The first of January is not only New Year's Day. It is also the day in 1901 when the people of the several Australian states, "humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God" were finally united, at their request and with their concurrience in state based referendums, into an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown and under the Constitution.   

This was effected to take place on 1 January 1901 by a Proclamation by Queen Victoria, satisfied that the people of Western Australia had also agreed to to join, made under the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900. The formal aspects of the inauguration – the swearing in of the Governor-General, and then the Prime Minister and the remaining "Queen's Ministers of State for the Commonwealth" took place in Centennial Park in Sydney.

Some valuable footage of the inauguration, embedded below,  has been released by Australian Screen.  The accompanying ‘educational value points’ are designed for teachers. 

 

…Clip 1: The Parade…

This is from what could be the first feature-length documentary made in Australia and the first Australian film to use multi-camera coverage. It was commissioned by the nSW government and made by Salvation Army Limelight. It is  held by the National Film and Sound Archive.

This clip shows part of the official parade for the Inauguration of the Commonwealth on 1 January 1901 as it passes through the temporary gate built especially for the occasion in Hyde Park, Sydney, according to Australian Screen curator Elizabeth Taggart-Speers.  She continues:

"Filmed on a Lumiere cinematographe camera with no pan or tilt facility, the camera remains still and the view is limited to a wide shot. The temporary gate was made from wood and plaster and was decorated with patriotic diagrams and floral decorations.

…Italian and Canadian celebrations…

"The first float to enter through the gate is the Italian community float and then the Canadian float. As Australia was born during the Boer War, some of the servicemen in the parade had only recently returned from active service.

"This silent black-and-white clip shows part of the Great Inaugural Procession through the streets of Sydney on 1 January 1901 to mark the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia.

"It shows the Italian float and the Canadian float passing through a temporary arch, followed by various dignitaries in open horse-drawn carriages, including the mayors of metropolitan cities and members of state parliaments. Part of the crowd that lined the route of the procession can be seen through the archway. There is some film damage."

…educational value points…

The following educational value points have been provided for teachers by The Learning Federation and the Curriculum Corporation:

The ‘Great Inaugural Procession’ was held in Sydney on 1 January 1901 to mark the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was the first in a series of Federation events, known officially as 'Commonwealth Celebrations’. The events ran over eight days and included a state banquet, parades, fireworks, concerts and picnics. Celebrations were held throughout Australia to mark what the newspapers of the time described as the greatest day in Australia’s history.

The Procession began at the Domain and proceeded through the city streets to Centennial Park, where Australia’s first governor-general, John Adrian Louis Hope, 7th Earl of Hopetoun, presided as the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed.

More than 10,000 people took part in the Procession, which included military bands, troops, mounted police, stockmen, tradesmen and firefighters, together with representatives of foreign governments and community and religious organisations. Australia’s Indigenous people were not acknowledged in the procession.

..widespread public support….

Between 250,000 and 500,000 spectators lined the route of the Procession, reflecting the widespread support felt by Australians for nationhood. Buildings, telegraph poles and streets were festooned with flags, banners, bunting and triumphal arches. As well as lining the road, people hung out of windows, climbed onto rooftops and even awnings in order to get a glimpse of the Procession.

The Sydney Morning Herald hailed it as 'entirely a people’s festival’. Horse-drawn floats formed a major part of the Procession and, as well as the Canadian and Italian floats seen in this clip, included a trade union float and one to represent each state that federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia.

…father of Federation….

The bust of Sir Henry Parkes (1815–96), sculpted by an Italian artist, featured on the Italian float. Parkes, a former premier of NSW, was a passionate advocate of nationhood and has been dubbed the 'father of Federation’.

The order of the procession is of interest in itself. It was led by 200 mounted police, followed, in order, by railway bandsmen, shearers and bush workers, ahead of the dignitaries.

Of the floats, the trade union section preceded the military components which included a contingent of soldiers returned from the Boer War.

The Procession passed through ten temporary triumphal arches that celebrated aspects of Australian life, and in particular the nation’s economic recovery from the economic depression of the 1890s. Three arches, elaborately constructed of wood and plaster, symbolised wool, wheat and coal. The Sydney Decoration Committee allocated £500 per arch.

 {youtube}Xs4d5Jb5ITo{/youtube}

….Clip 2: The Oath of Allegiance …. 

This is also from what could be the first feature-length documentary made in Australia and the first Australian film to use multi-camera coverage. It was made by Salvation Army Limelight and is held by the National Film and Sound Archive. This silent, black-and-white clip shows the ceremony at Centennial Park in Sydney where the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed on 1 January 1901,  according to Australian Screen curator Elizabeth Taggart-Speers. She continues:

"It shows Governor-General John Adrian Louis Hope, seventh Earl of Hopetoun, being greeted by caretaker Prime Minister Edmund Barton and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, William Smith. Lord Hopetoun gives an oath of allegiance and oath of office as Governor-General, after which the (soon-to-be) ministers of the first federal government are sworn in.

