Recently I posted on my Facebook page the information that I had just joined the Republican Movement and I gave a short précis of my reasons.
My son’s daughters have a grandfather on the other side of their family, who made the following interesting comment on my post, from quite a different perspective.
“In my lifetime I have lived through the reigns of King George V, Edward VIII, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. I think they (except Edward) were a positive influence. A constitutional monarchy is a stabilising influence even if it has little real political power. How many of the millions of ‘refugees’ are fleeing constitutional monarchies? Virtually none. All escaping dodgy, corrupt,dictator-dominated republics. I’ll stick with what we have. Better the devil…..”
As an older person myself I understand his position. I hold no negative feeling towards the incumbents of the monarchy (in fact I feel pity for their being forced into a form of life tantamount to prostitution). And I think his is the only realistic argument that can possibly be made against our becoming a republic. That is, that the past has worked for many people in Australia who still feel fondly about our Anglo heritage. That this heritage has given stability to many of us so there is no need to change it.
But, for me, this us no longer good enough.
My co-grandparent was born in England, has lived in East Africa and other parts of the world and is a man of tolerance and wisdom. He settled over forty years ago in Australia, which has been his home for since then. His daughter was born here. So he is part of the Australian experience from a wide global experience. But a relatively recent one.
He has not had to experienced that sense of responsibility for past Australian/Anglo ancestors, that some of us have had to do for many years.
I have lived through a white Australia policy. I have lived with the results of the imposition of an English monarchical system of life on Australia’s indigenous people, these people whom we did not even recognise in our cobbled together constitution, which was passed as an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1900. This Act gives much more word space to Queen Victoria herself and her descendants than to a forward direction for Australia.
I have been told the experience of my own Grandparents, in WA who, in 1901 took a two mile walk to the nearest bush polling booth to vote opposite ways in the non compulsory referendum as to whether WA should become part of the Commonwealth. That became a great family tradition of a way to express, deal with and respect different viewpoints whilst valuing ones’ electoral obligations and opportunities.
When I was young lawyer appeals from our High Court still went to the Privy Council.
And I am tired of apologising for our colonial past, the worst period of the English tradition. I am tired of apologising for my ancestors’ roles here since the early nineteenth century. I am tired of apologising for our White Australia policy, for our glorification of foreign explorers, missionaries and despoilers here. I deplore the attitudes that led to the stolen generation and I do not glorify our part in some wars and other situations in which we should not have been involved.
In addition I admire many other democracies in other countries, particularly in some European countries that are very stable and in many ways more truly democratic than we are and yet do not have monarchies.
But most importantly I am tired of apologising for what we are doing right now. Even living in the Asian region, now being more attuned to nearby cultures than we were and more aware of the needs of our indigenous people, the Anglo centric values and ideas are still taken as being the norm from which others stray at their peril.
We need to recognise that we can stand on our own as a fantastic, democratic country that views itself as entirely independent. Only then can we truly value our very diverse population in this wonderful part of the world in which we all find ourselves.
Those who advocate for our present constitution try to contend that we are already an independent country which does not bow to England. How can this be if our Head of State is an English monarch?
And those who disagree with our becoming a republic, have you read this ” independent” constitution?
Please do so. You may be very disappointed.