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Mourning for the Queen divides Australia & More Breaking News

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At the other end of the world, the opponents of the monarchy are feeling the upswing. You can’t shake off the colonial past.

Tony Stephens flew last minute from Sydney to London for 7,000 Australian dollars, the equivalent of almost 4,700 euros. Directly from the airport, after a 24-hour flight, he joined the long line of mourners who wanted to say goodbye to their queen. Almost 14 hours later, his wish was granted – he was standing in front of Elizabeth II’s coffin. The Queen was “always there, reliable, visible and exemplary,” he said. “I wanted to say goodbye and thank you.” In front of a television screen, this would not have been really possible. “That’s why I did it personally.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also traveled to London for the Queen’s funeral. He joined dignitaries to convey the Australian people’s condolences to the son of the deceased, King Charles III, who is also Australia’s new head of state. His mother had previously held the position for 70 years. Most Australians have never known any other head of state than the Queen. Albanese, who himself is known as a supporter of a republic and has a minister for this purpose in his cabinet, spoke of a “very emotional experience”. He noted the Queen’s “extraordinary service” and expressed his admiration and respect for the Queen.

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But not everyone has such profound reverence for the late queen. In sharp contrast to this are the views of some citizens with a non-British background. A German-born Australian is particularly upset that Australia declared an extraordinary public holiday this Thursday. Declaring a day to mourn the queen would make the country “out of the blue,” he said. Changing the date of “Invasion Day” is “too difficult”. The latter is the national holiday, the so-called Australia Day, which is celebrated annually on January 26th. The selection of the date is seen as an affront by Aborigines, as the day marks the arrival of the first British fleet on the continent in 1788, and with it the British invasion of Australia.

The reaction of many indigenous Australians to the death of the British monarch is therefore also characterized by negative feelings. “I’m sure I’m not the only Indigenous people wrestling with a variety of emotions,” wrote Indigenous journalist Stan Grant in an opinion piece on Australia’s state broadcaster ABC’s website. Among those emotions is anger. A “suffocating anger at the suffering and injustice my people must endure”.

Grant described how he had felt like an outsider among colleagues and friends over the past few days – as if there was suddenly “a chasm between us”. “I’ve watched others wear black and cover this historic event,” he said. The grief is almost “ritual” and he realized that he could not do it.

The wounds of the past two and a half centuries are still deep. A large part of the colonial history, which is peppered with incredible suffering for the Aborigines, has not yet been processed. An investigation by the “Guardian” in 2019 counted 270 massacres committed by the British against the indigenous population within 140 years. These were “part of a state-sanctioned and organized attempt” to “exterminate the Aborigines,” the journalists wrote.

While many Australians, especially those of British origin, deeply sympathize with the grief in Britain, a picture of Queen Elizabeth II is “beamed” onto the famous Sydney Opera House and a square is being renamed in her honor, the indigenous people are planning to take to the streets. For example, the “Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance”, who have over 60,000 followers on Facebook, called for protests against the injustice of colonization for the specially declared public holiday on Thursday. Her post is adorned with a drawing of the Queen with crossed-out eyes and the words “Abolish the monarchy”.

The latter would not be an easy process in Australia: to become a republic, with an elected president as head of state, the country would have to hold a referendum. A first referendum on this in 1999 failed and current surveys also show that so far only 40 percent of Australians want to cut the umbilical cord to London.

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