News / Europe

Queen Elizabeth Begins Australia Visit

Britain's Queen Elizabeth smiles as two-year-old Alexander Hargreave rolls on the grass on the grounds of Government House in Canberra October 20, 2011.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth smiles as two-year-old Alexander Hargreave rolls on the grass on the grounds of Government House in Canberra October 20, 2011.
Phil Mercer

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has begun an official visit to Australia, a constitutional monarchy, where she is the head of state. The 85-year old monarch will spend most of her time in the national capital, Canberra, before travelling to Perth next week to open a meeting of former British colonies.

This is Queen Elizabeth’s 16th official trip to Australia, a former British penal colony.

The monarch’s first visit here was in 1954, when it was estimated 75 percent of the population turned out to catch a glimpse of her.

This visit is likely to be much lower in key, given the queen’s age and that of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is 90.

Small but enthusiastic crowds have attended the Queen's first engagements, which included a cruise on the city’s biggest lake and a tour of a local flower festival.

On a day trip to Brisbane, the queen will meet victims of devastating floods in the state of Queensland. In the southern city, Melbourne, she will ride on an iconic tram.

Many Australians regard the queen with great affection, while others believe it is time their country had a homegrown head of state and became a republic.

“I am excited. I love the queen," a student said. "I have actually just come back from England and I went everyday riding past the palace, took pictures and everything. So, yeah I suppose I am a monarchist. Yes. I think it is awesome.”

“I think it is good that is all I can say. Just think it is good,” an older gentleman said.

What do you think of the queen, VOA asked ?

“She seems to be a nice sweet, old lady," the man responded.

“She is a bit out of touch, I believe,” a young mother said of the monarch.

“I am not that fussed about the monarchy," opined an older woman. "I am very much an Australian and Australia for a republic.”

Australians rejected the chance to sever their constitutional ties to the British crown in a referendum in 1999.

Republicans believe the monarchy has little relevance to modern Australia, while supporters of the current system say it continues to provide great political stability.

Next week, the queen flies to Western Australia to open a three-day gathering of Commonwealth leaders, which is staged every two years.

The grouping of former British colonies includes Canada, South Africa, Nigeria, Jamaica and Pakistan. The Pacific nation of Fiji has been suspended from the organization following a military coup, five years ago.

The Commonwealth is home to more than a quarter of the world’s population. This year’s meeting in Perth will address issues surrounding poverty, security and economic growth.

Queen Elizabeth will return home to the United Kingdom on October 29.

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