CommentOpinion

Congratulations, but it’s time we celebrated one of our own

Did you miss it? One of the biggest events on the royal calendar just passed us by. If you happened to blink during the nightly news on February 6 you may not have seen that Australia’s head of state – the Queen of England – just celebrated 65 years on the throne. That makes her Britain’s longest reigning monarch. Ever.

Why did this remarkable occasion almost pass by unnoticed in Australia? Perhaps because, for the most part, the Australian public has moved on from the idea that the English monarchy maintains its relevance to everyday Australians.

Her “65th Jubilee” stood in stark contrast to the Australia Day festivities a few weeks earlier – a day on which we came together as a nation to honour our best and brightest, our local heroes, and to reflect on who we are as a nation.

It was just over two years ago that former Prime Minister Tony Abbott united Australia on Australia Day – not in celebration of an honour awarded to a fellow Australian – but in rebuke of an Australian knighthood awarded to Prince Phillip.

As the backlash against the knighting of Prince Phillip showed, Australians certainly regard ourselves as being worthy of receiving the nation’s top honours. No Australian honour, including the honour of becoming our head of state, should be off-limits to Australians.

Every day that we retain the monarch of a foreign country as our head of state we deny ourselves that honour.

Our head of state should be someone who embodies the dreams and aspirations of Australians, someone who is proud to be an Australian and who can go into bat for us every day and all the time.

Our head of state should be someone we can proudly call one of our own, a hero of our own making, held up as a uniting symbol of the best attributes of what it means to be an Australian – an example for us all and for generations to come.

You may have met these kinds of local heroes in your community. They might be a family member, friend or neighbour. We see that proud Australian spirit in our community volunteers, in our carers and in our local sporting teams. We see it right across the country – millions of Aussies working hard to make their community even better.

Yet with the way things are, it doesn’t matter how hard they work, how much they do for their community or how much they represent the dreams of Australians, they’ll never be eligible to take up Australia’s top job. It’s the height of irony – our local heroes are blocked from being Australia’s head of state because they’re Australian.

However, we have good reason to be optimistic. The stars of our Southern Cross are aligning and all hinting that the honour of our country’s top job could go to one of our own soon.

Australians are now consistently backing the call for an Australian head of state. A majority of federal parliamentarians are doing the same, with a majority of both houses now backing the change. The federal leaders of all three main parties – Liberal, Labor and Greens – all support Australia having one of its own as head of state, as does every state premier and both territory chief ministers. The Australian Republic Movement is leading a resurgent grassroots campaign that’s picking up momentum.

So what’s holding Australians back from taking the top job for themselves?

Well, in short, nothing.

The Queen of England has always said it’s up to Australians, at a time of their choosing to stand up on our own two feet and put one of our own in the role. There’s no hard feelings towards the Queen – she’s served admirably – but as she begins to hand over her regal duties to successors like Prince Charles, it’s also time that we step up to take on those roles for ourselves.

There’s nothing radical about it – this is simply the natural, steady evolution of a nation whose time has come.

We’d stay a member of the Commonwealth and keep winning gold medals at the Commonwealth Games (almost two-thirds of Commonwealth nations have already become republics with their own heads of state) – but we’d be able to play our own national anthem rather than England’s for our head of state. Our head of state would even barrack for our teams!

Our economy would keep growing and we’d have a newfound respect from countries in our region. Our Constitution – the document that sets the ground rules for our nation – would be 100 per-cent Aussie, independent of other countries and solely in the hands of the Australian people. We’d have a head of state who can be as diverse as we are, and who sticks up for a fair go for every Australian.

Our head of state could even be a local Sydney-sider from Alexandria, Woolloomooloo or your suburb rather than from London! There’s nothing holding us back.

So if you think our local heroes are worthy of the nation’s highest honours, there’s no better time to get involved. It’s time to back them and Australians for the top job.

 

Sandy Biar is the National Campaign Director of the Australian Republic Movement. Want to get involved? Find out more at republic.org.au.

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