Bill Shorten has raised the issue of a republic once again when he released his plan at the Australian Republican Movement gala dinner on Saturday night to put the question to the public. The predictable knuckle-dragging has ensued due to the shortsighted who continue to see value in pledging allegiance to a foreign head of state.
In fact, there is a group that continues to lobby for the status quo, and within the charter of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy it says: “The Australian Constitutional Monarchy provides an excellent balance between politicians representing the wishes of the majority and the monarch protecting the interests of all Australians.”
This of course is the issue I have – who are all Australians who are supposedly being protected by the monarchy? Because it certainly is not any of the minorities being maligned by the governmental policies that are being exacted to maintain the status quo of oppression.
Australia is the lucky country for the privileged white majority. Australia is quite the opposite for minorities. Australia is a particularly painful and brutal country for Indigenous people.
Indigenous people live the reality that this land was stolen and all means of thriving on it went along with it, replaced by a system of capitalism in which the privileged profited from not only your land but the slave labour you provided to build the infrastructure. Indigenous people continue to be relegated as having a special place in history instead of being considered an intrinsic part of this country, its future and prosperity.
Indigenous people are being disproportionately targeted by a justice system that is punitive in nature for Indigenous people. The community lives in fear of the potential for a fatality every time a family member goes away as we have far too many lives lost this way despite royal commissions that are never properly implemented.
Any yet, this is the country people want to retain. Because the Queen protects us.
I don’t want a republic for monetary reasons like so many who argue for a republic. I want it for human rights reasons and as a door to entrenching mechanisms to ensure our human rights, our sovereignty and our right to self-determine.
The crown is never going to acknowledge and commence a process of reparations for 230 years of occupation, not to mention the brutality occasioned upon Indigenous people since occupation commenced.
The new head of state under a newly formed republic would lose no face by confessing to the atrocities of the “old regime” and entering into a new relationship with Indigenous people – one of self-determination, respect, pride of survival and rights over land.
Entering treaties and negotiating a model of self-determination for Indigenous people would be the first meaningful step in Australian history that was not symbolism for symbolism’s sake. Yes, I know, we have had the apology, but “sorry” generally means you won’t do it again, and despite his apparent regret at historical atrocities, Kevin Rudd had no qualms at not only supporting, but continuing and expanding the intervention in the Northern Territory which has led to the highest rate of Aboriginal child removals since the stolen generation of which he was so repentant.
Forgive me if I don’t hold Sorry Day in the high esteem for which the government intended, but with 230 years of broken promises from both sides of the political spectrum, patchy policies predicated upon the two political parties, either undermining one another or playing to the masses of ignorant middle-class Australians, and Indigenous people having laws made that directly affect them without any consultation – words and symbolism simply do not cut it anymore.
My people need action, my people need assurances protected in legally binding covenants with real and meaningful consequences for the breach of its terms. We know the “crown” won’t give that to us because, ultimately, a crime was committed under British law and the damages would not only affect Australia, but hit the British also. Let’s be honest – they cannot afford this and they certainly have no palate for it given their current xenophobic policies.
An Australian republic would be an opportunity to create our own independent system of government that is a means of representation for ALL Australians, not just those privileged enough to work what is now a patriarchal system of whiteness.
A republic, together with treaties for Indigenous self-determination, will be the critical turning point in creating a positive national identity. The republic and treaty campaigns are aligned in many respects but our goal on one overarching theme is simply that we want to have a country we can be proud of – one where we are moving in the same direction – together.
Those opposed to a republic I ask: Why are you against it, and if you are so content with the current system – why?
Is it perhaps because you are in a position of privilege under the current regime and do not wish to have to make accommodations for those that aren’t privileged? Fearful that the oppressed will have a voice and be in a position to effect change? Fearful that Indigenous people will have treaties that ensure you cannot continue to profit from their oppression and theft of land?
Indigenous people have been circulating the plans for a better Australia within the grassroots treaty movement which enunciates the principles of self-determination, culture, land and language, and this can be achieved alongside a transition to a republic. The pursuit of a republic and treaty and the principles within them is what will be the defining cultural shift in this country to finally overcome an abhorrent history and have a legacy to be proud of.
Those arguing for the maintenance of the status quo are arguing for economics above human rights. Enough.
This article was first published on August 1 by Guardian Australia as part of their ongoing collaboration with IndigenousX