On this day, which has been declared a national holiday, a memorial service was held at Parliament House in Canberra with the attendance of 600 dignitaries for Queen Elizabeth, who, as Australian head of state, has visited the country 16 times in seven decades.
The ceremony was opened by my aunt Violent Sheridan, a First Nations elder, who gave a traditional welcome to the countryside and commemorated Queen Elizabeth as a mother and grandmother.
The event took place before protests by indigenous groups against the monarchy and the impact of British colonialism on the First Nations, which were scheduled to take place in three cities in the afternoon.
An 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 where the world’s oldest continuous culture exists”.
Al-Albani favors Australia becoming a republic, but has previously said his centre-left Labor government would prioritize recognition of First Nations in the constitution. A referendum for the Republic failed in 1999, and recent opinion polls show that opinions are divided.
Speaking at the memorial service, he said Australia had gone through a transformation during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. When it first came, he said, Britain was Australia’s largest trading partner and main source of immigration.
“Australia in 1954, where seven million people – 70% of the population – came to welcome the first sovereign to visit these shores, was almost in every way a different nation in a different world,” he said.
He said Queen Elizabeth was proud of Australia’s progress and “standing behind us”, and “Australia’s sentiments have remained strong”.
“Perhaps the greatest tribute we can give to her family and her memory is not a marble statue or a metal plaque. It is a renewed embrace of community service,” he said.
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