The question of whether Australia should become a republic is a contentious one. It isn’t like we haven’t thought about it before: the Howard era saw Australia’s first referendum on whether the country should split from the crown in 1999. It didn’t pass, obviously, but that was 23 years ago. A lot has changed. For one, no Australian below the age of 40 voted back then.
Queen Liz’s role in this country dwindled down to little more than a figurehead position over her lifetime. Her affection for Australia, and older Australians’ affection for her, was seen largely as the sole motivator for keeping her as head of state. Malcolm Turnbull, famously a republican, once said Australians were more “Elizabethans'' than monarchists. And he was probably right. But now that her son who nobody seems to like is King, that archaic reverence for the Crown is sure to rapidly dissipate. Surely?
Does anyone under 40 even give a fuck about the crown? Does anyone understand the position of the monarchy in relation to Australia in 2022? Does anyone know how becoming a republic will affect our daily lives? Aren’t there more pressing issues at hand, like, I don’t know, maybe constitutional recognition and sovereignty for the First Nations people of this land that Elizabeth’s direct lineage brutally colonised? Maybe?
Sure, the British crown has barely anything to do with Australia these days. But that’s the point: Being a low-key monarchy has suited the royal family. They have held onto their colonies, their wealth, and their palaces, while remaining largely unnoticed and their existence rarely interrogated by their constituents. The concept of a crown is so blatantly insane in 2022, but because it rarely interferes with Australia’s politics, people are happy to keep them in power.
With Albanese saying “now is not the time for politics” – as if that isn’t his whole goddamn job – a plebiscite isn’t likely to be coming any time soon. But nonetheless, the Queen’s passing has ignited a vibrant Republic conversation online.
So VICE decided to take matters into our own hands, and ask you, the people, what you think. Should Australia boot the crown?
A Totally Unscientific Report on Whether Australians Care About the Queen
We conducted a straw poll on our Instagram Stories that – while clearly biased – is interesting. So do with this information what you will.
We asked followers a simple question: “Do you think Australia should cut ties with the crown?”
After 24 hours, 1,050 respondents voted “yes” (76%) while 303 voted no (22%).
Part two was a multiple choice question, answering: “What does the monarchy mean most to you?”
“Peace and stability” received 123 votes (9%) and “public service” received 176 votes (14%). “Theft” received 194 votes (15%), while the resounding majority (62%) voted for “centuries of colonial violence”.
Question of the Day
But journalists always dig deeper. We sent VICE reporter Julie Fenwick out to the streets of Sydney to hassle strangers for their opinions.
VICE: What did you think of the Queen’s passing?
Erin: I understand that a lot of people have seen her as a constant but I see her as a constant pain in my ass for the last few years. I’m kind of happy. I’m kind of nervous about the change in monarchy with Charles but I guess I was happy.
But why were you so happy?
Because I’m Indigenous and I’ve never really recognised her as my Queen, more someone who has stood in the way of making any meaningful change in Australia to help get anything back: land, kids, anything.
Would you want to see a separation of the Crown from Australia?
I mean the thing is, I don’t really see a lot of hope in an Australian republic anyway. I think it’ll just be some neo-liberal bullshit. I don’t really think it’ll change all that much, but ideally I don’t really believe in the parliamentary system or a monarchy.
AMANDA and TATIANA
VICE: What comes to mind when you think of the monarchy?
Tatiana: They need to go. Too much corruption.
Amanda: Yep, corruption.
So, how did you react to the Queen’s death?
Amanda: I don’t know about ‘happy’. I think I was a little bit like ‘oh’, just for the fact that she’s an old woman but her being the Queen, I don’t really care.
Tatiana: But I liked it in how it started a conversation about the monarchy and how dangerous that has been over the years.
Is a republic something that would be on your mind, or would you prefer to be attached to the monarchy?
Amanda: I don’t think it’s necessary. There’s a lot of other things that could be changed before we separate from that structure. I see the benefits of it for sure but ultimately it would just put us in the hands of people already corrupting our country.
SARAH AND BESH
VICE: How’d you feel about the Queen passing?
Besh: Yeah, sad.
Are you fans of the royal family?
Sarah: Not really
Sarah: Maybe a bit of a soft spot.
Have you ever thought about Australia being a republic?
Sarah: Not really. I don’t think it’ll really affect us.
Besh: Again. Indifferent.
JACKSON and TOM
VICE: So, how did you feel about the Queen’s death?
Tom: Uh, I barely felt anything. I didn’t know about it until someone told me yesterday. How long ago did it happen?
Tom: Yeah, I don’t really care at all about the monarchy. In fact I would say that I’m glad that she’s no longer here.
VICE: Oh wow, so do you think Australia should be a republic?
Tom: Yes, very much. I think any movement away from authoritarianism, which characterises monarchy, is good.
VICE: Would it change much, do you think?
Tom: That’s a good question, I’m not sure. I mean, I have much more radical ideas, if I was making shots.
Well what are those radical ideas?
Tom: Well, I’d say I’m an anarchist. Dismantle all authority.
Okay, what do you think, Jackson?
Jackson: Well I’m a historian. A modern historian. So the thing that really struck me when I saw the Queen die was how historical the times that we’re living in are. It seems like the last 20 years, nothing really happened and then in the space of four or five years suddenly everything’s really different. It’s just very strange.
Thoughts on the royal family?
Jackson: Y’know, I’ve been to London and I don’t really like English people. So I’m not shedding any tears. You know what I mean?
VICE: Can I take a photo?
Tom: Uh, I’d prefer not
(Tom gives me a pseudonym)
VICE: What was your reaction to the Queen passing last week?
Tim: Well it’s mixed because I’m an immigrant to Australia, so it’s more about listening to what people around me thought about it. I guess I refrained from having my own opinion and I really wanted to see what other people were feeling or thinking.
Whereabouts are you from?
So I guess you don’t have much to do with the Queen in the US?
No not really, the Queen visited Chicago once in the 60s but other than that we’re a former British colony so there’s that connection. We have common law but yeah, we don’t have the same connection. But I’ve been listening to a lot of different people in terms of people who have talked about their service and then people who have talked about an Australian republic and I just know that there are so many different views and viewpoints.
From an outsider perspective and also from a republic, would you recommend?
I think it really depends on what structure you put into place. I think there are good ways and bad ways to do this. If the Australian public decides that they prefer a republic I think a lot of care and caution needs to be taken around taking the lessons learned from other republics and taking what they’ve done right or wrong and then accommodating that. I wouldn’t say becoming a republic solves all problems but it really depends on how it’s done.
Okay, but personally how do you feel about the royal family?
I guess it’s strange for me as an American to think of a head of state that’s not elected. And that is hereditary. I know there’s quite a few people who think about it in terms of tradition and stability but I also know there’s a lot of historical concerns with the way that Australia came to be, but I guess the way that I feel is I’m not a citizen of Australia, yet, and I don’t vote, yet, so really it’s not for me to say. I can certainly say though that it’s not in my experience, I’m not used to it, I find it interesting and different, and I know the discussion in Australia on being a republic is becoming more prominent.