When Australia held a referendum on the monarchy

A majority of Australians weren't ready to give the Royal Family the heave-ho to become a republic in 1999.

Voters rejected the idea of becoming a republic in 1999 referendum

Australia votes to keep the monarchy

23 years ago
Duration 2:28
In a 1999 referendum, 55 per cent of the country rejects the idea of becoming a republic .

Australians just weren't ready to give the Royal Family the heave-ho in 1999.

"They voted in a referendum on ending their ties to the British crown and establishing a republic," said the CBC's Mark Kelley on a late edition of Saturday Report on Nov. 6, 1999.

The referendum was decided with a majority of Australians — 55 per cent — voting No to the question of abolishing the monarchy.

Yes voters were crushed.

What to tell the children?

Voters who supported a republic watched the results come in after a referendum on Nov. 6, 1999. (Saturday Report/CBC Archives)

"I'm devastated," said a woman at a party for the Yes side. "I've got two kids. I don't know how I'm going to explain this to them."

"I think it was an absolute tragedy for Australia," said an older man.

Reporter Paul Workman described the results as "a miserable failure for the republican movement," which had been hoping to "break the colonial bond."

A No supporter described the decision as "a triumph" for pro-monarchists and for ordinary Australians.

"Today is a very, very special day in the history of our great country, Australia," said the monarchist leader, Kerry Jones.

The ballot 

Rather than mark an X, voters were required to write the word Yes or No in response to the ballot question. (Saturday Report/CBC Archives)

"This is the proudest moment of my life," said Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the republican side and future Australian prime minister, as he prepared to cast his ballot.

A look at the ballot showed that it required voters to write in the word Yes or No inside a box under the wordy referendum question.

The gist of the question, said Workman, asked if Australia should replace the position of Governor General and have a president instead.

"All of us who voted Yes can be proud tonight," said Turnbull after the results were in. "We did what was right."

A Queen Elizabeth impersonator was present at a republican-sponsored party called Bye Bye Betty. (Saturday Report/CBC Archives)