Federation: a Timeline

When people from Britain first came to Australia, they built small towns called colonies. A colony is a place belonging to a country that is far away but which makes the laws for the colony.

 There were 6 British colonies in Australia. They could decide some things themselves, but the laws were made in Britain.

 Each colony was now able to elect their own government, but still the big decisions were made in Britain. People in the colonies were starting to talk about joining together to be one nation instead of 6 little colonies. Joining together like this is called federation (say fed-er-ray-shun).

 A meeting was held to discuss federation. Each colony sent 7 people. They started to write a constitution (say con-stit-you-shun) , which is a list of rules about how the nation's parliament will work.

 The federation groups decided that the people of Australia should vote to decide if federation should take place.

1897 & 1898

Meetings discussed the draft constitution and made changes and a new draft. Queensland was the only colony that did not send people to the meetings. Because some colonies were much smaller than others, it was decided to have parliament the way the United States did - the number of people from each state in the House of Representatives depends on how many people live in the state, but each state has the same number of people in the Senate.

People in all the colonies except Queensland and Western Australia voted on the Constitution, but in New South Wales they did not agree to what was written and the vote failed.

The premiers met to discuss the things that worried those three colonies, and changes were made to the Constitution. One change was that there would be a new capital built between Sydney and Melbourne, because both thought they should be the capital city. People in all colonies except Western Australia voted for the new Constitution, and this time it was successful.


A committee took the Constitution to London to persuade the British Parliament to pass a law allowing five colonies to join together to become a nation. The law was passed in May and signed by Queen Victoria in July saying that on 1st January 1901, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania would become states in the Commonwealth of Australia.

Meanwhile, there was a gold rush in Western Australia and people from all over the country went there to look for gold. The Western Australians started to change their minds about federation, and in August they voted to be part of it.


 On 1st January 1901 the first Governor General, Lord Hopetoun, officially declared that there were now six states forming the Commonwealth of Australia.

The first parliament was opened in Melbourne on 9th May.

This is the Federation flag, which people flew to encourage support for the idea of federation.

The flag was white, with a blue cross and the stars of the Southern Cross, and the British flag in one corner.

If you use any of this information in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Federation: a Timeline (2000). [Online], Available: www.kidcyber.com.au

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updated 30 October, 2000