Nov 27

Can't Shake the British Royals Yet

Today came news of Prince Harry's engagement. By midnight, it made up the top three stories on ABC online. The next day, regular prime-time programming on the ABC was disrupted to show the live BBC interview. Hearing Harry describe Meghan Markle, three years older than he is, as "this girl" and "not moving in his circles" set the tone. But what really caught our attention was his statement that they intend to spend their time "running around the Commonwealth" (doing good works) as if it is their personal playpen. We can do without that patronising and colonial attitude thank you very much especially if it's at the expense of Australian taxpayers. However, we remember what happened  the last time an American divorcee darkened the halls of the British palaces so this may present another unforeseen republican opportunity. Who knows? Click on link for a view from the UK Independent ["Sorry if I don't shed a tear for Meghan Markle having to quit her job on Suits to marry Prince Harry" by Grace Dent, Independent online, 27 November 2017]. We are also reminded that as fifth in line to the throne, Harry still needed our Head of State's permission to marry even after the legislative changes made to the succession by the UK, to which Australia had to agree, in 2015.

More info >

Nov 21

#BEAT ENGLAND is a good mantra

At the end of the successful defence of the women's Ashes cricket against England - and on the eve of the start to the men's Ashes series - WfaAR sees very good use for this season's slogan #BEATENGLAND in the Republic campaign. Cricket isn't the only arena to benefit from these words to be found boldly on the front of many T-shirts this summer - good stuff!

Nov 18

20th Century Australian Design Defines Our Identity

Designer, Mary Featherston speaking at the National Portrait Gallery during the Canberra Design Festival, shows how the great Australian architects and designers of the 20th century created house designs and furniture that were innovative and uniquely adapted to our climate, lifestyle, availability of resources and incomes. It is little wonder that this sense of "Australianness" that found its way into our daily lives culminating in the Republic referendum in 1999 before being obliterated by globalism. She also reminded us of the great extent to which these well known trends and patterns found their way into many Australian homes, offices, schools and designs for the Australian pavilions at successive Expos. Grant and Mary Featherston were also invited to conceive the original interiors for the National Gallery of Victoria designed by noted British architect, Roy Grounds. For more information, click on the link below.

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Nov 15

Same Sex Marriage Voluntary Vote: Women's Participation

The results of the same sex marriage survey announced today show a remarkable pattern of women's voting throughout the country. In every electorate, even the 17 majority NO electorates, women voluntarily voted at a significantly higher percentage than men, generally four to six percent higher. This shows a high level of engagement by women in civil society that helped to carry the YES vote to majority. Even more significantly, it shows a very high female participation rate on a social issue, often over 80 percent, compared with women's support for a Republic generally running about 10 percent lower than that of men at around 35 to 40 percent. Women are not in favour of a Republic because they are disengaged from politics or don't understand the question or its implications but, much more likely, because they don't agree with the proposition. Republicans will need to get to the bottom of this in order to boost women's acceptance of changing our system of government.

Nov 2

The Republic and the Politics of Hope

Dr Benjamin T Jones of the ANU talks about citizens at the heart of the polis, empowered to participate and seeking the honour of the nation (rather than self-honour) in describing a model drawn from the "Hellenic Hills" as the desired template for an Australian Republic. He reminded us that the oath at Eureka was "we" not "I" and that the current flag equals 'dominion' and the current Constitution and preamble 'possession' ie words and symbols do matter. He foresees the Australian Republic as an essential equality of citizens; using social wealth to create the nation; welfare and philanthropy as "service". He referred to the letters of Adelaide Ironside, our first publicly known female republican - look right - and consort of Daniel Henry Deniehy who had a unique take on Australia as a republican meritocracy. This was a repeat of the Deniehy Oration given in Goulburn on 28 October. Ben's new book, "This time: Australia's republican past and future" will be released on 24 January 2018. 

Oct 27

Catalan Vote has Momentum

At least the failed Catalan vote for independence showed some resolve as citizens were able to rally around a clear, planned and targetted cause with strong parliamentary support.  As one woman commented, "at least they had the energy to try" which says something about Australia's on-again, off-again Republic that simmers just below the permafrost most of the time but without passion.

Oct 25

Women's Business Too: ARM Women's Network in Canberra

The first ARM ACT Women's Network event was held in Canberra with about 15 attendees. Guest speaker was Professor Kim Rubenstein from the ANU. Kim talked about the need for an inclusive Constitution that was republican, multi-cultural and included our Indigenous peoples. She also expressed her enthusiasm for alternating gender for head of state as an expression of sharing power in the new Republic (this is also WfaAR's policy). Her remarks received a very positive response and a lively debate followed on what tactics might successfully engage women in the Republic.

Oct 24

Shadow Minister for Republic

As part of a front bench reshuffle, the ALP announces a new Parliamentary Secretary (junior Minister) for the Republic. The title, added to existing shadow Parliamentary Secretary Matt Thistlethwaite's role as Assistant Treasurer, a bit of a mouthful but intended not to scare the horses is: "Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for an Australian Head of State." This is the first time that there has been a Minister or shadow Minister with this specific responsibility in any party. Thistlethwaite has been a consistent and prominent republic supporter in the parliamentary Labor party even though member for an electorate with solid Labor leanings in eastern Sydney. This is a good move but much better would be a 'Minister for the Republic' of a party in Government. Having this shadow role does not guarantee that it would continue if the ALP wins a future election. For more details about what the shadow role is to involve click on the link below. ["Major step in push for Australian Republic: Labor appoints a 'Shadow Assistant Minister for an Australian Head of State" by Claire Bickers, news.com.au, 24 October 2017]

More info >

Oct 17

Queen's Involvement in 1975 Influences Women's YES Vote?

