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Indigenous leaders reflect on legacy of Queen Elizabeth II

Indigenous figures have reacted to the death of Queen Elizabeth II by examining the legacy of her 70-year reign over Australia.

Britain’s longest reigning monarch died on Thursday evening in Scotland at the age of 96.

Her legacy was complicated, as the emotional and varied responses to her death have highlighted.

Some critics have cited the Stolen Generation and erasure of Indigenous cultural identifiers as part of the Queen’s legacy, labelling her a “war criminal”.

“Today we mourn all the stolen, violated, and traumatised lives who were affected and destroyed during Queen Elizabeth II (sic) reign,” said an Indigenous art collective in a viral post.

“Today is a brutal reminder that war criminals will be honoured while entire populations and societies bear the battle scars of colonial genocide, invasion, religious persecution, and white supremacy.”

It’s a sentiment that’s reverberating throughout communities across the world who grapple with the Queen’s fraught legacy.

Professor of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University Sandy O’Sullivan argued discussion of the Queen’s impact on Indigenous lives and cultures shouldn’t be silenced because of her death.

Queen Elizabeth Ii & The Duke Of Edinburgh Visit The Baltic States
Camera IconQueen Elizabeth ruled for seven decades. Mark Cuthbert / UK Press via Getty Images Credit: Supplied

“For those saying we should be magnanimous about the passing of the Queen, a reminder that the Queen inserted herself into the lives of Indigenous people here multiple times,” the professor said.

“She wasn’t a bystander to the effects of colonisation and colonialism, she was an architect of it.”

The professor said it was “outrageous” to demand respect from people whose lives were negatively impacted by the monarch’s action, or even inaction, during her long rule.

“It’s worth considering what she could have done – and didn’t – to effect change,” they said.

Professor O’Sullivan said it was important to hold up a mirror to the crown and the Queen amid the accolades and praise for her life’s work.

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi took to social media to share her condolences with those who loved the monarch, but said she could not ignore the negative impact of her rule.

Dom Perrotett
Camera IconFlowers placed along the fence outside Government House in Sydney in memory of the Queen. NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper Credit: News Corp Australia

“I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples,” she said on Twitter.

“We are reminded of the urgency of Treaty with First Nations, justice and reparations for British colonies and becoming a republic.”

An Indigenous activist from Western NSW took to social media to criticise the outpouring of grief for the monarch, who she said was responsible for “murder, theft and the absolute destruction of a beautiful way of life for so many Indigenous people out there.”

“I won’t disrespect my ancestors by commemorating the death of a war criminal,” she said in a video on social media.

“It is unreal the amount of destruction that one family has waged across the country we live in and also the entire world.”

Wreath Laying and Book of Condolences
Camera IconIndigenous leaders perform a smoking ceremony at Government house in Adelaide to commemorate the Queen. NCA NewsWire / David Mariuz Credit: News Corp Australia

Renowned artist Vincent Namatjira, who had painted the Queen many times, told SBS News he was shocked to learn of her death.

“Personally, I’d like to see Indigenous leaders and heroes past and present have the same level of recognition and respect that the royal family does,” he said.

Many Indigenous people took to social media to question the decision to fly the Aboriginal flag at half-mast on the Sydney Harbour Bridge to honour the death of someone who symbolised oppression to many.

CEO of GetUp! Bundjalung woman Larissa Baldwin said she was disappointed the parliament would not be sitting for 15 days when there were pressing issues to be handled.

“As an Aboriginal woman, she’s not my Queen, but it just feels so wrong for a modern Democracy,” she wrote on Twitter.

The reactions come as some leaders have already turned their minds to whether the country should cut ties with the monarchy altogether.

Greens leader Adam Bandt created a furore on Friday morning when he shared his condolences and simultaneously called for Australia to become independent.

“Rest In Peace Queen Elizabeth II,” he said.

“Now Australia must move forward. We need a Treaty with First Nations people, and we need to become a Republic.”

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