HomeWorld NewsPatrick Gorman: Coronation a moment to reflect on our national identity
Patrick Gorman: Coronation a moment to reflect on our national identity
June 10, 2023
We love big things in Western Australia. We are proudly Australia’s largest State. We have the Super Pit. And today many of us will be glued to the world’s largest official ceremony of 2023.
The coronation of King Charles III in Westminster Abbey will have a special resonance for WA. Along with our constitutional links, England is the most common birthplace of migrants to the West.
It is meaningful for every Australian including longstanding monarchists, and for republicans like myself.
The coronation will be the first broadcast across the globe. The first in the age of satellites, streaming and social media. A first for anyone under 70 years old.
When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, television was still three years away. Cinemas across Australia were filled with audiences eager to watch the documentary A Queen is Crowned. Coronation folders containing a photo of the Queen were presented to 90,000 Australian school children. Premier Bert Hawke represented WA at the coronation some 30 years before his nephew Bob would become prime minister. From inside Westminster Abbey, prime minister Sir Robert Menzies filmed proceedings on a personal handheld camera.
Unsurprisingly, the coronation was followed by an opinion poll showing a never repeated 77 per cent of Australians expressing their support for the monarchy. Planning quickly began for the Queen’s visit to Australia in 1954, when an estimated three-quarters of the Australian population caught a glimpse of the new Queen during her tour of 57 towns and cities over 58 days.
So what will Australians do in 2023? Homes across the country will watch live on Saturday evening. A national 21-gun salute and flyover will mark the occasion at Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday. Significant buildings and monuments will be lit up in royal purple. Here in Perth you can watch at Northbridge Piazza. Some of us will try our hand, and some may fail, at making coronation quiche.
Fourteen Australians will join the Prime Minister, Jodie Haydon, Their Excellencies the Governor-General and Mrs Hurley at the ceremony in London. The next sitting of Parliament will make a statement congratulating His Majesty.
The palace has advised the coronation will both embrace tradition and look to the future. A weekend of ceremony will be matched by a thoroughly modern festival complete with Katy Perry and a focus on the community benefits of volunteering.
As the events unfold around us, for Australians, this will also be a moment to reflect on questions of national identity. To consider the impact of colonisation on the First Nations people of Australia. The Australian Government knows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s response to the coronation will be shaped by history and the ongoing journey of reconciliation. As a parliamentary democracy, we embrace truth-telling and the discussions that follow.
Australians will be reminded that our system of government is a democracy built upon the monarchy. The legislative power of the Parliament is vested in the King, the Senate and the House of Representatives. As King of Australia, Charles III is our sovereign.
While Queen Elizabeth II was the first monarch to travel here, King Charles’ links to our nation are deep and enduring. He has seen so much of this State. Albany, Broome, Port Hedland, Kalgoorlie and Paraburdoo, where he visited an open cut mine and earned an honorary truck driver’s licence. He spent four days on Coodardy sheep station, 32 kilometres west of Cue, flying light planes, mustering sheep, sleeping under the stars.
WA must have made a lasting impression, since in November 2015, His Majesty chose to celebrate his 67th birthday in Cottesloe. At the same beach where, in 1979, an Australian model famously surprised him with a kiss on the cheek, the Prince hosted a barbecue for hundreds of locals, including children who shared his birthday.
Having known him as Prince Charles, we await the first visit of His Majesty King Charles III to the Commonwealth of Australia. The Prime Minister has extended an invitation for his 17th visit and his first as King. The royal family is always welcome in Australia.
While we can take this opportunity to reflect on our relationship with the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom, in reality, the coronation of King Charles III changes everything and changes nothing. Australia’s status as a sovereign, independent and federal nation remains the same. As does our right to forge our future and our Constitution.