The death of Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has ignited debate in Australia over the future of the monarchy in the country.
Right after Elizabeth’s demise, Indigenous Australian newsreader Narelda Jacobs sparked a heated debate on social media after she called for the British monarchy to apologize for its colonization of First Nations people.
While Jacobs’ remarks were supported by some Australians, her request was met with backlash from some Britons.
She received many congratulations on social media, but some argued that complaining about colonialism is a “waste of time” because the issue is no longer relevant to modern society.
Describing the royal family as a “symbol of colonization,” Jacobs said she should not be criticized for refusing to mourn Queen Elizabeth‘s passing.
She further said that Australia was settled without the consent of First Nations people, asking what the royal family did to make up for that.
“While the world has united in grief over the Queen’s passing, colonized people have also united over their trauma,” she said, sharing her views on the Australian morning television show Studio 10.
But critics of the TV presenter opposed her remarks, saying on social media that “occupation and conquering other people’s lands is a fact of human history,” and “nobody owes an apology. The world has progressed,” and in addition, “bourgeois activists like Narelda do nothing but divert attention and resources from problems that really need to be resolved.”
Monarchy seen as ‘symbol of a dark colonial past’
However, some young Australians said they see the monarchy as “a symbol of a dark colonial past.”
“Everything the Queen represents, irrespective of the personal attributes she held in terms of being a nice old lady, is the legacy of violence and colonialism across the globe that has touched the majority of people in some way or the other,” 25-year-old Julie Youssef from Melbourne, who is of Egyptian descent, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
She said the Queen symbolizes the pillaging of her cultural heritage.
Alistair Kitchen, who is originally from Australia’s Gold Coast but now lives in New York, said the older he gets, the more he cares about the “monarchy question.”
Kitchen argued that having a monarch in place “twists” democracy because it is inherently unequal.
Queen leaves ‘complicated legacy’
With her passing, Queen Elizabeth leaves behind a complex legacy for First Nations people in Australia.
Indigenous peoples in Australia, particularly Aboriginal people, have repeatedly made direct appeals to the royal family about past and current policies that have seen Indigenous peoples subjugated on their own lands.
In Australia, there are many opinions among Indigenous peoples about Queen Elizabeth‘s 70 years on the throne
Amid the Queen’s many visits to Australia, Indigenous people were forced to live with few rights.
Australia’s ABC News cited 87-year-old Indigenous resident Fay Carter as saying that during Elizabeth’s first visit in 1954, the queen’s procession passed by “The Flats,” where Aboriginal people lived in makeshift huts, but local authorities used screens to try to shield the community from the monarch’s view.
“We accepted these sort of things happening to us…but now as I’ve gotten older and more aware of what happened, I don’t feel very good about it,” she said.
On the other hand, another Indigenous resident, Frank Doolan, said Elizabeth’s visit in 2000 made a positive and lasting impression on his community.
“Regardless of how you feel politically…I think all of us have got to agree that we have been witness to a very great and gracious woman,” he said.
Prof. Sandy O’Sullivan said some Indigenous people argue that Queen Elizabeth had a responsibility to enact change to improve the lives of First Nations people.
“She had a voice that we didn’t have and that voice would have gone a long way to effecting change,” O’Sullivan told ABC News.
Australia declared its loyalty to King Charles III, who ascended the throne after the passing of Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 8 at the age of 96.
Australian Governor-General David Hurley announced that they accepted the reign of King Charles III and pledged allegiance at a ceremony held in the capital, Canberra.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced that Sept. 22 would be declared a day of mourning and a public holiday in memory of Elizabeth.
Right after her passing, discussions spread in Australia on separating from the monarchy.
Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt said in a tweet offering his condolences that Australia should move forward and make a transition to a republic and also called for a treaty with First Nations people.