"The Governor-General and government ministers are shown signing an oath of allegiance at a table in the centre of the pavilion.Filmed on a Lumiere cinematographe camera with no pan or tilt facility, the camera remains still and the view is limited to a wide shot."

….educational value points…

The following educational value points have been provided for teachers by The Learning Federation and the Curriculum Corporation:

Prior to 1901 each Australian colony was a completely separate political entity, paying and collecting tariffs on goods that crossed its borders. The inefficiency of this system, a growing unity among colonists and a belief that a national government was needed to deal with issues such as trade, defence and foreign policy, immigration, currency, weights and measures and the administration of the Northern Territory pushed the colonies towards federating.

A series of Federation conferences and state referendums was held in the 1890s to draft a constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia.

Federation was made legally possible through a British Act of Parliament known as the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act that was passed by the British Parliament and given Royal Assent by Queen Victoria on 9 July 1900.

The Act enabled the six Australian colonies, then still subject to British law, to form their own Commonwealth Government as set out by the Constitution.

The Constitution detailed the structure and powers of the Commonwealth Government and defined how it and the colonies, which now became states, would share power and responsibility.

…Westminster and women….

The new parliament was modelled on the Westminster system and consisted of the Monarch, a Senate and a House of Representatives. The two houses of parliament were to be elected by all adult, native-born or naturalised British subjects who had lived in Australia for at least six months.

Since both South Australia and Western Australia had already given women the right to vote, the new Commonwealth Parliament extended the franchise to women in all states in 1902. The same Act specifically disqualified 'Aboriginal natives’ of Australia from voting. ( But see the note below: editor)

The ceremony to mark the Inauguration of the Commonwealth took place in the Federation Pavilion, an ornate, open-sided temporary structure designed for the occasion by New South Wales Government architect Walter Vernon. The pavilion was made of fibrous plaster and wood by Sydney plasterwork firm Grant and Cocks, which specialised in 'plastic art’ or the modelling of plasterwork, and was dismantled after three years.

…one people one flag one destiny …

Support for federation was high and Australians united under the slogan 'one people, one flag, one destiny’. Some 100,000 spectators witnessed the Inauguration of the Commonwealth ceremony, and thousands more lined the route of the Great Inaugural Procession that preceded the ceremony.

'Commonwealth Celebrations’, which ran over eight days and included a state banquet, parades, fireworks, concerts and picnics, were held throughout Australia. Sir Edmund Barton (1849–1920) was Australia’s first prime minister and a passionate advocate of federation.

A lawyer, Barton was elected to the NSW Parliament in 1879 and represented NSW at the Federation Conventions. Barton was part of a delegation sent to London in 1900 to lobby for the passage of the Australian Commonwealth Constitution Bill through the British Parliament, and his legal knowledge was vital in these negotiations. During his term as prime minister much of the machinery of the new Commonwealth Government was put in place. He was knighted in 1902.

The Governor-General and the future ministers signed an oath of allegiance to the new Commonwealth using the same pen, inkstand and table as Queen Victoria had used to sign the Australian Commonwealth Constitution Act in England on 9 July 1900.

The new nation was created as a constitutional monarchy with the English monarch as Head of State.

 

{youtube}1cB3vd9fOlw{/youtube}

…the film…

"This footage is believed to be the first moving images of a nation being created," advises the curator. "The NSW Government commissioned the Limelight Department, a film production arm of the Salvation Army, to film the Federation events, including the ceremony and preceding procession. It was shown in cinemas across Australia, as well as in Britain and Canada. It was the first Australian film to use multiple cameras, but since cameras of the period were basic and could not tilt or pan, the footage is limited to wide static shots."

 

[ Editorial note on the voting rights of Aboriginal people:

The statement  above that the Commonwealth Franchise Act of 1902, which extended the franchise to women, specifically disqualified 'Aboriginal natives’ of Australia from voting should in our view be qualified.

The Act did as stated, but only to those not already enrolled in a state. This was the effect of section 41 of the Constitution which granted a federal vote to those on state rolls. Four states so enrolled Aboriginal people at the time of federation. This section was incorrectly interpreted by the Attorney-General to mean only those Aboriginal people already enrolled in a state in 1902.  

In 1949, Federal legislation confirmed this and extended the federal right to vote to those who had served in the armed forces. This was extended to all Aborigines in 1962, not, as is often said, by the referendum in 1967.

By that referendum in 1967, the Federal Parliament was given the right to legislate with respect to Aborigines, and section 127 was repealed.

This had nothing to do with voting rights. It provided that "In reckoning the numbers of people of the Commonwealth or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted." 

Nor did the 1967 referendum grant ciizenship to Aborigines. As with white people, Aborigines were British subjects. When separate Australian citizenship was created in 1948, this  applied to all Australian born people, wihtoput distinction.

DF]

.