Senate debates

Friday, 23 September 2022

Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Ii and Accession of His Majesty King Charles Iii


9:17 am

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to add my voice to the motion of condolence. For 70 of our 120 years of federation, Queen Elizabeth II has served as our sovereign head of state, providing a constant, steady presence during a period of significant change. She committed her life to the service and duty of the Crown, accepting these responsibilities when Britain was rebuilding its national identity after the Second World War. The Queen's long reign granted her iconic status.

The outpouring of grief we've seen over the past fortnight is unprecedented, with people lining up to be part of this important moment in history. To her family and to those who knew her, I send my condolences, and I hope they have the space and the time to mourn their much-loved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. To the rest of us, the Queen was a symbolic figure. These symbols have different meanings for different people spanning many generations across the world. The unquestionable impact of the Queen has a continual and lasting symbolism for Australians and those of other Commonwealth countries across the world, and a very, very different legacy, particularly for our First Peoples here in Australia.

In these past few days I have followed, and reflected on, people's sense of loss, uncertainty and sadness, and I want to acknowledge the nuanced, complex emotions that we are feeling right now as a nation. Amongst these are the feelings of anger, distress, hurt and frustration felt by First Nations people, whose sorry business, unfortunately, does not end today. The irony comes from so-called progressives in this country who are silencing the voices in their disapproval of anyone who is brave enough to speak up since the Queen died a fortnight ago. We are a mature nation capable of conversations that commemorate the life of a public figure, while calling out the problematic legacy of the British Empire.

I will not focus on the faults and failures of the Crown, as this is an important conversation for another day, but today I will respectfully acknowledge the long and dutiful life of the Queen, with reference to our relational sphere that continues some of the oppressive systems that benefit a few and not all of us as Australians. Australians believe in a fair go and that we are all equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. For my people, we have a very different lived experience that has been one of resilience and survival, fighting to protect and defend our ancestral knowledge, culture, language and sacred places, all from which we draw our strength, our identity and our sovereignty, which we have never ceded.

These are tough conversations to hear and share, and it's even harder to live through the oppressive systems that continue to perpetuate them. As a nation, we have to tell all sides of the story. This process starts with me, it starts with you, and it starts right here in the federal parliament. This week marks the end of an era, and, as the public mourning for the Queen wraps up, it's time to have a yarn about nation-building. Globally, these conversations are igniting republican movements, including here in Australia. Our process starts with truth-telling and, more importantly, truth-listening.

There are many things we can do today to make a difference, including legislating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Bill to protect free, prior and informed consent for First Nations people against continued exploitation, implementing the recommendations from the Bringing them Home report and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report, and progressing our own national treaty.

Queen Elizabeth Windsor believed in something bigger than herself. Today, I want to quote her words:

It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today, and so give us hope for tomorrow.

We in this chamber should reflect on whether we are here for something bigger than ourselves. Together this parliament can chart a new course for all Australians for that tomorrow with one of its own as an elected head of state where First Nations sovereignty lies along the legal embodied sovereignty of this nation's Constitution. Right now, we have the greatest opportunity for renewal and growth of this nation that we have ever known.


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