Labour History

A Republican History of Australia

Labour History (2014), 107, (1), 197–209.


In post-1788 Australia, we can identify three versions of republicanism: firstly as a specific ideology for the Australian nation; secondly as a political movement to break ties with the British Crown; and thirdly as a set of initiatives collectively defined as deliberative democracy. As ideology, republicanism has roots in both civic republicanism and liberal democratic radicalism. It has sometimes been nationalist and racist (the Great Australian Settlement) and sometimes liberal and multicultural (the New Australia of the 1960s). Unity around establishing legal and cultural independence has been achievable but, when it comes to a break with the Crown, there are divided views on its necessity and on the form a republic should take. In the 1990s, when the movement for change was at its height, these differences proved too much to handle and the referendum to establish a republic in 1999 was lost. It is argued that only through an exercise in new democracy involving random selection and proper deliberation — “a republican means for a republican end” — will it be possible to create the trust and authority needed for change.

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Author details

Gallop, Geoff