Australia must prioritize indigenous voice over Republic

As Queen Elizabeth II’s mourning period draws to a close, Australia remains a nation divided over the monarchy issue with an unhealed colonial wound, writes Belinda Jones.

THE TWO issues are inextricably linked.

Although we knew this day would come, the death of HRH Queen Elizabeth II came as a shock. Her mother, HRH the Queen Mother, was 101 years old. Her husband, HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, until his 99th year. All her life, the Queen had enjoyed good health, but her health deteriorated rapidly after she lost her “strength and residence” in April 2021.

As a nation, we were not prepared for the Queen’s death. We didn’t have a London Bridge plan like the UK, well, not one the nation was familiar with. And privately, we hadn’t considered how drastic the moment would be.

Unlike the UK, Australia had no official mourning period, just a single national day of mourning announced on September 22, 2022, although you wouldn’t think so from the media coverage. To be fair, it seems that most Australian media are currently in London, in a 10-day period of mourning, totally unaware that the nation is exhausted by the saturation reporting and that the Queen has not even been buried yet. .

There was no public plan for what to do or when to do it after the Queen’s death. We didn’t expect to have even one day off, it surprised many. We didn’t expect Her Majesty’s death to inflame old colonial wounds for the First Nations people or to so bitterly revive calls for an Australian Republic, but that’s exactly what it did.

Queen Elizabeth, King Arthur and the Knights of the ABC Roundtable

And with those passionate arguments comes a vigorous debate and diversity of views, some prefer to observe the mourning period before pursuing their respective arguments, others prefer not to wait but seize the day. The Australian Republic Movement announced it would be ‘stop all campaigns during the mourning period’the Greens preferred not to wait, as each is their respective right to do so.

Both have different equally compelling arguments that resonate with a divided nation and illustrate the complexity of the discussion. Both sides mourned: one for the life of a beloved woman and the other for the injustices of the institution she represented.

“If you say that people can grieve for one, you should also allow grieving for the other”said ethicist Simon Longstaff on the ABCs Question + answer.

The observance of the public holiday on 22 has also received a mixed response from companies, tired of hard times and government mandates. They also seemed to be surprised.

There must have been a plan, maybe the governor general kept that secret too, like he did with Morrison’s secret ministries? He certainly didn’t share it with the Australian people. If there wasn’t a plan, it might be a good idea to make one for next time and let Australians know ahead of time.

Many Australians would still be largely unaware of what happens next. In the coming months and years we are likely to see the Investiture of HRH Prince William, the Prince of Wales at Carnarvon Castle in Wales and the coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey, London.

The latter will likely be a public holiday in Australia if history is any guide.

At the same time, the Albanian government is preparing the nation for its first referendum this century for a vote to parliament. Queen Elizabeth’s death has reignited debate over the republic, but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says it is “inappropriate” to talk about a republic now and remains determined to focus this term on a vote at the parliament, refusing to get carried away by what will happen in future terms.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton on 2GB, who was trying to gain political advantage, told radio audiences on Thursday that “I don’t agree with a republic” and then accused “the usual subjects” of trying “take some political advantage of the queen’s death”.

A Twitter spat erupted between Senators Pauline Hanson, Jacqui Lambie and Mehreen Faruqi, which could lead to a vote of censure in parliament and a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Did I mention the queen isn’t even buried yet?

The Queen's death stirs the media and raises questions about Australia's future

The current parameters set by some of our so-called leaders about the discourse of the forthcoming referendum or referenda leave much to be desired.

The planets have an intoxicating mix of a weary nation still coping with a pandemic, the social turmoil of the death of a queen and the ascension of a new king, a recent change of federal government, colonial history, truth-telling and evolving social issues aligned on collision course with fate.

You don’t have to be a Nostradamus to see that we have a few bumpy years ahead of us.

We are a nation whose hearing is perfectly attuned to every utterance from the kings and queens in a land far, far away, yet unable to hear the voice of the people of the land we stand on. That fact begs for belief and questions our identity as a nation.

We are on the brink of change and for many, that in itself is troubling.

Change can come fast, like the death of a queen, or it can come slow, like a coronation or referendum, somehow it always comes.

You can follow Belinda Jones on Twitter @belindajones68.

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