Queen Elizabeth II begins Australia tour

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Media captionThe Queen received a warm welcome from waiting crowds after she was met by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

The Queen has arrived in Australia for an 11-day tour of the country.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, was greeted by well-wishers at Fairbairn military airfield near Canberra. She will open a Commonwealth summit in Perth next week.

The royal couple will be based mainly in Canberra, Australia's capital, but will also visit Melbourne and Brisbane.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said the country should become a republic after the Queen's reign.

However, Ms Gillard has also said that it would be an honour to welcome the Queen and Prince Philip back to Australia.

"Visits by the Queen are etched into the collective memory of the Australian people," she said.

"Many Australians can recall Her Majesty's previous visits as landmarks in their own lives.

"I think while the Queen is here in Australia what Australians will be doing is enjoying and celebrating her presence here.

"I believe she is very well respected by Australians and I think she's going to be tremendously, warmly received from the moment that she sets foot on Australian soil."

Armfuls of flowers

The BBC's royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, says that while some are suggesting this may be the Queen's last visit to this country, there is nothing to suggest that she regards this as a farewell visit.

Upon her arrival, the Queen received armfuls of flowers from local schoolchildren.

One bouquet she was given came from 64-year-old Margaret Cunningham, who presented the monarch with flowers in 1954 as a six-year-old.

The pair spoke briefly and afterwards Ms Cunningham, a retired art teacher now living in Bateau Bay in New South Wales, said: "I said it was lovely to see her again after all these years.

"There was a glint in her eye, she looked at me with those same blue eyes from all those years ago. They never change, a steady warm gaze, honest and sincere."

The Queen cancelled a visit to the British Museum last week owing to a cold, described by Buckingham Palace as a "precautionary measure" ahead of her trip to Australia.

Despite her illness, Her Majesty still hosted a reception for 350 Australians living and working in the UK prior to her departure.

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