Birth of Commonwealth

Commonwealth Day floats, Kalgoorlie

The Australian nation was born on 1 January 1901, the first day of the twentieth century. Celebrations to mark Commonwealth Day were held throughout Australia. Lord Hopetoun, our first Governor General, presided over an official ceremony in Sydney.  In Western Australia, celebrations took the form of parades, games and picnics. The following extract from the Kalgoorlie Miner tells how the strongly pro-federation goldfields celebrated the creation of a new nation.

"The residents of Kalgoorlie and district, reinforced by many thousands of visitors from outside centres, made Commonwealth and New Year's Day a real high holiday in this town. Fine weather, though perhaps a little warm for some folks, favoured festive gatherings, and old and young had abundant inducement to go from their homes to join their fellow beings in vast assemblages for celebrations and enjoyment. Kalgoorlie was arrayed in festive finery and glitter as never before, the predominant note being Australian national as well as Imperial unity ..."

The procession which followed included members of the Reform League, given pride of place in the first vehicle by 'special resolution', representatives of the town council, as well as members of the Australian Natives' Association, volunteer organisations, the Trades and Labor Council, the Chamber of Mines, and hundreds of school children among many others.

One impressive display was constructed by the Japanese community of Kalgoorlie. Approval for the Japanese participants was limited to their float. Non-whites were seldom welcomed as permanent residents in a white Western Australia. The Federal Parliament was opened in Melbourne in May 1901 by the Duke and Duchess of York. Although the States had agreed that a new capital would be built within New South Wales, a national Parliament in Canberra was not completed until 1926. The Federal Parliament quickly passed racist legislation to enshrine a White Australia Policy for the next fifty years.

Focus questions

Key Words

 Commonwealth

Procession

Governor General

Reform League

Further reading

Australian Electoral Commission - The First Commonwealth Parliament 1901

 

Commonwealth invitation

Commonwealth day Kalgoorlie

Crowd gathered on the Perth Esplanade to celebrate the Federation of Australia

Federation Archway, Perth

Swan Souvenir of the Royal visit to Australia

Invitation to the opening of Parliament

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