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The Federation of Australia
Transcript of The Federation of Australia
The Process Leading to the Creation of the Constitution
A Constitutional Convention was held in Sydney to consider a draft of the Constitution. There were 46 delegates, one of which was Henry Parkes, the "Father of Federation."
During these years, the conventions ran in stages. It was during these years that the delegates created a draft Constitution that were eventually passed through referendums in each colony.
New Zealand loses interest to federate with Australia
Before 1901, Australia was split up in several colonies.
To my fellow Western Australians,
Although I have been made the first premier of this state of Western Australia and I feel that all in this colony is going right, I speak before you to ask you questions on federating into one nation. I understand that the other colonies including the one of New South Wales have decided to go ahead in the act of creating one nation. I am fully aware that since Western Australia is so far away from the other colonies that trade and transport is a pain. Also, our land is rugged and very hard to cultivate fields. However we have a proficiency of minerals and resources. I have believed that Western Australia could benefit greatly from federating with the rest of the nation. I also understand that during the 1899 referendum that all colonies besides ours had voted yes to a federated Australia. And I recall that only a few days ago it was becoming official that federation was going ahead without us. I would want to object but it is not in my place. I beg to think before we are excluded entirely. Perhaps they will extend their transport and trade systems towards us. I knew federation was inevitable and a great idea however I would not agree with the terms unless Western Australia received fair terms. In the end, the other colonies may have won I guess and I do not think that Western Australia will in fact receive fair terms. I am speaking to you to inform you of my difficult choices and my current position, but I think it is time for Western Australia to vote in another referendum and vote yes to one nation.
-Sir John Forrest
Federation was first discussed in the mid 19th century
Australia held a referendum to vote on if the colonies should federate. This vote was after the changes in the Constitution. All colonies except Western Australia voted yes to the new Constitution and federation had begun.
British government make a 99 year rent on Hong Kong, China
The Constitution Bill was taken to Britain to be passed. After a few negotiations, the Bill was passed and assented by Queen Victoria on July 9. She stated that the act take place on the 1 of January 1901 allowing the colony of Western Australia to be part of the original states.
Cyclone Mahina strikes Queensland, the deadliest natural disaster in Australian history.
On January 1, Australia officially becomes one nation as the "Commonwealth of Australia" although Western Australia is left out in the Constitution's preamble having passing its referendum so late (in September 1900). The first Governor General of Australia is appointed by Queen Victoria as the Earl of Hopetoun and Sir Edmund Barton became the first Australian Prime Minister (from 1901-1903).
Winston Churchill elected as Prime Minister of England for the first time.
Sir Edmund Barton
Sir Henry Parkes
Sir Henry Parkes is Australia's "Father of Federation." When he migrated from England, he joined politics very early, his main concern to stop the fleets of convicts to Australia. He was also the premier of NSW. He pitched the idea of a whole nation, a federated nation. He set up the conventions that ultimately led to the design, creation and later acceptance of the Australia Constitution. Unfortunately, Parkes passed away in 1896, just before a federated Australia came true.
Sir Henry Parkes
Sir John Forrest
Sir Edmund Barton
Sir Edmund Barton was a leader who was incredibly important in making Australia become federated, and who later became Australia's first Prime Minister after making his vision a reality. He became a member of the NSW parliament in 1879. In 1889, he took interest in Sir Henry Parkes' speech on a federated nation. He attended many of the conventions in the following years. In 1900 he traveled to London during the passing of the Bill to allow Australia to become federated and become an independent nation.
Impacts of Federation
After the Federation of Australia, Indigenous Australians were not counted as part of the census as written in the Constitution. This act technically took away their identity and place as a human being. The Aboriginal people of Australia were also unable to vote in Federal elections and most state elections. This act stripped the Indigenous people of their own rights and identity. This impacted them a lot as the original owners of the land were not given the opportunity to benefit from basic human rights that Europeans received. Some laws even tried to separate the Indigenous population and the white population. These laws were basically created to keep the nation as a white nation. However over the years, Australians have been accepting the traditional owners and an amendment to the Constitution was made in 1967 to allow the Indigenous population to receive the same rights as white people. However, there are still racial issues that some people still hold against the Aboriginal people. In all, the federation of Australia impacted the original owners of the land by restricting them to privileges that others received.
