Federation was the joining together of the colonies to form a nation the Commonwealth of Australia. As each colony was created separately and had their own government, they didn’t want to give away or lose their power and their positions. In this case, bringing all those colonies under one law or policy was a long and difficult process. Factors that helped to move the colonies towards Federation were the formation of Australia Native Association in 1871, the First Inter-Colonial Trade Union Conference in 1879 and the Inter-colonial Conference on Immigration in 1889. These processes were the main events that led all those colonies towards Federation. Furthermore, Federation highlighted the need for Australia, to develop a defence force.
The Australian Native Association (ANA) was formed in 1871 with the membership of just men born in Australia. It began to help people with health or medical expenses. The members of the ANA were part of the Australian born group who were increasing in numbers, and they thought of Australia as their own country. Therefore, they appreciated the country and what it offered to them. These people identified with Australia and they eventually started to have nationalist opinions about the country. By 1891 nearly three quarters of the population were native born, and they wanted to be an equal country with Britain. So in 1890s, the ANA was proudly supporting the ‘yes’ campaign supporting Federation. They helped to inform the people of the idea of the Australian identity.
Unionism in Australia began in 1879 when workers did not have rights to fixed wages, set hours or safe conditions of work. “There was no way for people to negotiate with their employers if the employer chose to ignore their requests”. (Australia And The World, P, 86. Calvert, Herbst and Smith) So working people of one trade or area joined together and formed a group to achieve common goals such as a better and safer conditions of work, negotiation of wages and working rules. Wealthy people who employed them made working conditions much stricter in response to those who were forming Unions. However, as the union’s population grew as a percentage of the total, so the issues they were dealing with also grew. Large numbers of workers from different trades combined to take political action on issues such as immigration, unemployment, and the conditions of work. Unions had a better chance of being successful if they joined with others in other colonies to form large unions across the country.
The Gold Rushes in Australia in 1851 led to an influx of immigration where a large number of people were coming to Australia from all over the world. By the 1889 the colonies agreed to reduce the limit of Chinese people migrating to Australia. They wanted to keep Australia white and to prevent migration of any other race than European. Colonies realized by joining together that there could be one national law or policy to make this happen. This was an important reason for colonies supporting Federation.
In summation, by 1899 the colonists of Australia, whose growing loyalty and love for their young country and culture, also wanted to establish their own nation. Each colony elected their delegates to compose the Establishment of Australia. The delegates came together for a conference. At this conference, they decided to work on a number of issues, deciding that all defence should be federally controlled, the colonies were to freely trade with one another and federal government was to manage the customs duties. Finally, there was to be a national (referendum) for the whole population in each colony. Once the election was held, it was found that the colonies were agreeing to federate and when the Commonwealth Constitution of Australia Act were signed by Queen Victoria in January 1901, people couldn’t wait to celebrate the new nation. This was how the six colonial governments became six separate state governments and the Federation was made.
Calvert, H, Herbst, J, Smith, R, Australia and the World, Macmillan Education Australia, Melbourne, 2007.
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