Thursday, July 07, 2016

Happy 25th Birthday, Australian Republican Movement

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Australian Republican Movement. On 7 July 1991, the Australian Republican Movement was established, with the author Tom Keneally as the Inaugural Chair. The Australian Republican Movement was formed as an organisation with the single goal of Australia becoming a republic.

The old ARM logo
Republicanism emerged as an issue of major public debate during the 1990s. In the 1990s, the popular definition of "republic" was simply the removal of the British monarch as Head of State. This was seen as the last step in Australia’s political development.

Australians have long discussed the idea of replacing the constitutional monarchy with a republican constitution, even during the 19th century, before federation in 1901. In the 1960s, republican activity was restarted by authors Geoffrey Dutton and Donald Horne. At the same time, the student magazine Oz lampooned the monarchy.

A decade on, the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by the appointed Governor-General on 11 November 1975 outraged many Australians. The 1975 Constitutional Crisis drew attention to Australia's Constitutional arrangements and, since those turbulent days, several notable Australians declared a commitment to an Australian republic. There were many Town Hall meetings and calls to "maintain the rage". During these years, the Australian Labor Party edged towards declaring itself for the republic. This it eventually did in 1982.

The Australian Republican Movement began over lunch at the residence of the former Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran.  In 1987, Wran had publicly stated his support for Australia becoming a republic and nominated 2001, the centenary of Australia’s federation, as an ideal date.  He said that he expected moves towards a republic would gain ground during the 1990s. Wran was supported at the time by Prime Minister Bob Hawke. On 7 July 1991, a group of prominent citizens held a meeting in Sydney to launch a republican movement under the chairmanship of author Tom Keneally and included many eminent persons from the political left and cultural centre of Australian society.

The 1991 Foundation Members of the Australian Republican Movement were Tom Keneally, the late Geoffrey Dutton, the late Professor Donald Horne, Jenny Kee, the late Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, Franca Arena, the late Faith Bandler, Mark Day, Geraldine Doogue, the late Colin Lanceley, the late Harry Seidler, Malcolm Turnbull, David Williamson and the late The Hon Neville Wran. Tom Keneally was the first Chairman and was succeeded by Malcolm Turnbull in November 1993.

On this day, 25 years after the birth of the Australian Republican Movement, Malcolm Turnbull is on a knife-edge electoral count to decide whether he will be elected for the first time by the Australian people as Prime Minister of Australia.

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