It’s not you it’s me: why we should ditch the royals
First, a confession: I love England. The Beatles and Radiohead are my two favourite bands, I daydream about watching Manchester United beat Liverpool at Old Trafford and I love washing down crumpets with a nice cup of tea as much as anyone.
However, in my role as the National Youth Convener of the Australian Republic Movement, I get to speak to a lot of young people about why Australia should become a republic and how our generation can make a big difference in making that goal a reality.
Unsurprisingly, most of the young people I speak to agree: it’s time for an Australian to be our head-of-state, not a foreign monarch who happened to be the first-born of the previous monarch.
Oh, and was lucky that a male sibling wasn’t born after her, because then he would have claimed the crown.
But it is a severe case of apathy – not a rush of uni students heading to Hoyts to see The Young Victoria – that is creating a shortfall in activity by the nation’s youth within the republican movement.
Despite the pro-republican hopes held by the majority of young Australians (a hope shared by the majority of Australians), a recent survey conducted by UMR Research throws up some interesting results in how Australians feel about becoming a republic, the chances of a successful referendum on a republic and when they feel the next referendum should take place.
One of the striking aspects of the report was the lack of optimism by people under 30 about the likelihood of a second referendum succeeding. While young people want a second bite at ditching the Royal Family, only 33 per cent believe a second referendum will get up.
Perhaps this is a primary reason why the support by young Australians for a republic is matched only by their level of apathy towards actively campaigning for one. The lack of involvement by Australia’s youth in the debate surrounding whether or not we become a republic is sad from a participatory point of view and concerning for those who are pro-republic activists.
To be fair, constitutional reform is not the sexiest of campaigns to entice young people to be a part of. When a typical uni student is more worried about finding time to study, hold down a part-time job and deciding where to head out on Thursday night, it is difficult to cut through with a message about plebiscites, referenda and the Australian constitution.
But engaging with young people and convincing them to not just support the idea of an Australian republic, but to get involved in making it happen, is one of the major challenges for the ARM. As we saw at the last federal election, young people were very effective at driving home the message on issues like climate change, workers’ rights and voluntary student unionism – and it helped change the government.
This is the kind of commitment the republican cause needs. Young Australians are the perfect group to hit the streets and set straight the republican message. An Australian republic isn’t about changing the flag, it isn’t about not competing at the Commonwealth Games and it isn’t because Queen Elizabeth II is a bad person. It’s about having an Australian as our head of state, and giving every Australian – no matter their parents, sex or colour – the opportunity to hold the highest position in the land.
We are a nation of migrants. Thankfully we have moved on from the shameful years of the White Australia policy, with people coming from all over the world to find sanctuary, share their knowledge and positively influence our culture with theirs.
As a relatively young country, it is important to recognise how far we’ve come as a multicultural society – particularly in accepting those from non-English backgrounds. When around half of our population are either first or second generation Australians, and many of our elected MPs are from non-English backgrounds, why should someone who doesn’t and cannot represent these values be our head of state?
It’d be a right royal shame if in 50 years, when I am a crinkly old man, Australia is still ruled from abroad. My generation has an opportunity to peacefully fight for something that young people from other countries have died for. I hope more in my age group are ready to join the cause.
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