The Prince of Wales has spoken of his love for Australia and the Australian people as he came to the end of his seven-day tour of the country.
The heir to the throne said he was “really touched” by the crowds who had come out to greet him in cities and towns across Australia, as well as the South Pacific island of Vanuatu.
Crowds are out in force again for the arrival of Prince Charles in Bundaberg - Australia's "rum country" pic.twitter.com/VFePJnTZXS— Ellie Cullen (@EllieCullenPA) April 6, 2018
He said: “I love Australia and Australians and I love coming here.
“I was really touched by the welcome from the crowds here and in Vanuatu.”
The prince’s tour came as the future of the monarchy in Australia remained a topic of debate.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that a poll conducted on behalf of The Australian newspaper had found opposition to a republic had risen to its highest level since 1999.
A total of 41% of 1,639 people asked over four days in April said they would be against scrapping the monarchy and becoming a republic, according to the Newspoll survey.
This compares to 34% 19 years ago and 38% in August 2017.
One in two Australians (50%) backed the push for a republic, while 9% were uncommitted, according to the poll.
In 1999 a referendum was held over whether the Queen and Governor-General should be replaced with a president, with 54.87% voting against and 45.13% in favour.
Just days before the prince arrived in Brisbane for his first official engagement, former prime minister Paul Keating claimed Charles would support Australia cutting ties with the monarchy and becoming a republic.
Mr Keating told the Sunday Times: “I have no doubt he believes Australia should be free of the British monarchy and that it should make its own way in the world.”
Another former prime minister, Julia Gillard, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she believed at some point the country would become a republic.
Charles has visited the cities of Brisbane and Cairns on his tour, has learned about the traditions of the indigenous communities in Gove, and opened the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on behalf of the Queen.
Prince Charles was presented with a Malka feather headdress as he was welcomed to East Arnhem Land, on the Gove peninsula, by the Rirratjingu indigenous people pic.twitter.com/nC0YphH1Mk— Ellie Cullen (@EllieCullenPA) April 9, 2018
He also took a day-trip to Vanuatu, accompanied by Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop, where thousands of people lined the streets to greet him.
Incredible day in Vanuatu - Prince Charles was made a high chief and thousands of locals lined the street to catch a glimpse of the heir to the throne pic.twitter.com/aHvxZPj5nj— Ellie Cullen (@EllieCullenPA) April 7, 2018
His trip ended in Darwin on Tuesday, where Charles laid a wreath at Darwin Cenotaph before visiting the base of NORFORCE (North-West Mobile Force), an infantry regiment of the Australian Army Reserve.
Prince Charles lays a wreath at the Darwin Cenotaph pic.twitter.com/REy9xkJNok— Ellie Cullen (@EllieCullenPA) April 10, 2018
There he spoke to soldiers who had worked with Prince Harry at the regiment during his four-week secondment with the Australian military in 2015.
He also visited the National Critical Care and Trauma Centre, which was set up after the 2002 Bali bombings to respond to health emergencies such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I am,” said the prince, as he was shown a “pop-up” surgical theatre, as well as vital life-saving equipment that can easily be transported abroad.
Charles finished his tour with a reception at Darwin’s Government House, and placed a message in a time capsule which will be opened in 30 years.