If this letter to The SMH is anything to go by, women may be favourably influenced in favour of a Republic following "volcanic" revelations of the Queen's involvement in the 1975 sacking of the federal Labor Government. The evidence is apparently contained in Professor Jenny Hocking's new book published on 18 October 2017 and was reported on in our News Update for 16 June 2017 - see below. To read the letter, click on link

Download: Letter to SMH [6KB, pdf]

Oct 10

Irish President's Visit to Australia

The directly elected President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, is making an official visit to Australia and New Zealand from 7 to 24 October.  He undertook many official events but they received little publicity, perhaps deliberately so given the close comparison that can be made between the Irish Republic and Australia, both former British dominions. Eire became a republic in 1937 after rewriting its Constitution and putting a short five-clause bill through its Parliament to declare itself a republic (following many years of bloodshed of course). We have linked the President's speech given to the Parliament of WA on 10 October below, a speech that charts this history of prominent Irish emigrants (90,000 Irish born people in todays Australia with 2.4m descendants since 1788) to Australia and their descendants although we did notice that Daniel Henry Deniehy is not mentioned. The President was in Canberra from 15 to 17 October, meeting with both the PM and the Governor-General, our Head of State's representative. We notice that he slipped in time for a quick photo-op with Peter Fitzsimons, Chair of the Australian Republic Movement, at Parliament House but that was about it for republican activities on this visit.

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Oct 6

The Republican Virago: Views Transported?

An ANU seminar on "Books that Changed the World" opens up the delicious possibility that the opinions of a controversial English historian, the first female English historian - and republican - were carried to our shores at the time of white settlement. Catharine Macaulay (1731-91) argued strongly against the monarchy as the basis of inequality in her eight volume "The History of England" published between 1763 and 1783, well before the First Fleet sailed for Botany Bay. Although critical of Oliver Cromwell, she considered the Commonwealth of England "the brightest age that ever adorned the page of history". As a moralist grounded in Christianity, she believed that "only a virtuous people could create a republic". She described self-interest "as the worst fault a king or politician was capable of" if their devotion to politics was vested in personal gain rather than the advancement of liberty. More information about Catherine Macaulay is included on the link below. A new book about her by philosopher, Associate Professor Karen Green from the University of Melbourne, is in preparation.

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Oct 2

Another Possibility: An Elected Monarchy

To add to the complexity and plethora of options for the Australia's post constitutional monarchy governance arrangements, the film "The King's Choice" reminds us that it is possible to have an elected monarchy and it's less uncommon than one might think. This particular elected monarchy was that chosen by the Norweigan parliament on behalf of the people in 1905 when the country claimed its independence from Sweden and selected a Danish prince to become its King. His descendants, now up to the third male monarch, have reigned over Norway ever since. More information about elected monarchies can be found by clicking the link below.

More info >

Oct 1

Women Strongly Support YES in Marriage Survey

Polling shows that women not only were the majority of new enrolments on the electoral roll ahead of the same sex marriage vote but are also strong supporters of the proposition, significantly ahead of men's support, 64 percent to 52 percent. In some age groups eg 25-44, women's support is around 75 percent. This is of keen interest to republicans who deduce from this data that women's support for legal (and constitutional) change is issue specific. Women's support for the Republic has been consistently 10 percent lower than men's support, around 36 to 40 percent, since the referendum in 1999.

More info >

Sep 29

Narrative of a Nation in "Leadership Houses"

WfaAR attends a symposium "Narratives of Nations" held by The Australiana Fund and The White House Historical Association at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. This fascinating afternoon with guest speaker, Dr Curtis Sandberg, Director of the David M Rubenstein National Centre for White House History and Senior Vice President of Educational Resources of The White House Historical Association led WfaAR to deeply ponder the significance of the symbolism and history embedded in The White House that is without parallel in Australia. We have more "leadership residences", four in all, but they are invisible to the population and not endowed with the same mystical qualities of deeply held nationalism and historical intrigue as the American White House is, not to date anyway. Of further interest was the information imparted about the practical education programs run by The White House Historical Association, principally directed at teachers, to incorporate White House themes and references in their lesson plans across all curriculum subjects. 

Sep 22

Rethinking "We the People"

A challenging piece appears on the PBS Newshour website (US public broadcasting, privately funded) about the fundamentals of the US Constitution in hindsight and in the hands of artists and interpreters.  We also need to get to grips with what "we the people" implies and what a new Australian Constitution might contain. The first steps in this process are happening now with the protracted, difficult and controversial progress to recognise our First Peoples in the Constitution. Click on link below. ["These provocative posters will make you think differently about 'We the People'" by Elizabeth Flock, PBS Newshour online, 22 September 2017]

More info >

Sep 21

Vale Evelyn Scott

Indigenous activist, Evelyn Scott dies. Her distinguished career and profile as an educator and social justice campaigner for equal rights made her a candidate at the top of WfaAR's list for Head of State in any Australian Republic. Dr Scott was a unfailing proponent of Indigenous rights, a pioneering administrator for Indigenous self-determination, protector of the Great Barrier Reef and, later, Chair of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation 1997-2000. She was also closely associated with the successful 1967 referendum. WfaAR recalls sitting next to her, in her trade mark black hat, during one session at the 1997 Reconciliation Convention in Melbourne. ["Dr Evelyn Scott, Indigenous rights activist and 'trailblazer' dies aged 81" by Miriam Corowa and Kirsty Nancarrow, ABC online, 21 September 2017]

