Protests Mark Australian Day Of Mourning For Queen Elizabeth
Hundreds of activists rallied in Australia on Thursday to speak out against colonial Britain’s destructive impact on indigenous people, as the country celebrated a public holiday to commemorate the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Abolish the Monarchy protesters have rallied in cities including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra to protest the persecution of tribal peoples since the British landed in Australia more than two centuries ago.
In Sydney, dozens of people gathered near a statue of Queen Victoria in the city center before marching through the streets.
“I think the monarchy needs to be aware that there is unfinished business here in Australia,” said Gwenda Stanley, a 49-year-old Gomeroi Indigenous activist.
“The monarch has nothing to cry about, this is something our people should celebrate,” he said, calling for the return of indigenous lands and compensation for “war crimes.”
“The monarchy must be abolished, it should have been done many years ago,” said Paul Silva, a 24-year-old indigenous activist.
“First Nations in Australia are still fighting for their ancestral lands,” he added.
“We demand that these lands be returned to the traditional owners.”
At a national memorial service for the Queen in Canberra, Australia’s Governor-General, David Hurley, who represents the monarchy, said he recognizes the concerns of the mainland island’s indigenous people.
“Given the unifying role Her Majesty has played, I recognize that her death has provoked mixed reactions from some members of our community,” Hurley said.
“I recognize and respect that the response of many First Nations Australians has been shaped by our colonial history and our broader journey of reconciliation. It’s a path we must take as a nation.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised a referendum during his first three-year term to give Indigenous Peoples the right to be consulted by lawmakers on issues affecting them, an alleged voice in Parliament.
Despite being an outspoken Republican, Albanese has made his vote in Parliament his priority, dismissing questions about a push for an Australian republic as inappropriate at a time of mourning.
The arrival of British settlers in 1788 marked the beginning of two centuries of discrimination and oppression against Indigenous Australians, who have inhabited the land for some 65,000 years.
Persecution of tribal peoples is embedded in Australia’s history, beginning with post-colonization decimation and continuing with measures such as the forced displacement of children.
The inequalities faced by Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain severe, with a shorter life expectancy than other Australians and a higher mortality rate in prison.