Waleed Aly has sparked debate with his co-hosts on The Project by calling for an Indigenous elder to replace Queen Elizabeth II as Australia’s head of state.
The monarchy versus republic debate has been reignited in Australia as the official mourning period comes to a close following the Queen’s death a fortnight ago.
As Australians commemorated the National Day of Mourning on Thursday, Aly suggested an alternative approach having an Indigenous elder as Australia’s future head of state instead of a monarch or president.
But co-host Carrie Bickmore disagreed, arguing people still want consistency after having a Queen for 70 years.
Aly believes if Australians are asked to forego the monarch, it needs to be replaced with something more fitting but magical.
‘An Australian President doesn’t offer the sense of constancy, history or ritual we’ll be replacing,’ Aly explained.
Waleed Aly has led calls for an Indigenous elder to replace the Queen’s as Australia’s head of state. Pictured are protestors denouncing colonialisation at a Sydney rally on Australia’s National Day of Mourning for the Queen
‘If we’re going to do this, we need to draw on our own sources of tradition, ceremony and spirituality.’
A self-confessed republican, Aly see the monarchy as unchanging, draped in history, tradition and ritual.
‘In short, monarchy becomes a kind of foil to government. It works specifically because it’s undemocratic and imposes relatively little on citizens,’ he said.
‘It’s powerful precisely because it has no real power. The Queen was loved because she was so frequently silent, so often a blank canvas.’
He argued the case for a recognised Indigenous elder appointed as our head of state, which already would come anchored in a long history and a culture brimming with ceremony.
‘One of the great things about some Indigenous ceremonies like Welcome to country, is they’re often informal,’ Aly continued.
‘This extraordinary mix of ceremony and informality capture something unique and charming about the Australian character.’
‘We could even call our elder Uncle or Aunty and when our Aunty dies, deep rituals of mourning would already exist, ready for us to embrace as a nation.’
Carrie Bickmore (right) disagreed with The Project co-host Waleed Aly’s bold proposal
Australia commemorated its National Day of Mourning for the Queen, who died a fortnight ago
He admitted the office would be racially closed but pointed out so too is the monarchy which is always going to be white and doesn’t extend to white Catholics.
‘It’s also undemocratic which replicates precisely one of the monarchy’s virtues,’ he added.
‘Sure, I can see problems. For example, how would the elder be chosen from among the hundreds of First Nations we have? Does it rotate in a predetermined way?
‘Our head of state has to be an apolitical figure, confining itself to speaking on areas of mere total agreement. Would the elder face too much pressure to become an activist?
‘I admit it’s rough but it captures something of the richness and magic of monarchy while being in disputably ours.’
Co-host Carrie Bickmore disagreed it’s about the consistency of the monarchy.
‘We’ve had a Queen for 70 years so all the words of dignity and consistency and all that, it’s all about her for a lot of people,’ she said.
Bickmore says any plans to ditch the monarch are too soon.
Walled Aly believes if Australians are asked to forgo the monarch, it needs to be replaced with something more fitting but magical, such as an Indigenous Elder appointed as head of state
Georgie Tunny added: ‘It’s interesting having the conversation because I think it’s an interesting concept of just having something that doesn’t need a precedent right now.
‘Whether or not something like that could be apolitical, I have my doubts. I don’t think a head of state could not be political.’
Peter Helliar described the idea as fascinating.
Aly responded by saying his proposal is just a ‘thought starter’ in full respect of the monarchy and admitted it isn’t foolproof.
‘It’s a point of discussion, I’m not presenting it as a solution necessarily,’ he said.
‘But I think there’s something that could be worked on. It literally popped into my head one night because I thought ‘ there’s something there that needs to be preserved.’
Britain’s King Charles III , Camilla, the Queen Consort, Princess Anne, and Prince Andrew, from left, standing together during the state funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II in central London, England, Monday Sept. 19, 2022
The proposal divided The Project viewers.
‘An indigenous elder would make a great head of state. And another alternative is both the existing monarchy and elder, one woman tweeted.
Another added: ‘I actually thought the idea has merit. At least he had started a discussion which is more than some people are doing.
But not everyone agreed
‘No one can really believe that there is a suitable President. We like our connection to the past and want to keep it into the future,’ one viewer commented.