More info >

Sep 13

Pauline Hanson on the Republic 2017

During the Senate debate on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017, we hear Pauline Hanson's latest views on the Republic, "The ABC receives over $1 billion a year from the Australian taxpayer. We are not all left-wing bleeding hearts wanting to open our borders to illegals and refugees. We are not all supporters of gay marriage. We are not all supporters of corrupt unions and socialist agendas. We are not all supporters of becoming a republic. And we are definitely not all supporters of destroying our Australian identity, culture and way of life to continue the push for multiculturalism and forever saying sorry." (direct quote from Senate Hansard). Pleased to see that PHON has republicans bracketed with progressive politics and causes. WfaAR notes that in the lead up to the 1999 referendum, Ms Hanson was ambivalent about a Republic saying it wouldn't do much to change ordinary people's lives and there were higher priorities. 

Sep 10

Still Defying Empire

This thought-provoking exhibition closes at the National Gallery of Australia, alas (see also News Item of 26 May 2017). WfaAR was struck by the intensely political nature of a significant number of  the works chosen for this third National Indigenous Art Triennial, all extensively researched, all reinterpreting the actions and attitudes of white settlers in our country over 229 short years. For republicans, the standout works were those of Reko Rennie, the "retouched" Rolls Royce burning doughnuts in the red dirt of his country (a whooping and hollering moment of victory and delight if ever there was one; was that filmed from a drone?) and the simply stunning Royal Flag 2013 (click on link) now in the NGA collection. Then the deeply moving works by Judy Watson and Julie Gough on the so-many, far-too-many massacres and exterminations. The latter's evocative filming of the bush in Tasmania sobbed and screamed out of the screen. Again, WfaAR says: Why are only our First Peoples required to defy empire?

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Sep 8

Republicans On Notice

Commenting on the High Court's consideration of the national, non-compulsory survey of attitudes to same-sex marriage, David Marr reminds us - and it's rare for us to quote male writers on this site - how difficult it is to change of the status quo in this country. Republicans take note and be warned. It isn't going to be any easier a second time:

Sep 6

Indigenous Demands to be Sent to Head of State in England

Clinton Pryor walked nearly 6000km from Western Australia to Canberra. Upon arrival, he requested "sovereign to sovereign" meetings with the Governor-General and Prime Minister. He eventually got to meet with the G-G, PM and Opposition leader but all were held on their territory at Parliament House or Yarralumla, the G-G's official residence. Not one ventured down the Aboriginal Tent Embassy where Mr Pryor was staying. At Yarralumla, he handed over a list of demands from elders to be sent to England, ie to our Head of State, in order to get some action on pressing problems afflicting our First Peoples. Check out this report and pictures from NITV. WfaAR hopes that more comes of this than previous letters sent by Indigenous leaders to the Australian monarch in England. Letters to the Queen promptly end up back on the G-G's desk in Canberra - as a result of which they are never heard of again.

More info >

Sep 2

Republic Aspect of Same-Sex Marriage Survey

Fairfax journalist Aubrey Perry makes a pertinent point in this article (click on link): Australia cannot be a secular state - as it must be given its origins and status as a modern, progressive, multi-ethnic democracy - as long as its Head of State is also Head of the Church of England. ["This survey is about much more than same-sex marriage" by Aubrey Perry, Fairfax online, 2 September 2017]

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Aug 29

The Difference Between Surveys, Plebiscites and Referendums

Confused by non-binding, voluntary, postal surveys, for example, the one on same-sex marriage? Here's a useful backgrounder from the RMIT/ABC Factchecker with interesting historical data especially about the voluntary postal vote to elect delegates to the Constitutional Convention on the Republic held in late 1997. Click on the link below.

More info >

Aug 17

ACT Lining Up for Republic Day National Holiday

The ACT will have a new public holiday in 2018 for Reconciliation Day. Greens member of the Legislative Assembly, Caroline Le Couteur, welcomed the new day-off but also called on the Assembly to change the date of Australia Day as it marked a day of colonisation and detriment to our First Peoples. The responsible Minister, Rachel Stephen-Smith, had told the Assembly in February "How about we pick a date that suits us all for a national celebration, move Australia Day to that date and then make sure we become a republic on that date?". WfaAR couldn't agree more and nominates 1 September, National Wattle Day for our republic holiday and new national day. ["This year will be the last Family and Community Public Holiday" by Katie Burgess, The Canberra Times online, 17 August 2017]

Aug 16

ARM Founding Member at Democracy 100 Dinner

One of the founding members of the Australian Republican Movement, Geraldine Doogue, was invited to attend the Democracy 100 event at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra. MOAD co-hosted the event with the Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra. In 2016 and 2017, these organisations conducted quantitative and qualitative surveys on the relationship between trust in the political system and attitudes towards democracy in Australia. Both of these topics are key issues for the implementation of an Australian Republic and any votes that are conducted, be they plebiscites or referendums. Read Geraldine's report on the after-dinner entertainment featuring a new democracy game. She was one of the four female founding members of ARM in 1991 (of a total of 14), the others were Franca Arena, Faith Bandler and Jenny Kee.["Democracy in 2017 needs fewer stunts and swords, more genuine discussion" by Geraldine Doogue, ABC online, 25 August 2017]

