Documenting Democracy
Australia's Story
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Royal Commission of Assent 9 July 1900 (UK)
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Timeline 1900–1926
1900    Australian delegates in London for debate on the Australian Constitution Bill in the British Parliament

Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK)
The original Australian Constitution Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1900, presented to Australia 90 years later

Royal Commission of Assent 9 July 1900 (UK)
Signed by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on 9 July 1900, this beautiful document established the Commonwealth of Australia

Western Australia votes 'yes' in Federation referendum

Queen Victoria proclaims the inauguration day of the Commonwealth of Australia and appoints Lord Hopetoun as first Governor-General

Letters Patent constituting the office of Governor-General 29 October 1900 (UK)
Read out to the crowds at the ceremony on 1 January 1901, this document founded the first office of the new nation, that of Governor-General

Queen Victoria's Instructions to the Governor-General 29 October 1900 (UK)
Last seen in 1946 ... still searching

Governor-General appoints Edmund Barton first Prime Minister of Australia
1901    The Commonwealth of Australia is inaugurated on 1 January

King Edward VII succeeds to throne after death of Queen Victoria

First Federal election

Commonwealth Parliament opens in Melbourne

Australian flag flown for the first time

Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 (Cth)
A document designed to deport 10 000 people

Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (Cth)
Building the walls of a White Australia that never was
1902    Women in New South Wales win right to vote in State elections

Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 (Cth)
Defining who counts in our democracy – the right to vote
1903    Women in Tasmania win right to vote in State elections

Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth)
Australians gain a High Court, and lose a Prime Minister
1904    Women in Queensland win right to vote in State elections

Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (Cth)
A fair go – a win for the workers
1906    British New Guinea becomes Commonwealth territory of Papua
1907    Justice Higgins sets male basic wage in Harvester judgement in Conciliation and Arbitration Court

Referendum to alter Section 13 of the Australian Constitution successful
1908    Northern Territory Surrender Act 1908 (SA)
Second thoughts – a surrender

Women in Victoria win right to vote in State elections

Site of federal capital decided

Seat of Government Act 1908(Cth)
A capital site decided
1909    Referendum to alter Section 105 of the Australian Constitution successful

Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 (Cth)
Creating federal territory

Seat of Government Surrender Act 1909 (NSW)
Carving out federal territory
1910    Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 (Cth)
A national challenge

Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910 (Cth)
Nuts and bolts

Referendum held on financial relations between Commonwealth and States

Aborigines Act 1910 (Vic)
A small step for humanity

Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 (Cth)
Foundation for law and land
1911    Transfer of the Northern Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth

Supreme Court Ordinance No. 9 of 1911 (Cth)
Law and order

The Federal Capital Territory officially established
1912    Design competition for Federal capital won by Walter Burley Griffin

Special grants started by Commonwealth to Tasmania
1913    Australia's national capital founded and named Canberra
1914    Britain declares war on Germany and the countries of the Empire follow
1915    Anzacs land at Gallipoli

Seat of Government Surrender Act 1915 (NSW)
The final surrender

Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915 (Cth)
A place at the seaside
1916    Conscription plebiscite lost
1917    Trans-Australian Railway completed with line from South Australia to Perth

Prime Minister William M ('Billy') Hughes holds second conscription plebiscite, which is also lost
1918    Armistice suspends hostilities in war and peace negotiations begin

The 'Darwin Rebellion' – protestors remove the Northern Territory's Administrator

Aboriginals Ordinance No. 9 of 1918 (Cth)
When protection meant control
1919    Treaty of Versailles 1919 (including Covenant of the League of Nations)
The only international document to shape Australia's constitutional framework
1920    High Court decides Engineers Case, ruling that Commonwealth Arbitration Court decisions are binding on State governments
1921    Edith Cowan elected to Western Australia Parliament, first woman parliamentarian in Australia
1922    Northern Territory Representation Act 1922 (Cth)
Citizens, third class

Constitution Act Amendment Act 1922 (Qld)
A Queensland first: one House

Queensland abolishes its Legislative Council, leaving a single-chamber Parliament

Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1922 (Cth)
Correcting ‘certain errors and misdescriptions’
1924    Commonwealth Electoral Act 1924 (Cth)
An Australian first – compulsory voting becomes law

Seat of Government (Administration) Act establishes a Federal Capital Commission
1926    Balfour Declaration 1926 (Imperial Conference)
Equal in status and freely associated – a small step for Britain, but a large leap for the Australian people

North Australia Commission divides the Northern Territory into northern and southern regions to promote economic development of north (abolished 1931)

High Court upholds validity of Act enabling Commonwealth grants to accelerate road building programs in the States


60,000 BC to 1836  |  1837 to 1899 |  1900 to 1926 |  1927 to 1951 |  1952 to 2001 |  2002 onwards