Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Queens Birthday Long Weekend

The upcoming weekend is a long weekend in most states and territories with a holiday on the Monday. This is to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.
Now, to some, this may come as a surprise.
i)Why would Australia celebrate the Queen of England’s birthday?
ii) And why in June when it’s really the 21st of April?
Australia is a constitutional monarchy with The Queen as Sovereign ie. she is Australia’s head of state.
As a constitutional monarch, The Queen, by convention, is not involved in the day-to-day business of the Australian Government, but continues to play important ceremonial and symbolic roles.
Her relationship to Australia is unique. In all her duties, she speaks and acts as Queen of Australia, and not as Queen of the United Kingdom.
She is represented in Australia by the Governor General and in the states by Governors. These positions are political appointments by the Federal Government of the day not elected ones.
But it is also interesting to note that it was only in 1986, when the Australia Acts finally removed the residual powers of the British government to intervene in the government of Australia or the individual states.
There has been considerable discussion about Australia gaining Republican status with an Australian head of state.
In 1999, a referendum was held to decide whether Australia would remain a constitutional monarchy or become a republic headed by a president. A majority of voters (55:45) expressed a preference to retain the monarchy.
In fact this referendum was a bit of a farce with the Prime Minister of the day (a staunch monarchist) phrasing the question in such a way as to almost ensure its rejection.
So the republic question rumbles on.

The Queen has said ""I have always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is an issue for you, the Australian people, and you alone, to decide by democratic and constitutional means. It should not be otherwise."
Personally I would like to see us cut our ties completely. But I feel there is a time to do it. The Queen is now 83 and has served the Commonwealth well for 58 years. I think out of respect for her it would be better to wait until a new monarch takes the throne.
And there are obviously more important matters to deal with in the current economic and political climate.
As to the date, the day has been celebrated in Australia since 1788, the year of white settlement, when Governor Arthur Phillip declared a holiday to mark the birthday of King George III. Until 1936 it was held on the actual birthday of the monarch, but after the death of King George V, it was decided to keep the date at mid-year.
So what happens on the weekend?
Most people just enjoy having a day off from work. For many, it is a chance to do something with their family or to visit a sporting event. Some people take advantage of the three-day weekend to make trips a little further afield. Our region sees its fair share of visitors during this time and many local organisations take the opportunity to raise some money by putting on markets, shows and displays.
Traditionally this weekend is seen as the opening weekend of the snow season in Australia, although it is often not possible to really ski for another few weeks.
In the past many public fireworks displays were organised but in recent years, these have been overshadowed by the New Year's Eve displays.
For us the long weekend involves the Shoalhaven Coast Wine Festival. While I have wound down my participation, the co-driver will be at our neighbour’s winery with her quilt display so it won’t be a quiet time for us.

1 comment:

Yira said...

I never really understood the connection as it seems you are worlds apart from England. Thanks for that bit of history. I sure wish our holidays consisted of wine festivals :-) Check out my blog to the article you contributed -- Thanks again, that was awesome!