The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

Arrival of Indentured Labourers

Faced with the need to provide plantation workers to boost the new colony’s struggling economy, become financially self-sufficient from Britain and to keep the local settler population onside, while also being faced with a real shortage of local labour after the measles outbreak of 1875 killed 20% of the indigenous population, Fiji’s first Governor, Sir Arthur Gordon called on his previous experience in Mauritius and Trinidad to contract Indian labourers under the indentured labour system.

Five years after the signing of the Deed of Session, the first immigrant ship, Leonidas brought the first Indians on the 15th of May, 1879, with 463 labourers on board bound for girmit - an agreement of five years of servitude in Fiji.

The indentured labour system officially stopped in 1920, however, no labourers arrived after 1916, when the system was halted due to World War One.