A Vision splendid

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As there is no precedent in living memory for Queen Elizabeth II to revoke a Royal Charter then the only way a Royal Charter can be dropped is for it to be dissolved by an Act of Parliament. This is a definitive action by the representatives of the people of Australia to assert control over their public institutions, writes Glenn Davies.

IN DECEMBER 2007 Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital axed its reference to the Queen. The landmark hospital in Parkville had changed its signs to The Women's after advice from consultants that its traditional name was ineffective. One of Victoria's leading maternity hospitals, the hospital was opened in 1856 and was known as The Women's Hospital from 1884 until Queen Elizabeth II conferred a Royal Charter upon it in 1954. From the beginning of 2008 the hospital reverted to The Women's but continued to be registered as The Royal Women's Hospital. This was due to the issue that any Royal Institution or Royal Society would cease to exist as a legal entity if their Royal Charter was revoked or dissolved.

In mid-2008 the Royal Australian Institute of Architects dropped the Royal warrant from its public face to present itself as the Australian Institute of Architects, although the Royal Australian Institute of Architects remains its official name. This was a move that had been championed by the National Executive for a number of years. The Australian Institute of Architects is a professional body formed in 1930, when state architectural institutes combined to form a unified national association with a chapter in each state. It consists of 9000 members across Australia and overseas.

For vision-impaired Australians the spectacle of royalty, with all its pomp and ceremony, appears to have no relevance. On 6 July 2004, the Federal Court approved the merger of the Royal Blind Society of NSW, the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind Ltd, and Vision Australia Foundation into a combined agency known as Vision Australia Ltd. Legislation was passed in NSW and Victoria to ensure the assets and liabilities of the three separate organisations were transferred, where possible, to the new entity. Indeed, it was necessary to pass legislation to also ensure that bequests and gifts created or granted, in the past and future, after the agencies were wound up or de-registered would be transferred to the new agency, Vision Australia. However the name 'Royal' was not adopted by the new merged agency.

Vision Australia is leading Australians into a republican future. On 5 December 2006, members of the Royal Blind Foundation Queensland voted in favour of amalgamating with Vision Australia. In February 2008 it was announced that the Seeing Eye Dogs Australia would also merge with Vision Australia by the end of June 2008. The delivery of an effective service to Australians appears to be of more importance to vision-impaired Australians rather than founding their new agency within an outdated concept of a Royal Charter. What is also important is Australians helping Australians. There is no longer a need for royal permission or patronage to deliver a needed service to the people of Australia.

The clear republican vision of Vision Australia shows the way for other Royal Societies and Royal Institutions - it's time to return the Royal Charters to the various State Parliaments and stand tall.  
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