Australia is sometimes known as the ‘land of the long weekend’. We do have a lot of public holidays – for Christian religious festivals, commemoration of important days in our national history, remembering the advent of the 8 hour working day (oh to have that back again!), and the occasional horse race. This weekend most of the states in Australia have a long weekend to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.
Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch, is also constitutionally the Queen of Australia. This means that we have her image on our money, and everything the government does is done in her name. The Queen and her successors have the rights to hire and fire the Governor General (the Australian head of state) and all state governors. She exercises this power according to the advice of her ministers in the various democratically elected state and federal parliaments, but nevertheless it is she who has the constitutional authority – not the parliament, and certainly not the people.
Some people in other countries might find this strange. Many people in Australia find it strange, but not strange enough to do anything about changing it. In the meantime, the Queen’s birthday is a day off in early winter, a good day to snuggle up in front of the fire with a good book, or to visit a winery or two. Coming as it does towards the end of the school term a lot of teachers will spend the day writing reports or at least getting their marks books ready for doing so. So ‘avagoodweekend. And happy birthday, your majesty!