Federation and constitution
The Library holds records of proceedings of the Constitutional Conventions held in the 1890s, as well as the papers of various individuals involved in the Federation porcess. When using the Library Catalogue's basic search, structure your searches for precise results, using:
- subject (e.g. constitutional law)
- individual historical figures (e.g. Earl of Hopetoun, Edmund Barton)
To browse collection items, select the 'Browse alphabetically' option, then 'subjects'. Examples are:
- Australia -- History -- 1891-1901
- Federal government -- Australia
- Constitutional history -- Australia
These and other titles can be requested through the Catalogue . You can also find resources on open access in the Main Reading Room Reference Collection.
A researcher would like confirmation on the format and text of the referenda questions actually voted on in each colony in the constitutional referenda of 1898-99 leading to the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Referenda were held in different states between 1898 and 1900. A timeline is given at the archived website, Centenary of Federation 1901-2001.
We can search the Trove newspapers for reports of these, and find the wording of the ballot papers. AustLii also has online copies of the Australasian Federation Enablings Acts for 1895 and 1899, which include the ballot wording.
June 1898 - Referenda were held in Tasmania, South Australia Victoria and NSW.
The 1898 wording was:
AUSTRALASIAN FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.
Are you in favour of the proposed Federal Constitution Bill?
If you are in favour of the Bill strike out the above word " No."
If you are against the Bill strike out the above word " Yes."
In NSW, while the majority voted yes, it was not sufficient to pass the mandated 80,000 approval mark for that colony.
January 1899 - Premiers agreed to amend the Federal Constitution Bill to meet the concerns of QLD and NSW.
April/September 1899 – Referenda were held, with the wording ‘Are you in favour of the proposed Federal Constitution Bill as amended?’ An example can be seen in the Western Champion of 3 March 1899. The State Library of NSW has a copy of the ballot sheet for NSW. All colonies that took part passed the referendum this time around.
July 1900 – A referendum was held in Western Australia. The same wording was used, as seen in the Australasian Federation Enabling Act (Western Australia), found online at AustLii.