Australia celebrates the national day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II

Australia held a national day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese saying the greatest tribute the nation could offer was not a statue but “a renewed hug of community service” .

With the day declared a national holiday, a memorial ceremony attended by 600 dignitaries was held at the Canberra Parliament for Queen Elizabeth, who as Australia’s head of state toured the country 16 times in seven decades.

The ceremony was opened by a First Nations elder, Aunt Violent Sheridan, who gave a traditional welcome to the countryside and remembered Queen Elizabeth as a mother and grandmother.

The event took place ahead of protests organized by indigenous groups against the monarchy and the impact of British colonization on the First Nations people, scheduled in three cities in the afternoon.

Albanian, who returned to Australia the day before after attending Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in London, noted that her memory was honored “on a continent that is home to the world’s oldest continuing culture”.

Albanian argues that Australia becomes a republic, but has previously said his Labor government would prioritize the recognition of First Nations people in the constitution, which, like any transition to a republic, requires a national referendum. A referendum for a republic failed in 1999 and recent polls show opinion is divided.

In a speech at the memorial ceremony, he said that Australia underwent a transformation during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. When she first toured, Britain was Australia’s largest trading partner and main source of migration, she said.

“That Australia, in 1954, where seven million people – 70% of the population – turned out to welcome the first ruler to visit these shores was, in virtually every respect, a different nation in a different world,” he said. .

Queen Elizabeth was proud of Australia’s progress and “stayed with us,” she said, and “Australia’s affection remained strong.”

“Perhaps the greatest tribute we can offer to his family and memory is not a marble statue or a metal plaque. It is a renewed embrace of community service,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.