The coronation of King Charles over the weekend may have been a celebration for some, but not for all.
The monarchy means different things to different Australians. To some, it represents historical continuity. To others it is a source of entertainment. However, for many Australians, it is representative of Australia’s colonial history.
On May 6 King Charles III and Queen Camilla were formally crowned as the rulers of “the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, other Realms and Territories”.
Globally, the event brought millions of viewers through broadcasts and social media livestreams. Despite changes to the ceremony, such as its relatively smaller size and the promotion of the King as the defender of all faiths in the United Kingdom, the event was steeped in centuries-old traditions.
Such traditions include the anointment of holy oil, the adornment of regalia such as the ‘Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross’ and the ‘coronation vestments’.
But what part does the monarchy play in modern Australia’s landscape today?
We have our own form of government, our own culture and identity.
While King Charles is the constitutional monarch, Australia is its own federated country since 1901. In 1986, the Australia Act removed the possibility of the United Kingdom legislating on Australian affairs, ensuring Australia remained legally separated from the UK except through the monarchy, represented by the Governor-General.
Matt Thistlethwaite, Australia’s Assistant Minister for the Republic, told Time: “We [Australia] have our own form of government, our own culture and identity, and I think that Australians are ready for the conversation about reflecting that in our constitution and appointing one of our own as our head of state.”
Although Anthony Albanese’s government has foreshadowed a possible future republic referendum if they are elected for a second term, the Howard government’s 1999 referendum on whether Australia should become a republic failed easily with 54.87 per cent of Australians against it at the time.
To the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, it is the monarchy that has preserved democracy through the legal institutions which are symbolised by the Crown.
Yet, when Central News vox popped UTS and USYD students about whether the monarchy was still relevant, all of them said it no longer was.
“Honestly to me they are not relevant anymore,” said 18-year-old UTS student Angela Bajic.
Haleema Mangal, 18, also a student at UTS, said: “[The coronation] comes across as very out of touch because millions of pounds are being spent on archaic traditions, whilst the UK is in a cost of living crisis.”
To Australians such as Rawan Dabous, the monarchy is a symbol of the past.
“[It is] a reminder of the genocide of Indigenous Australians,” the 18-year-old USYD student added.
In an Ipsos poll conducted at the end of 2022, it was found that 54 per cent of Australians supported the end of constitutional monarchy.
The British Monarchy is a colonial, racist institution built on the blood, backs & stolen wealth of brown & black people.
The violent legacies of British colonialism are felt by people all over the globe, including here in Australia, a nation born of dispossession & violence.
— Mehreen Faruqi (@MehreenFaruqi) May 5, 2023
While King Charles aims to be a modern monarch, the Crown itself is symbiotic with the colonisation undertaken by the British Empire.
In a social media post, Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens Mehreen Faruqi put it this way: “The British Monarchy is a colonial, racist institution built on the blood, backs and stolen wealth of brown & black people.”
So, in Australia’s multi-cultural landscape, is maintaining a monarchy maintaining imperialism? Does it ignore the history of colonialism undertaken in places such as Australia, America, Ghana, Nigeria, India, New Zealand, Trinidad, Egypt, Sudan, Sri Lanka (a fraction of the countries impacted by British imperialism)?
To many it is a reminder of the genocide of Indigenous Australians in the Frontier Wars and of the Stolen Generations.