SBS journalists reflect on Queen’s ‘enduring’ legacy in Australia’s migrant communities
Australians awoke on Friday to news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, at the age of 96.
Buckingham Palace announced that she died at her home in Scotland, which has signalled a huge outpouring of emotional tributes and reflections on her 70-year reign.
Flags around Australia are being flown at half-mast and federal parliament has been suspended, while a gun salute will be held at Australia’s Parliament House at dusk on Friday, with one round fired for every year of the Queen’s life.
The Queen’s eldest son Charles, 73, automatically becomes king of the United Kingdom and the head of state of 14 other realms including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
He is now known as King Charles III.
SBS Arabic24 audiences responded with a “huge outpouring of emotion” for the late monarch during the morning talkback segment, says Executive Producer Sylva Mezher.
“[Callers] remembered her exemplary commitment to the crown, putting her duties before her own family, before her own children, including her own husband,” Mrs Mezher says.
“Callers [also] expressed their concerns at the same time regarding the Royal Family’s unity after the Queen’s death as she was absorbing scandals and rifts within the close family circle. The attention was also on her legacy as a very stable, committed, popular Queen, as a mother as well.”
Mrs Mezher says her program received callers from the Palestinian community, who expressed disappointment and sadness at the Queen’s passing before the “putting in place of a fair and final outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
SBS Cantonese Executive Producer Elsa Tsang says the Queen’s legacy will endure “for a long time” among Hongkongers in Australia and abroad.
“I remembered seeing Queen Elizabeth II in person when Radio Television Hong Kong staged a welcome concert for her during her second visit to Hong Kong in 1986 and it was really a big event for Hongkongers at that time.
“Also I remembered watching the live televised wedding ceremony of [then] Prince Charles and Diana, which was also another significant royal event for Hongkongers.
“It seemed that whatever happened in the Royal Family would also have some sort of relationship to people in Hong Kong at that time. It’s really sad to see the Queen pass away.”
Reflecting on the monarchy’s influence on Hong Kong with the Queen at the helm, Ms Tsang says she considers herself “lucky” to have grown up in the city under British rule.
Hong Kong was a colony and dependent territory of the British Empire from 1841 until its handover to China in 1997.
“My parents fled from Canton to Hong Kong during WWII. I could enjoy a greater degree of freedom and democracy compared to the situation of Hong Kong right now,” Ms Tsang says.
“I witnessed the economic take-off and the prosperity enjoyed by the Hongkongers during the 1970s and 1980s, which I believed should be credited to the Hong Kong government under British rule at that time.”
Another ex-Hongkonger and SBS Cantonese journalist is Thomas Sung.
He admits that there were concerns about how Hong Kong police cracked down on people who made adverse comments against the Queen while Hong Kong was under British rule.
However, he says the Queen was a positive influence.
“She was a stabilising force who comforted people when they were in difficulties – in war, in natural disasters,” he says.
“So she’s been very stabilising. She is a stabilising force and her public image is kind and close to people. Everybody likes her.”
In a statement, King Charles said his mother’s death is “a moment of great sadness” for his family.
“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved mother,” he said.
“I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”
Mrs Mezher believes the “jury is out” for members of the Arabic community in Australia on whether King Charles will be able to attain the same reverence as his mother.
She recalls a personal encounter she had during his visit to Australia in 1994.
“He visited a cultural fair in Parramatta Park. I was there and I was carrying my one-year-old daughter Maria, and she was drinking her milk,” she recalls.
“He kindly got closer to us and spoke jokingly to her, praised her beauty and asked me if she really loves her milk, and if she was ‘being a good girl’.
“He showed attention and was keen on chatting to me about how beautiful the day was. It was indeed a lovely sunny day and he said he was always jealous of Australia’s sunshine.”
SBS Cantonese journalist Aaron Wan has been looking to the future about challenges that may arise for King Charles.
“I feel Charles always was lost in the shadow of his mother.
“Nevertheless, he does seem to support the Royal Family and his image in the world. And I guess he now has to establish respect in his own right.”