More info >

Jul 22

Visiting the President of Ireland

This day found WfaAR at Aras an Uachtarain, known locally as "the Aras" - the residence of the President of Ireland. The house and the formal gardens with trees planted by Queen Victoria and other British royal visitors, are open to the public every Saturday for six guided tours on a first come first serve basis (and they are very popular). The tours cover the formal state and reception rooms on the ground floor as well as an unrestricted gawk into the President's working study. Formerly the residence of the Viceroy, the representative of the British monarch in Ireland, and later the Governor-General, the role of the grand house changed after the passing of the 1937 constitution which established Ireland as a republic. Intended for demolition, it was the temporary residence for the first President, Douglas Hyde, before being restored and extended as the permanent presidential residence. It was opened to the public in 1998. Most remarkable are the brightly coloured and almost casual portraits of the two female Presidents thus far, Mary Robinson 1990-1997 and Mary McAleese 1997-2011. This contrasts with our vice-regal residence at Yarralumla that is open to the public only on certain (few) days of the year and only associated with fund-raising or specific cultural events. WfaAR also noticed how crowded the galleries of Irish art were at the National Gallery of Ireland with keen attention being paid to works depicting the history of the Irish people. And the expression of sovereignty through the use of Gaelic as the first language on every sign and in every announcement.

Jul 18

Young Women's Thinking on the Republic

WfaAR conducts a workshop for the 2017 national conference of the Network of Women Students Australia (NOWSA) at the ANU in Canberra attended by 250 women from campuses across the country. Results from the voting exercise were that the young women attending favoured the Australian Head of State to have a title other than President (even a specially created name) and that the preferred selection method for our HoS is direct election.

Jul 5

First ARM Women's Strategy

ARM adopts its first national policy and strategy to attract more women to support the Republic. This long overdue development -  an issue that WfaAR has long urged ARM to address directly - was the result of lengthy deliberations within ARM. Women's support for the Republic has consistently run 10 to 15 percent lower than men's since 1999, varying between 36 and 40 percent in polls. Women's Networks will be set up in each State and Territory. By October 2017, the groups had been established in NSW, Tasmania and the ACT with work underway in Vic, WA and SA. The strategy has not been shared with other republican organisations.

Jun 16

Shining Light on Queen's Role in 1975 Dismissal

Monash University academic and Whitlam biographer, Professor Jenny Hocking is pursuing the release of letters from the Palace written at the time of The Dismissal. She says, "Pressure is building on the Prime Minister to intervene in the long-running dispute over the release of the ‘Palace letters’, the secret correspondence between the Queen and the Governor-General Sir John Kerr in the months before Kerr’s 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government. These letters are held by the National Archives in Canberra where they have been designated as ‘personal’ not official correspondence and embargoed ‘on the instructions’ of the Queen until at least 2027, with her private secretary retaining a final veto over their release even after that date. The reality is that we as Australians do not own our history while these historic letters, written at the height of our greatest constitutional crisis, remain hidden from us at the behest of the Queen." Food for thought.  Read more on the link below.

More info >

Jun 13

Queen's Birthday Activism

QB long weekend found WfaAR working at its usual routine while most people were taking a holiday. This led to musings about the small number of (very small) businesses - mostly - that don't observe our Head of State's birthday with a day off work. This would be useful to campaign on and see if from small beginnings, a momentum can be created. When the Republic is a reality, bringing everyone in the country together for a new start united and involving all, there will be a holiday to commemorate as there is now for Federation and Australia Day. We tried some kitchen-based tweeting including in ARM's direction but there was next to no interest in the proposal. But it's worth contemplating and also testing how much 'grief' people are prepared to endure to reach the objective. It would also be useful to know how many people knocked back Queen's Birthday honours - it should be a lot?

Jun 12

A Meditation on the 21st century Crown

For her birthday, Sydney University's Oliver Watt muses on the genius of our Head of State's development of the contemporary crown with stylish, tall hats. He writes, "The hat is an example par excellence of aristocratic excess, the equivalent of a peacock's tail in seducing the Queen's subjects." This is one for admirers of both symbolism and fashion. This article was followed shortly afterwards by a modernised - read 'stripped back' - opening of the UK Parliament where royal robes and a large, heavy crown were swapped for an attractive ensemble of EU blue with gloves, handbag and a striking hat. With Brexit looming, the symbolism was lost on no one. On this occasion, the crown was carried ahead of our monarch on a plump cushion. It had arrived at Westminster in its own car with its own security detail. See also link below ["Not Merely Costume: the Power and Seduction of the Queen's Hats" by Oliver Watts, The Conversation online, 12 June 2017]

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Jun 11

Puerto Rico Votes on Statehood

Results of vote (see News for 22 May): 97.18 percent of votes cast in favour of US statehood on a very low turnout of 22.99 percent. The non-binding referendum was the fifth vote in Puerto Rico's history since 1493 on becoming part of the USA. The vote in favour was significantly increased over the last one in 2012. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea. Its inhabitants are natural-born citizens of the US who may move freely between the island and the mainland but who do not have a vote in the US Congress and cannot vote for the President or Vice-President.

Jun 8

UK Closer to Republican Prime Minister?

The close result in the UK election reminds us that Britain could also have come close to having a republic supporting Prime Minister in Jeremy Corbyn. Not our Republic, their republic! This notion got a few people excited, notably Peter Fitzsimons, Chair of ARM who thought that a President of Great Britain would also be automatically the President of Australia. Sorry to disappoint Peter, even if Malcolm Turnbull reportedly once said this, but Britain becoming a republic does not remove, disband or deport its royal family who will undoubtedly remain to adorn the UK with sparklers and boost tourism at the President's pleasure. Under s1 of our Constitution, the Queen (Victoria), her heirs and successors remain at the apex of the Australian Government until such time as we remake ourselves as a Republic. That means that unless we do something about it, we get Charles, William, George, Charlotte etc in turn, even if Britain has already moved on to Republic status. And as Australians well know, having a Prime Minister with republican sentiments: Keating, Rudd, Gillard, Turnbull, hasn't gotten us any further towards the Australian Republic thus far.

