Australia observed a day of national mourning for Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stating that rather than a statue, the country should “renew its commitment of community service.”
A memorial service for Queen Elizabeth, who passed away on September 8 after spending 70 years as monarch, was conducted at Parliament House in Canberra on the day that was proclaimed a national holiday and was attended by 600 dignitaries. She made 16 trips as the head of state of Australia while she was in power.
Before the event, hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney and Melbourne’s downtown areas for anti-monarchy demonstrations to remember the effects of British colonisation on First Nations people.
After witnessing Queen Elizabeth’s burial in London the day before, Albanese noted that her memory was being honoured “on a continent home to the world’s oldest continuous culture.”
Although Albanese is in favour of Australia becoming a republic, he has previously stated that his center-left Labor government will put First Nations recognition in the constitution—a move that, like any move to a republic, calls for a national referendum—as a top priority. In 1999, a referendum to establish a republic was defeated, and current polls indicate conflicting views.
He claimed that throughout Queen Elizabeth’s reign, Australia underwent a metamorphosis in a speech at the burial service. Britain was Australia’s largest economic partner and source of immigration when she first went on tour, he claimed.
“That Australia of 1954 was, in nearly every regard, a new nation in a different world,” he remarked. “Seven million people, or 70% of the population, turned out to welcome the first sovereign to visit these shores.”
“The finest homage we can possibly pay to her family and memories may not be a marble statue or metal plaque. It is a revitalised commitment to community service, “added he.
Around 600 protestors in Melbourne marched from Flinders Street Station to the British consulate and rubbed their red-painted hands against the wall. They were headed by a group named The Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance.
They chanted “Abolish the monarchy – down with the king!” in front of the consulate.