How and Why Australia Became a Federation How and Why Australia Became a Federation It could be argued that Australia becoming a Federation was a stupid thing to do but most people agree that it was a great idea. In the next few paragraphs, the reasons how and why Australia became a Federation will be discussed. Some of the reasons ‘why’ are trade (NSW/Victoria rivalry), communication and fear of invasion by Germany. On January 1, 1901, Australia’s six self-governing colonies became states in an “indissoluble Federal Commonwealth.” In other words, January 1st, 1901, is when Australia became a Federation. For over fifty years many individuals had dreamed of this and occasionally false starts were made, but it wasn’t until the 1890’s that the Federation movement gathered momentum.
The inauguration of the Commonwealth was the end of a chapter in Australia’s history as well as the start of a new one. The need for Federation was a consequence of the sub-division of Australia in the first half of British settlement. The first colony, NSW, at one stage included 2/3 of the continent but Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland were gradually carved out of it. WA and SA were founded as entirely seperate colonies. Each small community fought and won its own battle for survival and growth.
There was talk of Federation from the early 1840’s when the colonies still functioned seperately and there was a rivalry between NSW (who believed that trade should be free) and Victoria (who believed a tax should be imposed for trade). There was a need to uniform defence as there was fear of an invasion by Germany and if the colonies fought as one single nation, it would be stronger than if they remained seperate colonies. Before the sub-division of Australia was complete, suggestions were made to link the colonies. In September, 1846, there were discussions in the Legislative Council in NSW as to the need for some control to be made over “intercolonial legislation.” Two weeks later, Governor Fitz Roy suggested “some superior functionary” be appointed, with the power to review and, if necessary, disallow legislation of all colonies on anything other than local matters. These suggestions have been regarded as the first move towards Federation.
The next move came from Britain, when, in 1847, Earl Grey, then the Secretary of State for the colonies, suggested a “central authority” be created in Australia to regulate matters affecting more than one colony. Then, in November 1880, an intercolonial conference in Melbourne, attended by representatives from NSW, SA and Victoria, agreed to resolutions moved by Henry Parkes in favour of the establishment of a Federal Council. As you can tell by reading this, there were many reasons how and why Australia became a Federation. There are also mentioned reasons that held back the ‘go ahead’ of the Federation movement. A lot of interesting information was gathered and use for this’discussion’ and a lot was learned from it.