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Jun 7

Fun and Games At Sydney's Admiralty House

Prince Harry launches the 2018 Invictus Games at Admiralty House in Sydney. An event that is being run by a not-for-profit charity into which the Australian and NSW Governments are tipping at least $7m, and probably much more, seems to have no problem getting its gig off the ground at the Governor-General's house, ie really his grandmother's place, on prime Sydney waterfront. Shame about the driving rain to spoil the view. But it didn't obscure the deep connections between the Governor-General - QEII's onshore representative - the military past and present; the federal and NSW Governments and various people on the Board connected with his father's charities. Nice work. For more info, inspect the website linked below.

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Jun 3

Reminder about Persistence in Federation Gallery

A stroll through the rarely open Federation Gallery at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra reminds WfaAR how long it took to negotiate and draft the first Australian federal Constitution. Starting in 1890, it was considered by several constitutional conventions, the earliest ones also involving New Zealand, then expected to become the seventh State of Australasia. For three years, nothing happened at all due to adverse economic conditions. The first time that the Constitution bill was put to (male) voters in NSW, it failed. But the drafters persisted under the guidance of some fine, passionate political leaders.  We should too but are in need of gifted, future-oriented politicians to get us over the line. No sign of any at present.

Jun 2

It's Our Republic - WfaAR in print again

WfaAR National Convenor writes to The Canberra Times in response to a letter from Australian Monarchist League denying the link between the republic and reconciliation, a striking juxtaposition given the timing of the release of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We make it clear that it is our republic and that the people will decide the timing and how it will be done. What our Head of State thinks about reconciliation and republic and the time of her death are all irrelevant. Read full text of our letter here - click on link below

Download: WfaAR Letter to The Canberra Times [58KB, pdf]

Jun 1

Brilliant Eye on a Fake Flag

Headlining NGV's "Every Brilliant Eye: Australian Art of the 1990s" from 2 June to 1 October is the 1994 work "Fake Flag" by Greek Australian artist, Constanze Zikos. In this work, the Union Jack bedecked Australian flag is given a new twist with stunning design and colourist effects. NGV describes the exhibition as "exploring a dynamic decade in Australian art characterised by dynamic change....engaging with pressing social issues including gender politics, Indigenous identity and globalism". 1994 was around the time that the major push for an Australian republic was starting to gather a head of steam culminating in Republic referendum in 1999. See "Fake Flag" below from the NGV's collection. You can google other versions of Constanze's fake flags.

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May 27

Call for Republic instead of Indigenous Constitutional Recognition

East Arnhem Land leaders call for Australia to become a Republic. They claim that removing the Queen would be more meaningful to Indigenous people than constitutional recognition and call for significant - not symbolic - new change to Australia's system of government to better empower the nation's First Peoples. This is a good development and WfaAR hopes to see more of it from Indigenous leaders in both the NT and elsewhere. Read the article on link below for more information. ["NT indigenous leaders call for Australia to be republic as country marks 50th anniversary of 1967 referendum" by Matt Garrick, NT News online 27 May 2017]

More info >

May 26

Defying Empire

The 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial opens at the National Gallery of Australia and runs until 10 September with the theme "Defying Empire". The exhibition contains works by 30 contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across the country who defy stereotypes, colonisation, definitions and untold stories. Exhibition curator Tina Baum weaves the narrative around the 1967 Referendum that counted our First Nations people in the Census for the first time and explores the resilience of our Indigenous artists from first contact with the British Empire to the long fight to achieve the 1967 referendum result to today's continuing activism.  WfaAR is intrigued that 'defying Empire' seems to be an activity assigned to our Indigenous peoples without any suggestion that it should be practised by the entire Australian population regardless of origins. We cannot help but compare this show with the recent "Artist and Empire" exhibition at the National Gallery of Singapore (see News for 14 February 2017) that pointedly inferred that a declaration of sovereignty by a nation of people includes all citizens, not just First Nations peoples.

More info >

May 26

Indigenous Activists and Artists

The evening of Sorry Day found WfaAR at the National Gallery of Australia for an engrossing evening of  Indigenous speakers: Aboriginal Black Power activist from the 1960s and 70s turned academic, Dr Gary Foley now at Victoria University in Melbourne; historical artist and mapmaker Judy Watson and young artist Amanda Hayman, both from Brisbane. All three are at the forefront of interpreting and re-interpreting the Indigenous history of struggle and repression in their own land. The artists spoke about their works currently showing in the Defying Empire exhibition.

May 26

The Uluru Statement - A Profoundly Significant Constitutional Event

Using the elegant legal drafting of a preamble, delegates of our First Peoples attending a constitutional convention release The Uluru Statement from the Heart. It was read by Professor Megan Davis as the sun set at Uluru. It states the never-ceded sovereignty of the Indigenous Nations through their connection to the land, a spiritual notion. It calls for Makarrata (a Yolngu word) in order to negotiate a treaty and provide truth and reconciliation. It is the most significant constitutional document produced in Australia for years. Republicans should note that our First Peoples have thrown off their timidity and are making their demands of our Governments cleverly and forcefully. The statement should be compulsory reading for every Australian. This elected constitutional convention was the culmination of 12 regional dialogues that rejected constitutional recognition as a symbolic gesture unlikely to bring about significant change. To read the one-page statement click on the link below.

