrate not only their remarkable achievement but our collective unity and national sense of purpose,” said the Fijian prime minister.

Flags of the Colonial Era

Coat of Arms of Fiji
  • "Fiji Blue" provides continuity from the 1970–2015 flag, remaining the “banner blue” of the national anthem. It represents peace, serenity, and freedom, as well as the Pacific Ocean. It shows solidarity with all island nations.
  • Yellow represents radiance, life, sustenance, and a new beginning. It recalls the sun and Fiji’s place as “the land of the first rising sun” and its tropical location.
  • Dark Blue stands for peace, prosperity, trust, dignity, and intelligence. The colour of the deep ocean, it represents the depth of Fiji’s culture.
  • Red represents passion, strength and energy of the Fijian people.
  • The Sun symbolises a new day, hope, and Fiji moving forward. It recalls Fiji’s place as “the land of the first rising sun” and its tropical location. It represents health, light, life, and energy, as well as the warmth of the Fijian people.
  • The Triangle signifies Fiji moving forward together as one people.
  • Stars represent guidance, navigation, and direction. They symbolize the gallantry of Fiji’s people.
  • Three represents the three independent branches of Government as a strong and vibrant democracy under our Constitution: the executive, the judiciary and the legislature.
  • Seven is a number that symbolises a good omen for many Fijians.
  • The Tagimoucia represents blessings, courage, and peace. The flower is unique to Fiji and found only on the island of Taveuni.
  • The Turtle represents the humility, strength, patience, and perseverance of the Fijian people.
  • The Davui represents community and respect; the call of the nation to come together as one people.
  • The Drua represents the past, present, and future of all Fijians and our voyage into the future as one people, one nation.
  • The Tapa represents the many islands of Fiji and our past with its geometric, triangular elements in the centre of the flag.
  • The Coconut Tree represents sustenance and the versatility of the Fijian people.
  1. Fiji Government (2015). National Flag. New Fiji Flag.
  2. Foster, S. (2020). Tribute to Tessa Mackenzie. Fiji Times.
  3. Social Plug - Fiji. (2021, July 20). The Fiji Flag [Video]. YouTube.
  4. Close-Barry, K. (2015, February 14). Postcolonial? Yes. But Fiji's new flag will also be a break with the chiefs' power. The Guardian Newspaper.
  5. Wikipedia (2022). Coat of Arms of Fiji [Photograph].
  6. Wikipedia (2022). Flag of Fiji [Photograph].