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5 young people on the future of the Commonwealth

We spoke to young people from Commonwealth realms about changing attitudes towards the monarchy across the world

Despite the best efforts of the “now is not the time” brigade, the Queen’s passing has triggered much-needed conversations about the role of monarchy. Questions about the royal family’s place in the 21st century aren’t just confined to the UK, either – in fact, most of these discussions are coming out of Commonwealth countries where the British monarch remains in place as head of state.

In the past week, we’ve seen the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Brown, state that he plans to call a referendum on the country becoming a republic in the next three years. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has also said that she expects the nation will become a republic “in her lifetime”. The republican movement in Australia is continuing to gather momentum.

There’s a sense that change is nigh across the Commonwealth realms. We spoke to young people living in countries where Charles is now head of state to get their take on the monarchy at this watershed moment.

JELISSA, 25, BELIZE

While many are in mourning over the Queens death, many people – myself included – are not. The Queen spent her life continuing the colonial legacy of the monarchy and caused pain and suffering for many people around the world. For that, I simply cannot mourn her death. 

By gaining ‘indepdendence’ from Britain, Belize traded one set of chains for another. The Queen actively fought against independence and instead gave us ‘Commonwealth status’ just to make us feel like we had at least a little independence.

In general, I feel as if more younger people are aware of the wrongdoings of the monarchy. The older generations in Belize grew up British, and had a loyalty to the Crown. A lot of us grew up with that mindset being passed down to us, but I think with platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, the young people of Belize are gaining access to more education surrounding our country’s colonial history.”

TAYI, 26, NEW ZEALAND

“I’m a mix of ‘don’t care, haha’ and also a bit exasperated as her death doesn’t result in any significant accountability, apology or reparations for the indigenous peoples her legacy desecrated, and much of the mourning and celebrations of her life that I’ve been seeing are insensitive and annoying. It’s so buzzy [strange] being indigenous, it’s like living on another plane of reality.

I think the monarchy needs to be abolished immediately and their wealth returned to the indigenous peoples they colonised – and then some, for reparations. I think most young people in Aotearoa are either ambivalent or anti-monarchy, and if they have any fondness for the monarchy, it’s to do with Diana’s outfits or maybe Meghan Markle, and nothing else. Increasingly though — at least in the circles I run in — young people are becoming educated about the history of colonisation in Aotearoa, and the violent means the Crown used to acquire indigenous land and destroy culture, which continues to impact indigenous communities and produce all sorts of negative outcomes for our people.

As a result though, our rangatahi [younger generation] are possibly more empowered than ever to find ways to decolonise and reinstate our unceded Maori sovereignty and self-determination — mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga — but this is all due to the endless work of our rangatira [leader] over many generations, and these are the lives we should celebrate and mourn.”

BETH, 24, AUSTRALIA

“I think the Queen’s death is a sad moment in history. However, while in a broad sense the Commonwealth and the monarchy have achieved many brilliant things, they are deeply rooted in colonialism and there’s such a racist history there. Personally, I don’t support it because there could have been so many more things done to rectify that history and there’s still such a long way to go.

In Australia, while there is affection and respect for the Queen, I think a lot of people realise that she is a figurehead of an insanely colonialist institution. The majority of young people in Australia are aware of that colonial legacy, and they don’t respect it nor support it. The idea of becoming a republic is quite widely supported – not only among young people, but among a fair amount of the older generation too.

However, because we are part of the Commonwealth, people don’t think there’s a lot they can do about it – aside from educating themselves and supporting indigenous movements. And there is also still a lot of support for the monarchy, particularly among Australians with British ancestry.”

MARAL, 25, CANADA

“I personally did not mourn the Queen’s death. I agree with people who said she lived a life of the duty, she did, but I would say that’s actually a reason to not mourn her death because to perform the duties of a queen is to do horrible things.

Queen Elizabeth presided over Britain during an invasion of Egypt and the Irish Troubles. She tried to use the state poverty fund – which is meant for very poor people to heat their homes – to heat her palaces. Most recently, she protected her [alleged] paedophile son. Previous monarchs participated in the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas. They created famine in Ireland and India.”

COREY, 26, NEW ZEALAND

“I don’t feel emotionally attached to the Queen so I didn’t mourn, unlike others who have – which I find odd. The monarchy is a centuries-old concept that needs to be left in history. As someone from Aotearoa, New Zealand, I think the Crown need to fulfil their obligations to The Treaty of Waitangi, an agreement between the Crown and Māori – the indigenous people – and correct their historic injustices in ways that restore equity between Māori and non-Māori. 

I have a strong feeling that the young people in Aotearoa are learning more about our own colonial history. The government recently changed the curriculum for schools around New Zealand History to include things like the New Zealand Wars. Some Māori youth have also been handed down stories throughout generations within their whānau [family] or hapū [clan], which would inform their thoughts, feelings and attitudes towards the Crown.

The Commonwealth could be utilised more in terms of global diplomacy, as it is largely a network of former colonised countries. It would be great to see more cooperation between countries within the organisation and would love it for the headquarters to move from country to country and not just be in London.”