Queen Elizabeth 2

The end of an Epoch?

Fri, 09 Sep 2022

There is only one story making headlines today, so we’ll add our voice to the chorus.

I’ll leave the formal obituaries to more appropriate journals, but it’s hard to let the death of Queen Elizabeth II, which Australians awoke to a few hours ago, go unremarked.

It truly is one of those rare “Where were you when?” moments.

(For several of the Orchid team, the answer will be Vancouver, as we prepare for the TPAC conference.)

It is certainly the end of an era, and, based on Cambridge Dictionary’s definition, you could make a strong case for it being the end of an epoch:

Epoch: A long period of time, especially one in which there are new advances and great change.

Wherever you stand on the spectrum of republicanism or monarchism, this definition rings true. Very few baby boomers, and none younger, would recall a time when she was not the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, and hence Australia. She has been one of the few constants in a world undergoing extraordinary change since she stepped into the spotlight in 1952.

Her initial visit to Australia in 1954, the first by a reigning monarch, has gained an almost mythic reputation. It has been estimated that 70% of the nation’s population lined the streets to see her as she visited 57 towns and cities in 58 days.

Back then, the vast majority of Australians were unquestioning about our status as a British colonial outpost, and looked to the ‘mother country’ for leadership and example. They generally found that example in the Queen.

Looking ahead...is a change in the air?

The vibrant, multi-cultural, and (mostly) independent nation Australia has since become would be barely recognizable to those few who recall what our country looked, felt, and sounded like in 1954.

There is no doubt that Australia, and also the UK, will soon begin a new round of self-reflection and debate about the ongoing role of the monarchy in our constitution and society. (This is likely also true for many of the 13 other remaining Commonwealth realms, one of which is Canada.)

But as they say, and for once I agree, “now is not the time.”

Postscript: Australia endured almost 2 weeks of wall-to-wall coverage, suspensions of parliament, pageantry, and official events to commemorate Elizabeth and acknowledge the ascension of King Charles III.

With that out of the way, it would seem that "now is the time" for the abovementioned discussion to commence, as evidenced by this (paywalled) AFR article, and others like it: The (not so) quiet first steps towards Australia’s republic shift.


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