Prior to federation, both South Australia and Western Australia gave women the right to vote (in 1894 and 1899 respectively). However, upon federation, women were impacted greatly. However unlike the Indigenous population, women were given the right to vote shortly after federation. The right for women to be able to vote in was passed in the "Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902" allowing women to vote in federal elections. For state elections, it took until 1908 where the last state allowed women to vote (Victoria). Not only did women get the right to vote but the right to stand in some parts of parliament. Indigenous women did not receive suffrage (the right to vote) until 1962. The turn of the century and the federation made Australia the second country to allow women the vote (after New Zealand). Although women's suffrage groups originated in the 1880s, it lasted long enough to give rights to women that were available to men including voting, job opportunities, pay and privileges. The main thought the women's suffrage provoked was why women didn't have the same rights as men when they had to pay the same taxes.
After federation, immigration was controlled by the federal government rather than of each colony. However due to the fact that Australia wanted to create and maintain a "white" nation, the government created a policy called the "Immigration Restriction Act 1901." This act gave an immigration officer the ability to stop any immigrants and test them through a dictation test. If they failed, they would have to go back to their country or find refuge elsewhere. However this test was biased and only a handful succeeded during the test. The white population of Australia mainly despised non-Europeans (in particular the Chinese) due their great success in the minefields during the gold rush. In all, the federation impacted the non-Europeans for the worse as it provided the Europeans. the ability to control their population.
All in all, the federation of Australia provided great benefits for women in terms of voting, pay and privileges. In retrospect, non-Europeans and Indigenous people were restricted in their rights and what they could do. The Chinese could not enter Australia and the Indigenous had no rights.
Aboriginal People Protest for Rights
Louisa Lawson (leading Women's Suffragette)
Propaganda against the Chinese
Mei Quong Tart
Mei Quong Tart
In the 1850s, gold was discovered in Bathurst (NSW). This attracted many Chinese people in particular who traveled to Australia to mine gold and send it home to China. Due to the great success rates, the Europeans were extremely angry and jealous of them. This led to the tragic and violent anti-Chinese riots of Lambing Flat (now called Young) in 1861. These riots fueled the hatred against the Chinese and upon federation the "Immigration Restriction Act 1901" was created mainly to keep the Chinese out of Australia.
Mei Quong Tart
In 1859, Mei Quong Tart immigrated to Australia at 9 years of age. He was taken in by a wealthy family and learned the European etiquette and even converted to Christianity. When he was 21, he built a cottage near his house and became a naturalised British subject. In 1881, he went to Sydney to set up a store for silk and tea trading upon request from his family in China, later founding the first tea room in Sydney. In 1886, he helped bridge the gap between the Chinese and European by marrying a white lady called Margaret Scarlett.
Immigration Restriction Act 1901
Mei Quong Tart's tea room in the QVB
Immigration Restriction Act 1901
The "Immigration Restriction Act 1901" was a policy created and passed by the Australian government to try to keep the Chinese people out of Australia through a dictation test. This was a struggle during the federation that non-Europeans had to endure however Mei Quong Tart was naturalised well before that. He befriended people of different races to show that you could live in a world of many races and get along. He carried out his Chinese customs as well as English etiquette to also prove it.
Propaganda was created to scare the European settlers into believing that the Chinese were dirty and should be kept away from people. It was also used to manipulate the Europeans into excluding the Chinese in their activities. Mei Quong Tart however fought to help his Chinese brothers and in doing so made many English friends who enjoyed his tea rooms and the Chinese culture he provided.
When the Chinese arrived in Australia, some settled and established stores and businesses to help themselves survive. These stores made great business as it promoted a new culture that some people were willing to try. Mei Quong Tart for example established a silk and tea trading store before having enough money to create public tea rooms.
Louisa Lawson was the founder of "The Dawn," a journal for women. In 1891, she joined the Womanhood Suffrage League in NSW. The group campaigned for the right for women's vote and soon won it in 1902.
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Mei Quong Tart was able to bridge the gap between both cultures and able to have friendships with people of both cultures. He was able to keep up with his Chinese traditions as well as stay with the English customs. Quong Tart was an inspirational man that managed to change hearts of many Australians to accep the Chinese and other cultures into a multicultural country. Although he did not live long after the federation, his contribution wo society was amazing.