Emelia, Harry, Jacqui and Grace, who said, "Baby George is so cute"
If it weren't enough that Australia has knights and dames again, we've now had a Royal Visit. Prince William, Princess Kate, and Baby Prince George just left our fair country after a busy tour of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Uluru to the delight of hundreds of Australian monarchists and thousands of women's magazine columnists. If it wasn't clear before that we technically still have English overlords, now it is.
Crowds were as excited to see Mel from Channel Seven.
In Australia, past visits from the Royal Family have generally been a big deal, with the streets completely blocked with people dressed in hats and gloves waving flowers and flags. The visit of Kate and Will was slightly more subdued. In fact, it was kind of embarrassing. Of the couple of hundred people who were waiting to welcome the royals, about half were foreign tourists and of those, about half had no idea there was something going on and were just there to see the Opera House.
A small group of republican protesters were on hand to say bad things about the British.
The Queen doesn't have a practical impact on the lives of Australians—she's never vetoed a government decision, and likely never will (we don't know if her successors will go mad with power, but they probably won't). We don't pay any money to the Royal Family like taxpayers in the UK do, we just pay for a governor-general who has a nice house and clothing and butlers; it probably would cost the same if we replaced that office with a president. In the end, the difference between being a republic and being a monarchy is, for most of us, nothing but a symbol. The Australian Republican Movement says it's just common sense that we become a republic—why should we have a foreign head of state?—but the public at large seems to actually prefer to have someone with a crown thousands of miles away running things.
In both Sydney and Melbourne, around a quarter of all people are from non-English-speaking backgrounds. In some parts of these cities, more than half of residents are from non-English-speaking backgrounds. Overall, the proportion of Australians with a family connection to the UK continues to drop. Yet according to a recent poll, more than half of Australians support the monarchy, with only 42 percent favoring a republic, the lowest number in 35 years. The age group with the highest proportion of monarchists—60 percent—was 18- to 24-year-olds. That might be attributed to the kids not really thinking about the monarchy as something that can affect their lives—the last time the monarchy mattered was in 1975, when the governor-general sacked our elected prime minister.
Lisa and Kia from Quakers Hill.
When I talked about this stuff with Lisa and Kia, a pair of sisters from Quakers Hill, Sydney, they weren't sure what a republic was, but they were pretty happy with keeping things the way they are.
"We just came to see the royals because it's free and we were bored,” Lisa said.
Vince from the Northern Beaches was critical of the idea of a monarchy. “They're basically just born into it,” he said. “They don't have any real-life experience. They've got it easy.” He was there because his mom was a fan of Charles and Princess Di, and even has a plate with Diana's face on it, but he seemed not to mind the pomp and circumstance. “It's fun,” Vince said. “It keeps generations going, knowing the royals.”
Gabrielle Hendry and David Taylor from the Young Monarchists.
Other young people I met were more thoughtful in their approach. Gabrielle Hendry and David Taylor are from the Youth Monarchist movement (as well as the Young Liberals), and were handing out Australian flags. “It's about stability,” said David. “The Republicans haven't outlined the sort of republic they want to be.”
Gabrielle said the royals were about more than their names. “Kate and William have been brilliant, they're role models for all young people,” she said. “Sure Kate's a princess but even if she wasn't, she's a strong, kind, beautiful woman—you don't need a title to set an example for others.”
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