Western Australians went to the polls on 31 July 1900 to vote on whether the colony should federate with the five other Australian colonies. For the first time in the colony's history women over the age of twenty one were able to participate in the democratic process. As in many of the Australian colonies, Aboriginal people and non-Europeans were excluded from voting on the grounds of race.
With 96,065 electors on the roll, a total of 44,800 voted in favour of Federation, with just 19,691 opposed. Voting was not compulsory and nearly a third of the electorate did not cast a ballot, however the two to one margin represented a resounding victory for the 'Yes' campaign. The goldfields returned the strongest vote in favour of Federation of more than twenty to one. Only in the conservative, more established agricultural districts of the western coast did the 'No' vote narrowly prevail.
- What would Federation mean for Western Australians?
- Voting was non-compulsory. Do you think this may have influenced the result in any way? Voting is compulsory in Australia. Why do you think this is the case?
- Women could vote in the referendum for Federation. When were women officially granted the vote in Western Australia? How does this compare to women in other states?
- Aboriginal people were excluded from voting. How do you think it felt for them to be denied this agency over their traditional lands?