he flag that has flown over Fiji since 1970 is distinguished by the light blue background to represent the color of the Pacific Ocean. Like other former British colonies, the flag contains some suggestions of the nation’s British history. A Union Jack appears in the upper corner of the Fijian flag, like the New Zealand and Australian flags. The flag, in a 1:2 proportion, also features the shield portion of the coat of arms of Fiji containing several items tied to Fiji’s agricultural history. The shield is topped by a golden lion holding a cocoa pod (sometimes mistaken for a peeled coconut), and is separated at the bottom by a St. George’s Cross that creates four sections containing sugar cane plants, coconut palms, a dove of peace and a bunch of bananas.
The current version of the flag was adopted when Fiji became independent from Britain on Oct. 10, 1970. The nation had only ten days’ notice to celebrate their independence and organized a contest for a new flag. Two entrants, Robi Wilcock and Tessa Mackenzie, submitted the same design and were selected as co-winners. Variations of the current flag exist on different-colored backgrounds for the government and for merchant, civil air and navy vessels.
The two Fijian flags previous to 1970 were similar in design. The design from 1924 to 1970 had a darker blue background and featured the full Fijian coat of arms, not just the shield. The full coat of arms also includes two warriors on either side holding the shield, a canoe above the shield, and a banner below the shield with the national motto, “Rerevaka na kalou ka doka na Tui” (“Fear God and honor the Queen”). The flag from 1908 to 1922 had the coat of arms placed inside a white circle.
As an independent country from 1871 to 1874 before the British arrived, Fiji had a vertically divided flag in half-white, half-light blue. This flag featured a central red shield with a white dove holding a green branch. Above the shield floated a red crown. This design was inspired by the Christian missionaries who visited the island. From 1865 to 1871, the Fijian islands allied with others in the region under three different flags – the United Tribes, the Kingdom of Bau and the Kingdom of Lau.
Propositions for replacing Fiji’s flag have been presented at different times and a change is currently scheduled. In 2015, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama announced that a new flag design will be selected by Dec. 31, 2015, and presented in 2016.