Descendants of the Girimitiyas (Fiji Indian)

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We are Different: Descendants of the Girmitiyas
(Fiji Indians) in Aotearoa; Identity, Health & Social
Wellbeing
Jennifer Janif – Relationship Manager, Settling In, MSD
Vishwa Asre, Project NZ Fiji Niwasi Focus Group Member
Background

Fiji was first settled by Lapita people between
3,500 – 1000BC

Fiji became a British colony in 1874

Sir Arthur Gordon in 1879 introduced the
Indian Indentured Labour System to Fiji

14th May 1879 – arrival of first boatload of
464 Indians on ship Leonidas to the shores of
Fiji
The Indenture System


Recruitment of Indians to work on sugar plantations and
processing plants in overseas colonies
Often deceptive methods used by recruiters

False promise of work as soldiers, policemen, clerks and
teachers to recruit the more militant and strong Punjabis,
Pathans and Rajputs

Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were the holding centres

5 year contracts which could be renewed for another five
years

Ratio of 100 men – 40 women
Ship Brothers
“The close face to face relationships
between emigrants during the voyage led
to strong ties amongst them. The kincaste group in India was to be replaced by
jahaji bhais or literally ship brothers in
the lines of Fiji”
(Source : Violence of Indenture in Fiji by Vijay Naidu, 2004, p. 30)
Indenture in Fiji


Labourers sent to
plantations all over Fiji
A difficult and violent
process
“Sardars never hit anyone.
It was the
Kulumbars(overseers)
who were bad, especially
the Australian; the New
Zealanders took pity”
(Naidu, 2004, p. 49)
Indenture in Fiji


Labourers sent to
plantations all over Fiji
A difficult and violent
process
“In 1907, there was a disturbance
at Labasa Plantation , sixty
five Punjabis and Pathans
refused to work as they had not
agreed in India to work as field
labourers. The whole group
armed with shovels, knives
and hoes attacked the police
who numbered 10 constables
and a European officer (Naidu
2004, p.49)
Development of Fiji Hindustani

Indians spoke Hindi, Urdu, Tamil,
Malayalam, Punjabi and Telegu
whilst English was spoken by
overseers

Fiji Hindustani developed by
overseers to facilitate
communication with labourers

The South Indians struggled as
they didn’t understand Hindi – also
were minority in comparison to the
majority from the north
Migration pre and post 1987 coup

1986 visa-free entry to New Zealand

14th May 1987 first coup in Fiji led to an
exodus of 3rd, 4th and 5th generation Fiji born
Indians

Migration to Australia, New Zealand, UK,
USA and Canada

In NZ, the Fiji Indian population is approx
40,000 and most have settled in Auckland
Identity in New Zealand
Pacific Indian or South Asian!!!!!!!!
“Many Indians distrust
Fijian or Sri Lankan
Indians. They do not
consider them “real
Indians”. The way they
worship and interact is
very different”
(Source : Settling In Albany Migrant
Community Social Services Report
March 2010, p.78)
Project NZ Fiji Niwasi 2009

Lack of awareness about Fiji Indians
historical background amongst service
providers leads to stigma and discrimination
from wider South Asian communities in
New Zealand
Project NZ Fiji Niwasi 2009

Group of concerned Fiji Indian professionals
from health, social sector and community leaders
got together in early 2009 as increasingly Fiji
Indians were featuring in the negative stats of
health, social & justice system and law
enforcement

Collaboration between Settling In, MSD,
Auckland District Health Board, Umma Trust,
Richmond Services and Community Groups
inclusive of religious, sports and cultural
Research Method

Researchers conducted community
consultations through six focus group
interviews

Community settings in Central and South
Auckland from June to November 09

Sample mix - separate focus groups for older
people, youth, women, etc.
Findings

Community identified a range of unmet health and
social needs including support for

Positive ageing for seniors
family violence prevention,
parenting skills for families in the context of NZ
society, positive identity formation for youth from
Fiji Indian backgrounds



High rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease
were identified as a priority community health issue
Conclusion

First community consultation on the
health and well-being of Fiji Indian
community members conducted in New
Zealand

Further in-depth health and social needs
assessment to be undertaken 2010
Recommendations

Fiji Indians are included in the South Asian group which
has significant diversity in language, religion and culture

Continue awareness and advocacy for appropriate
support by services providers for clients eg. use of Fiji
Indian interpreters

Consultation with members/professionals of Fiji Indian
community for policy development, design and
successful implementation of preventive workshops in
the health, social and other sectors
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