History and culture
How did Australian federation occur?
Before 1901, Australia consisted of six British colonies which were partly self-governing, but under the law-making power of the British Parliament. In the 1880s and 1890s, it was suggested that the colonies might be stronger and more efficient if they worked together. Several conventions were held to draft the Australian Constitution. In 1899, the draft was approved by a vote of the people in referendums. In 1900, it was agreed to by the British Parliament. On 1 January 1901, the Australian colonies united to become a nation. This is known as federation and resulted in the creation of a federal Parliament, with the colonies becoming Australia's six states. Through federation, the states transferred some of their law-making power to the federal Parliament.
When and where did federal Parliament first meet?
The Parliament of Australia first met on 9 May 1901 at the Exhibition Building in Melbourne, where the formal opening of Parliament ceremony took place at noon. From 2.30pm that same day, senators and members of the House of Representatives met in the Victorian Parliament House in Spring Street, Melbourne. The Parliament of Australia held sittings there until 1927, when Parliament House (now called Old Parliament House) was opened in Canberra.
More information: Fact Sheet – Federation
What was the first law made by the Australian Parliament?
The first law made by the federal Parliament was the Consolidated Revenue Act 1901. It enabled the first federal government to collect and spend money.
More information: Fact Sheet – Bills and Laws
When did federal Parliament first meet in Canberra?
The Parliament first met in Canberra on 9 May 1927, in Parliament House (now called Old Parliament House). Old Parliament House was only intended to be a temporary (provisional) meeting place until a permanent Parliament House was built.
Who was Australia's first Head of State?
Australia's first head of state was Queen Victoria, who died on 22 January 1901. She was succeeded by King Edward VII.
More information: Fact Sheet – Governor-General
Who was Australia's first Governor-General?
Australia's first Governor-General was the Right Honourable John Adrian Louis Hope, 7th Earl of Hopetoun. Lord Hopetoun, as he was known, held the position from 1 January 1901 to 9 January 1903. Before being appointed as Governor-General, he had been Governor of Victoria from 1889 to 1895 and Lord Chamberlain of the United Kingdom in 1898.
More information: Fact Sheet – Governor-General
Who was the first Australian-born Governor-General?
The first Australian-born Governor-General was the Right Honourable Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs. He held the position of Governor-General from 22 January 1931 to 23 January 1936. Before being appointed as Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1901 to 1906 and as a Justice of the High Court from 1906 to 1931.
Who formed Australia's first government?
Australia's first government was formed by a group of parliamentarians who agreed that Australia should use tariffs to limit cheap imports. This group was known as the Protectionists.
More information: Fact Sheet – Political Parties
Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?
Australia's first Prime Minister was the Right Honourable Sir Edmund Barton. Prime Minister Barton served from 1 January 1901 to 24 September 1903. He then became one of the first three Justices of the High Court of Australia.
More information: Fact Sheet – Prime Minister
Who was in the first federal ministry?
The first ministry was relatively small compared to modern ministries. On 1 January 1901, the ministry included:
Sir Edmund Barton as Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs
Alfred Deakin as Attorney-General
Sir William Lyne as Minister for Home Affairs
Sir George Turner as Treasurer
Charles Kingston as Minister for Trade and Customs
Sir James Dickson as Minister for Defence
Sir John Forrest as Postmaster-General
Richard E O'Connor as Vice-President of the Executive Council
Sir Neil Lewis – no portfolio.
This ministry was formed before the first Parliament was elected in March 1901, and two of its ministers never became members of the Australian Parliament. Sir James Dickson died on 10 January 1901, after becoming ill during the federation celebrations and Sir Neil Lewis, the Tasmanian Premier, did not seek election to the Australian Parliament.
More information: Fact Sheet – Ministers and Shadow Ministers
When did women first vote in a federal election?
As no federal election laws existed at the time of the first federal election in 1901, colonial laws were used. One result was that women from South Australia and Western Australia were eligible to vote, while others were not. This was changed when the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 was passed by the federal Parliament. It enabled women aged 21 and over, from all states, to vote in the 1903 federal election (except Indigenous women in some states). From that time, women have also been eligible to stand for election to the federal Parliament.
Who was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives?
The Honourable Dame Enid Lyons was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was elected to represent the Tasmanian electorate of Darwin (re-named Braddon in 1955) at the federal election on 21 August 1943. Dame Enid Lyons retired from the House of Representatives on 19 March 1951, having served in the Parliament for eight years.
Who was the first woman elected to the Senate?
Senator Dorothy Tangney was the first woman elected to the Senate. She was elected to represent Western Australia at the federal election on 21 August 1943. Senator Tangney was immediately appointed to fill a casual vacancy until 1 July 1944, before commencing her first six-year term. Senator Tangney was the first woman to serve on a parliamentary committee and remained in Parliament until being defeated in a half-Senate election on 25 November 1967.
Who was the first woman to become a minister?
Dame Enid Lyons was the first woman appointed to Cabinet, when she was given the role of Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council on 19 December 1949. Despite being a member of Cabinet, she did not have a ministerial portfolio.
In 1966, Dame Annabelle Rankin was appointed as Minister for Housing by then Prime Minister, Harold Holt. Despite being a minister, she was not a Cabinet member.
The first woman to hold both a ministerial portfolio and be part of a Cabinet was Dame Margaret Guilfoyle. She was first appointed as Minister for Education in 1975 and went on to hold various portfolios.
Who was the first woman to lead a political party?
Senator Janine Haines was the first woman to lead a parliamentary party. She first entered the federal Parliament on 14 December 1977 and was chosen as the leader of the Australian Democrats in 1986. Senator Haines resigned from the Senate on 1 March 1990, to stand for election in the House of Representatives seat of Kingston, in South Australia, in the 1990 federal election. She was unsuccessful in winning the seat.
Who was the first Aboriginal parliamentarian?
Senator Neville Bonner was Australia's first Aboriginal member of parliament. He was appointed to fill a casual vacancy in the Senate on 11 June 1971, and was then elected in 1972. Senator Bonner represented the state of Queensland in the Parliament until 4 February 1983. He first entered the Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, but later became an Independent.
When was the first double dissolution?
The first double dissolution of the federal Parliament occurred on 30 July 1914, after the Senate twice rejected the government's Preference Prohibition Bill 1914. This gave the government, led by Prime Minister Joseph Cook, a trigger to call a double dissolution. At the subsequent federal election held on 5 September 1914, the government was defeated.
What is the Dismissal?
On 11 November 1975, the Governor-General at the time, Sir John Kerr, dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and his government, due to a deadlock between the two houses of Parliament over the Budget bills. The opposition, led by Malcolm Fraser, formed a caretaker government and called a double dissolution. At the subsequent federal election held on 13 December 1975, the Australian Labor Party, led by Gough Whitlam, was defeated.
What is the Coat of Arms?
The Coat of Arms is the formal symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia. For example, it is seen on the cover of Australian passports, government buildings and on top of Parliament House in Canberra.
The Commonwealth Coat of Arms contains a shield with the symbols of the six Australian states. A kangaroo stands to the left of the shield and an emu stands to the right. A scroll displaying the word 'Australia' is beneath the shield. A gold Commonwealth Star sits above the shield. The national floral emblem, golden wattle, forms the background.
More information: Fact Sheet – National Symbols