Republic clubs alive on Australian campuses

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(Image by Oscar Green supplied by Australian Republic Movement)

Australian republic clubs have attracted a great deal of interest during university "O-Week", refuting claims of disinterest among young Australians. History editor Dr Glenn Davies reports.

ACROSS AUSTRALIA in recent days, hundreds of university students have shown their enthusiasm for an Australian republic.

The following Republic Clubs have held stalls on university campuses: University of Melbourne Republic Club, Western Sydney University Australian Republic Club, Macquarie University Australian Republic Society, Adelaide University Republican Club, Australian National University Republic Club and the University of Queensland Republic Club.

As well, on 3 March 2017, University of Sydney Australian Republic Society has scheduled a Republic versus Monarchy debate.

Image by Oscar Green supplied by Australian Republic Movement.

The University of Queensland (UQ) campus has been involved in republican movement activity since the early 1990s. On 12 December 1993, the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) was launched in Brisbane. A public meeting was held on 21 April 1994 at the Abel Smith Lecture Theatre at UQ and the inaugural dinner of the Queensland branch of the ARM was held on 3 December 1994 at Cromwell College, University of Queensland.

On 4 October 1994, the newly formed UQ Republican Association (UQRA) invited then Federal Attorney-General Michael Lavarch to address the issue. More than 50 people gathered inside and outside to hear Michael Lavarch speak. This had been organised by the inaugural UQRA President, Johanna Sing who, in 1994, was an 18-year-old arts/law student who had long been interested in politics. At 17, she had been the youth representative of the ARM in Queensland. She was present at the launch in December 1993 and spoke at the first public meeting of the Queensland Branch at UQ in April 1994. In September 1994, she attended the Young Leaders Conference in Melbourne, at which representatives of all political parties and various interest groups debated many issues, including the republic. By O-Week 1996, the UQ Republican Association was established on the UQ campus.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the ARM was a presence on UQ campus, particularly during O-Week. This all changed with the student union elections in 2008. From this time on, the "Fresh Party" actively stopped the registration of the UQ Republican Club. However, in late 2012, this changed when the Liberal National Party-aligned "Fresh Party" was investigated.

On 29 December 2012, it was announced that, with the help of the new vice presidents for campus culture, the UQ Student Union had approved the application for UQRA to become an affiliated member of Clubs & Societies. This was the final hurdle in a long battle to have the UQRA reaffiliated at UQ.

Jacqueline Rodgers: 2013-15 President, UQ Republic Club (image by Oscar Green supplied by Australian Republic Movement).

On 25 January 2013, the University of Queensland Republic Club held an Australia Day party in the Great Court as its inaugural annual general meeting. Ably led by Jacqueline Rodgers, an undergraduate student in International Relations/Chinese, the meeting included the official adoption of the club constitution and voting for executive positions. Despite it pouring rain and still being university holidays, they managed a fantastic turnout and easily made quorum for affiliation.

On 20 February 2013, the UQRC held a market day stall during O-Week which attracted 300 visitors, students, staff and MPs, with overwhelming support for an Australian republic.

It’s time for a new conversation about Australia, our identity and our responsibility, and to take the future into our hands as a fully independent nation. It is heartening to see young Australians of all political colours (see the T-shirts) and persuasions all around Australia wrestling with these ideas.

Sign up to find your University club here.

History editor Dr Glenn Davies is the Australian Republican Movement's Queensland branch convenor. You can follow Glenn on Twitter @DrGlennDavies.

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