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In the Beginning
In October 24, 1889, then New South Wales Premier Sir Henry Parkes told a gathering at Tenterfield, close to the Queensland border, that the time had come for the Australian states to federate into one national government.
In 1890, on Parkes' initiative, the representatives of seven British colonies (which included New Zealand) met in Melbourne and agreed in principle to establish a federation.
A year later, a Federation Convention held in Sydney produced a draft Constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia.
Australian victory dance
Changes in government, the Depression and other factors held back federation. In the meantime, referendums had been held, and more conventions set up. It was only in 1900 that a final draft Constitution was approved.
New Zealand had opted out of the proposed federation. Fiji had also been invited but declined to join. Western Australia and Queensland debated whether they wanted to, finally deciding Yes.
The draft Constitution was brought to London for passage through the British Parliament and despite certain misgivings, Britain's Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain reached a compromise with the Australian delegates -- who are said to have joined hands and danced around the room -- and the way was cleared for the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia on January 1, 1901.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|