No big surprise to see Craig Foster elected chair of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) last night. But in his first address to ARM members, he flagged a change to how the movement operates.
Peter FitzSimons has been the leader of the ARM for the past seven years. The author, SMH columnist and former rugby union player has been the recognisable face of an organisation which has supported the idea of an Australian head of state since 1991. It counted FitzSimons, novelist Thomas Keneally and Malcolm Turnbull among its founding members, and the latter went on to spearhead the campaign leading up to the 1999 referendum which was defeated, to the surprise of many at the time.
FitzSimons announced his resignation on October 1. Former footballer and SBS football analyst, now a human rights advocate, Craig Foster, was soon announced as the front-runner to take over.
Foster’s first public human rights campaign was to bring home Bahrain footballer Hakeem al-Araibi. Hakeem had been granted political asylum in Australia, but was detained while on honeymoon in Thailand in 2018 at the behest of the oppressive Bahrain regime who wanted him extradited. Hakeem was eventually returned to Australia after intense international pressure was placed on FIFA as well as Bahrain. Foster used the worldwide publicity garnered through this campaign as a platform to criticise Australian refugee policy:
Australia needs to look at how we treat every human being that comes to these shores, irrespective of how they arrive… We are all equal, and should all be treated with equal dignity, care and respect.
Perhaps to underline his strong belief in equality, his first act as chairman of the ARM was to call for a change to its constitution to mandate a female co-chair. In the video published this morning, stating:
I think it would be a wonderful message to every Australian to say that those in the highest leadership positions of the ARM movement are sharing the chair position between both a female and a male.
Kim Wingerei is a businessman turned writer and commentator. He is passionate about free speech, human rights, democracy and the politics of change. Originally from Norway, Kim has lived in Australia for 30 years. Author of ‘Why Democracy is Broken – A Blueprint for Change’.