More info >

May 22

Puerto Rico Votes for Statehood or Independence

Puerto Ricans will go to the polls on 11 June to decide if their country will become a State of the United States. This is the fourth such poll (it's a plebiscite), the last one was in 2012 (80 percent turnout) but all the previous votes were considered inconclusive. The move could have significant financial benefits for the island but it would be up to the US Congress to decide if Puerto Rico is to become the 51st State (too bad Australia, you will have to shoot for 52nd).  There is, unsurprisingly, concern about the wording on the ballot paper. Currently, Puerto Ricans are US citizens but without voting rights. They have an observer only in the US Congress. If granted US statehood, Puerto Rico would be the poorest US State, twice as poor as the next poorest, Mississipi.

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May 18

Good Theme for Oz Republic

Soloist with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, cellist Umberto Clerici, an Australian-Italian who teaches at the Sydney Conservatorium discusses on ABC Canberra his reasons for basing himself in Sydney as a professional classical musician.  Australia, he explained is a place where you are free to innovate and experiment in a new world setting but with enough old world ties to respect, know and practise tradition. This sounds to WfaAR like a good theme for the coming Republic: " a new world with links to the old." For more information about Umberto Clerici, click on link below.

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May 9

Plebiscite Funding Back in Budget

Reinstated in todays 2017-18 funding announcement by the Federal Government is $170m to conduct a plebiscite on same-sex marriage - but only as a contingency, that is, a risk of unexpected expenditure, if for some reason, it came back onto the boil after being rejected by the Senate last year. WfaAR assesses this possibility as 99.95 percent unlikely but you never know. This funding was removed in the 2016-17 mid year Budget review resulting in a saving of $154m.

May 6

There's Always Diana

When the rest of the royal story might be about to fail, even on account of old age, there's always a reliable fallback in Diana. We note the uptick in media attention in the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of her death in August. Here is the latest one to appear, a slightly romantic reminisce on Diana's five visits to Australia. The journalist, Neil McMahon, fails to identify Oz shock at seeing live, people we usually only see overseas and/or on TV. We're simply not used to it and it's almost unbelievable. More pointed and analytical treatments of Australian visits as rites of passage for British heirs were written around the time of the first William and Kate visit in 2014 (see News of 4 April 2014). ["The Princess Diana Effect: Australia under her spell" by Neil McMahon, Fairfax Good Weekend online 6-7 May 2017]

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May 5

Flurry About Head of State's Health

Continuing the media's fixation with our head of state's health and longevity (see News Update of 1 January 2017), there is intense media speculation in Britain, picked up in the colonies, that a very big announcement was about to be made - the Queen was to hand over all of her duties to Charles; Phillip was dead (hurriedly retracted by one newspaper); British PM called to Buckingham Palace etc. All it was in the end - and not unexpected - was that Prince Phillip, Queen consort and Australian knight, was to effectively retire at the age of 96 "in the autumn" this year. As it's autumn here, WfaAR had to work out when that was: around September/October in the northern hemisphere. As reported on ABC online: "After the day's events, and a sleepless night for many in other parts of the world, the news brought on a sense of relief, sadness and even amusement at the global fuss, with one twitter user suggesting the Queen had just 'trolled the whole world'." In other non-news, the Queen and Prince Phillip were both reported to be in good health "on Wednesday" and in good health in the last few months. Prince Phillip carried out 184 official engagements in the year to March 2016.

May 3

Abbott for Governor-General??

Sydney columnist and Howard favourite Miranda Devine suggests in the Daily Telegraph that ex PM Tony Abbott should be appointed the next Governor-General. This is a totally unsuitable job for Abbott and would only give rise to slumbering but dangerously volatile sympathies not far below the surface of daily life to have a directly elected and Australian Head of State. Her fallback was that he should be appointed Minster for Defence but why should our first female Defence Minister, Marise Payne, make way for him?

Apr 27

Useful Advice from Classical Athens

The Athenians 500 to 400 BCE recognised that the way they did democracy had both limits and risks. In particular, they had come to realise that "expressive voting" - where there is only one vote held on a proposition - could and, sometimes, did result in the 'wrong' outcome. So they concluded that every vote should be held twice to enable the first result to be reviewed in the cooler light of day as hitherto unanticipated implications revealed themselves and that this would most likely produce better and more correct decisions (for example, Plato's despair over the Athenians' decision to kill his mentor Socrates)  How very relevant for recent referendums like Brexit ("I didn't think my vote would count and so voted NO") and for every other vote we can think of.  This conclusion strengthens WfaAR's opinion that any non-binding votes on the Republic should be held at least twice, 12 months apart, to more accurately gauge voters' views disassociated from an immediate, emotional response. We note women couldn't vote in Athens.

Apr 25

Without Republic, Anzac Day persists and redefines

An illuminating summary of the history of Anzac Day by Carolyn Holbrook from Deakin University. WfaAR comment: In the absence of a Republic, Anzac Day survives and is consistently redefined by all manner of politicians and causes because there is no other way we can reflect the current state of our country to ourselves as a wise head of state does and some Governor-Generals have managed to do - Quentin Bryce being a notable recent example - despite being the representative of the British monarch resident in Canberra.

