Within the next decade Australia has the opportunity to achieve a constitutional settlement with Indigenous Australians, and become a republic, according to a history professor.
University of Sydney’s Mark McKenna was the guest speaker at the 2018 John West Memorial Lecture held on Friday in Launceston.
“The biggest message is that the republic is often spoken of as a second-order issue, as something that is not pressing, and something that can wait,” Professor McKenna said.
The republic is often spoken of as a second-order issue, as something that is not pressing, and something that can wait.Professor Mark McKenna
“I’m trying to suggest that isn’t the right way to go about changing our constitution. Changing our constitution has to matter. Just because the Monarch dies isn’t a reason.”
Professor McKenna said until the Australian republic referendum in 1999, a potential shift was always spoken about as “breaking away” from Britain.
“But, we haven’t talked about what we want to do within our own society,” he said.
A major issue that needs to be explored before becoming a republic was thinking about constitutional recognition of Aboriginal Australians, Professor McKenna said.
“Republicans should say we don’t want to become a republic until we make that change,” he said.
Professor McKenna said achieving a republic by 2022, which has been suggested by some national politicians, was achievable.
However he said it would not be achievable if politicians, who claimed to be republicans, continued to focus on issues they thought were “more important”.
“It’s not achievable if politicians say ‘I’m a republican, but look electricity prices are more important’, of course electricity prices are important, but we can do both,” he said.
At the 30th memorial lecture, organiser and member of the Launceston Historical Society, Marion Sargent said more than 100 people attended.
“The lecture changed a lot of minds, including mine. It really cleared things up,” she said.
“It went really well and Mark was very pleased. It was very successful and everyone had a great time.”
A full copy of the lecture is expected to be available on the Launceston Historical Society’s website within the next week.