Why I'm a Republican

Dan Crowley is a year 12 Student at Xavier College in Melbourne.

His was the winning entry in the Australian Republic Movement's 2017 Republic Essay Competition. Year 11 and 12 students in Australian secondary schools were invited to submit an essay on the topic 'An Australian head of state will better represent Australian values and identity'.

 

"I did but see her passing by and yet I love her till I die."

Put these words into the mouth of any smitten teenage boy in the presence of a teenage girl and you have at the very worst a terrible miscalculation. Put these words into the mouth of Australian prime minister Robert Menzies in 1963 in the presence of his country's unelected foreign monarch, and you have a serious problem.

I am a year 12 student, a proud Australian, and a republican. I have on occasion been a smitten teenage boy, but I can assure you that the girl involved was not the unelected foreign monarch of any country, let alone my own.

My support for an Australian republic has always been instinctive. I don't recall any specific moment of conversion or any great intellectual deliberation. For as long as I can remember I've instinctively found the notion of a hereditary monarchy anachronistic, the reality of a royal head of state offensive, and enamoured monarchism such as Menzies' galling.

Not that long ago I found myself sitting at a table at the Australian Republican Movement's fundraising dinner at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne. As a member of the social media generation, I of course widely publicised my attendance. When asking friends online their stance on an Australian republic, expecting an automatic consensus, a frequent answer I received was some variation of "I don't know" or "I don't care".

I realised that night that not everyone had the same instincts that I had, and that I owed it to myself, and the movement as a whole, to work out just why I had the instincts I had, and to convert my apathetic friends. Consider this my brief manifesto.

Change may just be symbolic, but symbolism matters. In English, this year we are studying Clint Eastwood's film Invictus, which depicts the true story of Nelson Mandela using the South African Springboks as a symbolic tool for reconciliation. Symbols unite and inspire. Yes, it's true that we have real, pressing issues to deal with; climate change, housing affordability, inequality and education to name just a few. But as a nation we have to look inwards as well as outwards. We have to answer not just questions of outcomes and results, but of values and ideals.

Without getting the symbolic things right we lack a proper soul, and a common sense of purpose and direction. How can we continue to build the society we want to live in and protect, based on the values we want to live by and protect, if those values are not reflected from the top down?

Recently, in London, I took a tour of the Tower of London and stood in line to see the British crown jewels. Zadok the Priest blasting ad nauseam, Yeoman warders with puffy hats, loud American tourists wilfully ignoring the 'no photography' sign; the whole affair. As I passed by the crowns I was hit by a strange sense of frustration. It was not a Marxist frustration at the extraordinary overuse of precious earth metals, nor at the incessant Handel music, nor even the constant flashing of cameras, but the reality that the men and women who had worn that crown had done so through no other merit than birth.

Yes, it is true, our head of state is not Australian, and as Australians that should instinctively offend us. But to my mind there is more to the Australian identity that just its Australianness. Australia is a country of merit and reward. That's why we worship sports heroes, those such as Bradman who mastered his craft with a golf ball, a wooden bat and a water tank. That's why those born into wealth and privilege are expected to prove themselves and help those without, and why we so instinctively support the underdog.

We have forged our nation, our own identity and our own set of values. We are a nation of builders, and we earn our own crowns. From the remnants of our colonial past, we have built something of our own. A nation by no means perfect, but a nation of our own. A nation shaped by land, climate, history and shared experience. A nation with culture, passions, food, sport, music and humour of its very own. We have built this ourselves from the ground up, and the fact the Queen can just pass by and be adorned with our crown and eternal love should insult every one of us.

The model we use is a question for far smarter and far older minds than mine. Whatever model we use, so long as every young Australian grows up knowing that one day they could be the head of state of the country they love, change to the system, whether symbolic or structural, will have been a worthwhile endeavour.

We are a diverse nation, and I don't profess to speak for all Australians. I am simply one young Australian speaking on his instincts. I am proud of what we have built, and hope one day to revisit the Tower of London and feel contented that we have chosen merit over inheritance.

I am a year 12 student and a republican, and when my apathetic friends ask why, this is what I'll tell them. We built this country, we own this country, and only we should wear the crown.