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Apr 21

Latest Royal Gossip has Australian Connection

We're all agog. Is Prince Andrew really dating our Kylie? Of course, an Australian presence on the balcony and a real Aussie link to our first family are just what we need. This is more than enough evidence that we need a Republic, a royals free zone, and we need it now.  You can read more about this on the link below. We were further intrigued by the source: The Royals, an Australian gossip magazine. A little research brought us back to The Royals online site published by The Australian Women's Weekly but we couldn't find this gem among its current homepage headlines ["He should be so lucky: is Prince Andrew really dating Kylie?" by Marina Hyde, The Guardian Australia online, 21 April 2017]

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Apr 19

Being A Dame Decidedly Out of Fashion

Leigh Sales interviews Quentin Bryce, Governor-General 2008-2014, on 7.30 (ABC TV).  Neither in her introduction to the program, nor during the interview, did Sales once refer to the former G-G as "Dame Quentin", the title bestowed on her, as she neared the end of her term, by our Head of State in England on the recommendation of then Prime Minister Tony Abbott in his ill-fated attempt to reinstate Australian knighthoods. We know that Bryce herself declines to use the title - see News of 6 December 2014 and link below (last paras). Bryce was chatting about her new book, a collection of letters written to her while she was the Queen's representative, "Dear Quentin" - how Australian is that to refer to such an elevated public figure by her or his first name. WfaAR wonders what Marie Bashir is doing? ["Australia needs to 'get real' about domestic violence says Quentin Bryce" by Judith Ireland, Sydney Morning Herald online 6 December 2014]

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Apr 18

End of Second Scottish Indyref?

British PM Theresa May's sudden call for a general election on 8 June is widely reported to be the end of Nicola Sturgeon's attempt to force a second Scottish independence referendum that had already been rejected in London. Sturgeon had been about to announce a timetable for the vote but that was abruptly scrapped.  WfaAR will be watching that space as we couldn't help but notice the relish in the Daily Express' headline - nothing like the prospect of two prominent female politicians scratching each other's eyes out to engage the population and sell more papers. ["REVEALED: Theresa May called snap general election to 'DESTROY' Nicola Sturgeon" by Paul Baldwin, Daily Express online, 19 April 2017]

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Mar 30

Launch of Parliamentary Friends for an Australian Head of State

The Parliamentary Friends for an Australian Head of State group, first announced by the ARM in August 2015 (see News 28 August 2015) finally had its first gathering over a cup of tea. Co-convenors are Senator Katy Gallagher (Labor ACT) and Jason Falinski (Liberal NSW, Member for Mackellar), both strong supporters. Katy Gallagher gave the 2014 National Republican Lecture (see News 13 June 2014 for link) while Jason Falinski, a 'young' Liberal from local government, has also been the ARM Convenor in NSW. WfaAR understands major party leaders including Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and Richard di Natale are signed up. Guest speaker for the first session was Peter Fitzsimons, Chair of ARM. Parliamentary Friendship Groups are formally recognised by the presiding officers and last for the life of the current parliament (the 45th). The official description of this group is: "a forum for Members and Senators to meet and interact with the Australian public on matters relating to transitioning our nation from a system of Constitutional Monarchy to a Republic." This group has 44 members (out of total of 226 in both Houses ),17 of whom are female federal politicians.

Mar 28

Second Independence Referendum for Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, succeeds in getting a 10-vote majority in the Scottish Parliament for her plan to hold a second independence referendum around March 2019 when Brexit takes effect. In a later interview with the BBC, the Scottish Secretary elaborates saying that the British Government would not agree that another referendum be held until the early 2020s.  More details in the link below ["Scottish Parliament votes for second independence referendum" by Severin Carrell, The Guardian online 29 March 2017]

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Mar 17

A Very Long Read: Our Head of State's Funeral and Solemn Ceremonies

The plan is lengthy, big on detail and protocol, scouted out by a journalist from The UK Guardian. It will see King Charles III proclaimed as monarch within 24 hours after his mother's death although still months from a coronation (Britain is only European country to still hold public coronations).  How do we view things like this from our republican vantage point given both our Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are confirmed republicans as mentioned in the article? These are the trappings of hereditary monarchy that we need to leave in the past along with the complicated protocols, the costs and arresting of the pulse of daily life in our country for an unspecified time. The mourning rituals we should definitely leave to the Brits. They should not cast shadows over our desire to be sleek, agile and modern nor delay our move to a  Republic. Click on link below to peruse the meticulous planning for QEII's demise. Of some interest is the fact that the Head of the Commonwealth, now predominantly made up of republics, does not automatically pass to the British monarch and will be contested this time around. Additionally, the article reveals that Julia Gillard was approached by the Queen's private secretary in February 2013, six months before she was removed as PM, lobbying to have Charles made Head of the Commonwealth. Gillard, as we know, was a soft touch when it came to matters regal but we trust things have hardened up in Canberra since then. ["Operation London Bridge: the secret plan for the days after the Queen's death" by Sam Knight, The UK Guardian online 17 March 2017]

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Mar 14

Scottish Plans for Second Independence Referendum

Scotland First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announces that she intends to hold a second independence referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 as Britain heads towards a tough exit from the EU due to be triggered this month. Recent opinion polls show support at around 50 percent for both sides. "Any pretence that the UK was a partnership of equal nations was now dead," Sturgeon said. The British Government has to agree that the referendum can be held. For more details click on the link below. ["Scottish Independence: Nicola Sturgeon fires starting gun on referendum", by Severin Carroll, The Guardian online 14 March 2017]. The next day, British PM, Theresa May rejected the call for a referendum before Brexit has been completed which implies a vote in 2021 at the earliest if the UK Government agrees at all.

