Federation timeline

Closer Look – Federation [PDF 2.11Mb, 15 pages]

  • 1889

    Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, urges the colonies to federate.

  • 1890

    The Australasian Federation Conference recommends a national convention be held to draft a constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia.

  • 1891

    The first National Australasian Convention is held in Sydney and drafts a constitution.

  • 1891–94

    Economic depression means the colonial parliaments lose interest in federation.

  • 1893

    A people's conference in Corowa, New South Wales, urges the colonial parliaments to hold a new convention to decide on a draft constitution.

  • 1895

    A special premiers' conference agrees to hold a new federation convention.

  • 1896

    A second people's conference in Bathurst, New South Wales, renews calls for another federation convention.

  • 1897–98

    The second National Australasian Convention meets in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, and agrees to the constitution.

  • 1898

    Referendums are held in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania to approve the constitution. It is endorsed by all but New South Wales.

  • 1899

    In January the premiers hold a secret meeting and agree to several changes to the constitution.

    Between April and July referendums are held in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania at which a majority vote 'yes' to the bill. In September Queensland voters endorse the constitution.

  • 1900

    In March a delegation travels to London to present the constitution to the British Parliament.

    On 5 July the British Parliament passes the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.

    On 9 July Queen Victoria signs the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.

    On 31 July Western Australia holds a referendum at which an overwhelming majority of voters approve the Constitution.

  • 1901

    On 1 January the Commonwealth of Australia is proclaimed in Centennial Park, Sydney.

    On 29 and 30 March the first Commonwealth elections are held.

    On 9 May the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V) opens the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in the Exhibition Building in Melbourne.