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Australian Federation Movement


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(1890–1900)

A movement to seek federation of the six Australian colonies and (initially) New Zealand. Two pressure groups for federation were the Australian Natives' Association and the Australasian Federation League. In 1889 the six Australian colonies and New Zealand agreed to send delegates to a federal conference in Melbourne in 1890. It was decided to hold a full convention the following year in Parliament House, Sydney, at which a draft constitution was drawn up. A second convention was held in 1893 in the small New South Wales town of Corowa convened by the Australian Natives' Association, at which it was proposed that a national referendum be held. By now indifference had increased in New Zealand as its trade shifted to Britain with the invention of refrigeration. In Australia too, opposition to New Zealand's participation was growing, and plans for the federation were dropped. In 1895 the Premiers of the six Australian colonies met to reconsider the draft constitution drawn up in 1891. New Zealand was now excluded. Ten delegates from each colony were chosen (elected by the people, except in the case of Western Australia) and the Australian Federation Convention first met in Adelaide (March 1897). It was agreed that a referendum should be held. It met again in January 1898, when after much compromise a proposed constitution was agreed. The first referendum failed. The second (held in 1899 after amendments were made) passed in all colonies and was given royal assent in 1900, the Commonwealth of Australia coming into being on 1 January 1901.

Subjects: World History.


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