Australia after the Queen’s death: Why Indigenous rights trump voting for the King

Australia after the Queen's death: Why Indigenous rights trump voting for the King
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During Friday’s televised Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) match in Melbourne, players stood to attention for a minute’s silence for the Queen, immediately followed by the Praise of the Nation.

However, the juxtaposition of the players’ declaration that they were standing on “unexperienced” Indigenous soil and a tribute to the country’s former monarch claimed it was unsettling for some.

This case demonstrates the pain felt by the First Nations people of Australia after their land was invaded by British settlers in 1788. In other Commonwealth Nations, death of the queen Some – louder than others – have caused rumblings about moves to abandon the British monarchy for a republic. But in Australia, despite Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s pro-republican views, there is no concerted push in this direction.

In interviews and press conferences after the queen’s death, Albanese repeatedly said that now was not the time to talk about the republic. On Tuesday, the Australian Republican Movement agreed, suspending its campaign on the issue after a period of mourning “out of respect for the Queen”.

But for Albanians, the current reluctance to push for a republic is not just a matter of respect for the late monarch. The Labor leader promised before the election that if he won office, he would hold a referendum on recognizing Australia’s First Nations people in the constitution during his first three years in office.

When asked about it on Monday, Albanese said: “I said at the time that I couldn’t imagine a situation where we changed our head of state to an Australian head of state but still didn’t recognize First Nations People in our constitution and in our constitution. The fact that we live with the oldest continuous culture on Earth. So and this period are our priorities.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attends the announcement of King Charles III in the courtyard of Parliament House on September 11, 2022 in Canberra, Australia.

Voiced ‘no’

Changing the constitution requires a majority of Australians across the country, as well as a majority in most states, to vote yes in a referendum, a notoriously difficult task. Federation since 1901 only eight of the 44 proposed constitutional amendments Approved.

The last rejection came in 1999 when the country’s citizens were asked whether they wanted to replace the queen and governor-general with a president.

At the time, the campaign focused on cutting ties with the archaic monarchy and moving forward as a brave new multicultural nation intent on forging its own path. Although Australians were asked a second question to approve a new preamble to the constitution honoring First Nations people in their own right, indigenous issues were not on the agenda. “Kinship ties with their lands.“This also failed, with Aboriginal elders of the day complaining that they had not been consulted on the wording.
Aboriginal land rights protest in Spring Street, Melbourne, 1971.

This was not a surprise. Indigenous people have long complained that their voices have not been heard by successive governments, so much so that in 1999 Yawuru man Peter Yu, now vice-president of First Nations at the Australian National University (ANU), sought advice from an Indigenous elder. deliver their messages to the Queen.

“One very elderly senior leader said, ‘You better go and see that old lady overseas … because they call her the wrong name here,'” Yu recalled. Yu told CNN that the old man meant that Aboriginal people only heard the Queen’s name when they were imprisoned. “They felt that given the public’s respect for the Queen, her name was being tarnished and her reputation was being tarnished and so they had to go and explain the situation,” he said.

So they did.

Yu and a delegation met with Queen Elizabeth for about 30 minutes at Buckingham Palace and received a warmer welcome from the monarch than from the British or Australian government, he said.

Today, Yu says, opinions about the Queen are mixed in Australia’s Indigenous community – as in most communities.

“There are strong emotions,” he said. “And we continue to suffer the full force of the consequences of colonialism. But do we hold it personally responsible? I don’t,” he said. “It’s the Australian government that I hold responsible for… governments that are willfully neglecting their own concerns. That’s what I’m angry about.”

Queen Elizabeth II watches an Aboriginal cultural performance near Cairns, March 2002.

Vote for Parliament

By the end of his first term, Albanese has promised to hold a referendum on a parliamentary vote – a body enshrined in the constitution that would give indigenous people a say in laws that affect them for the first time.

John Warhurst, emeritus professor of political science at ANU and former chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, says a referendum on the parliamentary vote is “certainly the first priority” for the republic.

“You won’t argue about that among Republicans,” he added.

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II looks down from the sails of the Australian Opera House, September 9, 2022.

Warhurst said the Voice of Parliament is important for a number of reasons. “It’s a line in the sand about Australia’s colonial past. It’s a line in the sand about race relations in Australia … and I think the international message will also be shocking if we don’t pass this referendum.”

However, not all local people support this concept.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ngarluma, Kariyarra and Meriam woman Telona Pitt is the administrator of the 11,000-member No to Constitutional Change Facebook group.

He believes not enough indigenous people were given a voice in the drafting of the document that led to plans to put it to a vote in parliament. And he said the government was already aware of local problems but was not doing enough to address them, and that would not change with a referendum on Parliament’s vote.

“All it will do is disempower Aboriginal people and embolden Parliament against us,” he said.

Protesters "Invasion Day"  Rally in Sydney on January 26, 2022.

Pitt says a local referendum should be held to see who supports the change before any questions are put to the wider public.

Warhurst says approval of Parliament’s Vote would make it easier to pass more constitutional changes, but on the other hand, rejecting it could mean a longer road to the republic.

He said Australia could be ready to consider life after the monarchy after the vote in Parliament.

It may not happen for another five to 10 years, but because Australia is not where it was in 1999, campaigning on the issue needs to start “from scratch” early on, he said.

Potentially, by then it may be easier to convince Australians that it’s time for a republic, as nostalgia for a lifetime under the Queen will be passed on to older generations who have grown up with closer ties to the British monarchy.

“The presence of Queen Elizabeth has been effective for some in sticking to the status quo,” Warhurst said. “So now I think we’ve moved on to a new King, some of the reluctance in Australian society has gone.”

However, ANU’s Yu said the issue of Australia’s indigenous people must be resolved before any talk of a republic.

“How can you have a republic without dealing with First Nations?” – he asked. “To me, that’s nonsense. He has no integrity. He has no sense of morality and spirit.”

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