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Mar 13

Another Post Brexit Independence Referendum?

They are coming thick and fast in the UK. With Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, already having placed her demand for a referendum in front of Theresa May, Sinn Fein leader, Michelle O'Neill has been plain about the desire of Northern Ireland to remain in the EU. More going on constitutionally in the mother country than there is here - and all being lead by women.

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Feb 17

Australia: Asia-Pacific Colonial Stand-out

A second visit to the Artist and Empire exhibition at the National Gallery of Singapore brings closer attention to the explanatory wall charts. One lists the 20th century history of the six main country groupings highlighted in the show, Australia being the only country that has a pre-dominance of Anglo-Celtic settlers and culture. Independence dates are listed for India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore and Brunei/North Borneo/Sarawak, the latter two now part of present day Malaysia. All of them are republics other than Malaysia and Brunei, both constitutional monarchies with their own hereditary kings. Our entry does not make for comfortable reading - settled by the British as a penal colony in 1788, gained federation 1 January 1901, now "Commonwealth of Australia with British monarch as head of state", thus the only country on this list to have retained its links with the British crown. This could have something to do with the fact that Australia is also the only country here not to have relied on the British for protection during WWII and left with overwhelming feelings of betrayal when that did not materialise. (New Zealand would be similarly positioned.)

Feb 14

Artists and Empire

WfaAR has been visiting the Republic of Singapore, full of vibrant energy compared with stodgy old Australia creaking at its wobbly Anglo-Celtic knees. We particularly noted the "Artist and Empire - (En)countering Colonial Legacies" exhibition at the new National Gallery, full of surprises and irony. One of them was how many works were loaned from our own National Gallery and that the headline work was part of a photomedia series by Australian artist of Bidjara heritage, Michael Cook, showing a man with a boomerang trudging through the sea shallows carrying a Union Jack on a flagpole over his shoulder and accompanied by a crocodile - wonderful stuff. It also features a saucy portrait of the Queen commissioned by the Chinese community of Singapore, painted in 1953 around the time of the coronation. Bursting out of her strapless bodice, the look on her face can only be described as 'come hither'. Nothing like the very serious, shrinking Queen depicted in our 1954 Wattle Portrait. The theme of the exhibition, however, is both obvious and thought-provoking in equal parts. One can only ask why it - or another version of the exhibition originally put together by Tate Britain and shown in London late last year - did not come further south. Very frustrating. Australians need to be confronted by their British colonial past in order to create a future and their Republic. Art is a good medium to do that. It looks like the closest we will get in in the short-term is the "Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial", marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, at the NGA in Canberra, 26 May to 10 September 2017.

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Jan 26

Australia Day.....again

Australia Day used to be an occasion on which there was much soul-searching about national identity and good for an airing about the Republic. This year, ARM launches a new branding as the "Australian Republic Movement" rather than the "Australian Republican Movement" no doubt to try and combat associations with the Republican now in the US White House. Along with this comes a new logo in traditional Republic(an) colours of green and gold featuring a rather phallic looking arrow, on a very low trajectory, hanging on to Tasmania for grim death. At least, the Southern Cross has been ditched. There was no suggestion that under this moniker, ARM has ditched its company structure behind the scenes or was attempting to act as an umbrella organisation for the various campaigning groups that make up the republic movement. ARM also launched a new TV ad that was overshadowed by the controversy over the 2017 Australia Day lamb ad, featuring a small group of Indigenous people having a barbeque on a deserted beach that filled with foreigners. It was meant to be funny and it was (and similar to what you would see on Black Comedy) but perhaps not so much for the First Peoples. To add to the noise, the "Change the Date" campaign seems to be taking off quickly and gaining acceptance in both theory and practice so no wonder the Republic didn't get much of a look-in this year, or is Anzac Day shifting to Australia Day?

Jan 20

Trump Problem for Women's Republic Support

Very unfortunate it is but the advent of Donald J Trump as the elected President of the United States of America - even though he didn't win the popular vote - is not going to do much for Australian women's support for our Republic. In fact, it will be a big negative. They will be watching him very closely to see how he behaves, how women react to him, what he does or does not do for women and how his republic works, even though it is vastly different from the one proposed for Australia in which the Head of State has a mainly ceremonial role and is not the head of government.

Jan 2

Dinner Speech Still Resonating

Commentators continue to write about the PM's appearance and speech at the ARM anniversary dinner nearly two weeks after the event. This time, Amanda Vanstone reports about being accosted at a Liberal Party branch meeting by a monarchist infuriated that the PM had even attended - strange, he is a very well known, if not the best known, republican in the country and did bankroll the Republic campaign in 1999. Amanda says she spoke up for Malcolm's right to join in - even if he heads a conservative government - and we add, that is full of republic supporters. Read the article below. ["How to argue with a narcissist" by Amanda Vanstone, Fairfax Media, 1 and 2 January 2017]

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Jan 1

Head of State Watch

The media has its eyes keenly trained on the Queen who turns 91 this year. There was extensive coverage of the her failure to attend a New Year church service due to a heavy cold with very regular reports about our head of state's health and prospects. This continued for several days until HM was deemed to have made a full recovery and returned to the New Year festivities at Sandringham.

Quick Info

For a brief but useful guide to republicanism in Australia, see the entry in Wikipedia

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Woman for an Australian Republic, Adelaide Ironside, republican poet and artist, 1831-1867

Self portrait 1855, Newcastle Region Art Gallery NSW

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Senate Inquiry

Report of Senate Inquiry into the Republic Plebiscite Bill released 15 June 2009

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