An Indigenous senator caused a stir in Australia’s Parliament after she added a few choice words to an official oath while being sworn into office.
Senator Lidia Thorpe, an Aboriginal woman of DjabWurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara descent, labelled Queen Elizabeth II a “colonizing” queen on Monday during a swearing-in oath in which she was meant to pledge her allegiance to the British monarch.
When the Greens senator was called to take her oath of office, she walked with her right fist held high in a Black Power salute. She begrudgingly swore to serve Britain’s queen, who still remains the head of state to a number of former British colonies, including Australia and Canada.
In protest, Thorpe recited the oath as, “I sovereign, Lidia Thorpe, do solemnly and sincerely swear that I will be faithful and I bear true allegiance to the colonizing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” before she was cut off by a senate official.
“Senator Thorpe, Senator Thorpe, you are required to recite the oath as printed on the card,” said the chamber’s president Sue Lines.
A senate colleague can also be heard on video yelling, “You’re not a senator if you don’t do it properly,” to Thorpe.
Thorpe eventually recited the oath as written, omitting “the colonizing” on her second read.
After the incident, Thorpe declared on Twitter: “Sovereignty never ceded.”
Australia was a British colony for over 100 years before gaining the right to self-governance in 1901 under the British Commonwealth system.
And much like Canada, Australia is grappling with the legacy of genocide against Indigenous people.
Before Europeans landed on Australia’s shores, around one to 1.5 million Indigenous people occupied the island. During the course of Australia’s invasion and colonization, that number dropped to less than 100,000 by 1901, according to the Australian Museum.
Much like the residential school system in Canada, the Australian government carried out a widespread campaign until 1967 to remove Indigenous children from their homes to assimilate them into white families. These children are known as the Stolen Generations in Australia.
In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to Indigenous people for the harms inflicted on them by the Australian government.
Current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed his support for changing the Australian constitution to give Indigenous people an institutional role in lawmaking.
“Our priority this term is the recognition of First Nations people in our Constitution,” Albanese told CNN on Sunday.
Albanese has also expressed his support for severing official ties with the United Kingdom and its monarchy and establishing Australia as a republic.
“I do support a republic,” he said on-air.
According to CBS News, polls have shown that many Australians support forming a republic, but the matter of how to choose a new head of state remains unsettled.
During Thorpe’s first oath of office in 2020, she said her community was not excited about it because she would have to be “swearing allegiance to the colonizer,” according to The Independent.
Last month, she branded Australia a “colonial project” and declared that the national flag did not represent her.
“It represents the colonization of these lands, and it has no permission to be here. There’s been no consent, there’s been no treaty, so that flag does not represent me,” she told Channel 10’s The Project.