Jude Forrest discusses republicanism in Australia with the launch of the UQ Australian Republic Club and its efforts around education and the mobilisation of Australia.
Change is coming.
Twenty-three years after the failed 1999 referendum, we now have assistant Minister for the Republic Matt Thistlethwaite to oversee our transition from a constitutional monarchy to an Australian republic. Momentum is building across the country. There will be another referendum soon. Young Australians have a historic opportunity to make this country freer, fairer and more inclusive. There is no more important time to get involved in shaping our future.
Of the many arguments for an Australian republic, here are three to consider. First, a monarchy has no place in 21st Century Australia. The idea that the House of Windsor is ‘better’ than the rest of us, not just in practice but at law, challenges the principles of equality and the rule of law upon which our society ought to be built. In a democracy, the people should be sovereign, not a king.
Second, we abhor the legacy of British colonialism. This year, Senator Lidia Thorpe, a DjabWurrung Gunnai Gunditjmara woman, was forced to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown that colonised and dispossessed her ancestors. Whatever you may think of her politics, this is a state of affairs that cannot be allowed to stand.
To be clear, we in no way intend to distract from or detract from the momentous issue of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. But how can true, honest reconciliation be possible; how can we wholeheartedly and without reservation, in the words of Paul Keating, recognise that it was we who did the dispossessing, committed the murders and took the children from their mothers; how can we with candour and integrity repudiate this legacy and speak sincerely of closing the gap and making things right, if the very next breath we pay lip service to the king and country that started it all? The sins of our predecessors are not our fault, but they are our responsibility. If there is a Voice to Parliament, will it too have to swear fealty to the British Crown, and all it represents?
Third, we reject any interference by foreign powers in our sovereign affairs. In 1975, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was dismissed by Governor-General John Kerr and replaced with Opposition Leader Malcolm Fraser. That our democratically-elected government can be replaced by the representative of a foreign Head of State is unacceptable.
To help make this happen, to take advantage of this historic moment, we’re starting The Australian Republic Club at UQ. Our priorities are education and mobilisation – we want our generation to understand the issue of an Australian republic so that they can make an informed choice, and be engaged with the issue to help build momentum nationally. If any of this resonates with you, please consider getting involved.
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