Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Commonwealth of Nations, Games, and the republic

 The recent Commonwealth Games has been a great spectacle and many of us have enjoyed watching Australia win so many events and dominate the medal tally, as we seem to do at every Commonwealth Games these days.

It reminds us that during the lead up to the 1999 referendum on the Australian Republic, monarchists established a particular myth firmly in many Australians minds. It’s the one that pretends that as a republic we won’t be able to continue to participate in the Commonwealth Games.
David Donovan and Mike Keating wrote on 12 October 2010 about this in ‘The Myth of the disappearing Commonwealth” at
The irony is that the term ‘Commonwealth’ has a strong republican ancestry. Essentially, the name ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ would suit an Australian republic.
The period from the late 1880s to 1891 was a strong republican moment with fifteen republican organisations and twenty radical republican newspapers or journals widely spread through the Australian colonies. At a national level, republican dimensions emerged when Henry Parkes, the Premier of New South Wales advocated the name ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ at the 1891 National Australasian Convention. The ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ was the title chosen for the new nation by the delegates to the 1891 National Australasian Convention and, despite some controversy in the intervening years, it was the title agreed to, with little fuss, at the People’s Convention in 1897 and 1898. Australians today are used to the term ‘Commonwealth’ which runs parallel to republican traditions without bearing the explicit connotations or implying the essential institution of republicanism. Continue reading