Australia holds national day of mourning for late Queen Elizabeth II
The Australian government declared Thursday a nationwide public holiday and the ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Governor-General David Hurley, King Charles III’s representative in Australia.
Australia observed a national day of mourning for the late Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, with Parliament House serving as the focal point. There, dignitaries laid wreaths made of golden wattle, the country’s floral symbol.
The “Wattle Painting” by Australian artist William Dargie, depicting the former monarch of Britain and Australia in a yellow dress adorned with golden wattle motifs that she wore on her first night in Australia in 1954, served as the centrepiece of the ceremony held in Parliament’s Great Hall.
The holiday has been marked by some protests that focused on the harm British colonization caused Indigenous Australians. Australia is one of the few former British colonies that never struck a treaty with the Indigenous population. Hurley used his speech to highlight the reactions of some Indigenous Australians, who die younger and are more likely to be imprisoned than any other ethnic minority there.
“I acknowledge that her passing has prompted different reactions for some in our community,” Hurley said. “I’m conscious to respect that the response of many First Nations Australians is shaped by our colonial history and broader reconciliation journey, that is a journey we as a nation must complete.”
The government plans to change the Australian constitution with a referendum that would create a mechanism for Indigenous people to consult Parliament about policies that affect their lives.
Indigenous responses to the queen’s death have been mixed. Indigenous dancers and singers started the Parliament House ceremony. Albanese, who wants Australia to replace the British monarch with an Australian head of state, spoke about how the nation had changed since 70% of the population turned out to see the queen in 1954.
“Perhaps the greatest tribute we can offer her family and her memory is not a marble statue or a metal plaque,” Albanese said. “It is a renewed embrace of service to the community.”
Two opinion polls published since the queen’s death show most Australians want to remain a constitutional monarchy. Advocates for an Australian republic argue that this is a temporary reaction to the intense media coverage of a popular monarch.
Political leaders past and present, judges, military chiefs and other dignitaries were among 700 guests at the service.
The queen officially opened Parliament House in 1988. Her father opened a temporary Parliament House nearby in 1927. King George VI was then Duke of York, making his daughter the first reigning monarch to visit Australia.
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