CQUniversity’s Dr Benjamin Jones has been named as The Republican Party of Australia's (RPA) 2023 Republican of the Year, signifying the passionate historian’s dedication to Australia’s independence and national identity.
The announcement was made last week with Dr Jones formally given the award at a dinner in Brisbane on Saturday, 22 July.
Dr Jones is also a Life Member of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) and has published widely on the history of republicanism. His 2018 book, This Time: Australia’s Past and Future, included a hybrid republic model which has since been adopted by the ARM in a modified form.
As a Senior Lecturer in History with expertise in political history, Dr Jones said his advocacy for an Australian republic has developed throughout his career and has become a focus of his academic life.
“My PhD looked at colonial Australia, colonial Canada and how they slowly democratised in the 19th century,” Dr Jones explained.
“But my career since then has merged more into Australian political history more generally.
“I'm very interested in the history, right back to the 19th century when the first republicans were calling for Australia or for New South Wales to become a republic, and how that movement evolved over the years in the years leading up to federation.”
Dr Jones was just 17 years old when the country went to a referendum on whether Australia should become a republic, but it was to change the course of history for the young man who would spend the next two decades studying the complex issue.
“When the referendum took place in the 1990s, I was just a few months too young to take part, and maybe that sparked an interest in the republican issue,” Dr Jones said.
“I wanted to know why my fellow citizens voted no on my behalf and what was some of the historical background to the question and the corollary on where Australia might go in the future.”
As Australia's decision to become a republic continues to be at a crossroads, Dr Jones said he is honoured to be recognised by the RPA and is proud to support their goal to have an Australian as the nation’s Head of State.
“The move to a republic would be an opportunity to make our system fairer and more democratic, and most importantly, a republic better aligns with our national values of democracy, equality and meritocracy,” he said.
“All Australians are equal, and every Australian child should be able to aspire to our highest office.”