[An invitation to meet Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in celebration of the opening of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia]

On 1 January 1901, the six existing self-governing British colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, came together in union to create the Commonwealth of Australia. This was what was known as Federation and was the culmination of a decades-long push by various individuals and associations.

The National Library of Australia holds a wide selection of material relating to this process.

This guide aims to introduce researchers to key collections and items held by the Library, as well as advise of where related material may be found. 

What you can find in the Library

  • Printed material: biographies, histories and general works, government publications eg parliamentary papers of the UK, the colonies and Australia
  • Manuscripts: papers of ministers and individuals involved in the Federation movement
  • Pictures: portraits, photographs, political cartoons
  • Ephemera: Federation advertising, electoral material, invitations, handouts and flyers
  • Music
  • Newspapers: in print and online
  • Online resources

Catalogue search tips

Use the Catalogue standard search to find titles, authors or subjects.

  • If you get too many results, use the options under 'Narrow search' on the right of the results page to display only the items you're interested in.
  • To see what you can view from home, use the link to 'NLA digital material' on the right of the results page.
  • If you need to widen your search, click on the subject headings in an item's Catalogue record to find other material related to that subject.

Although you can't browse the Library's shelves in person, you can use the Catalogue to browse by title, author, subject or Dewey number.

To search for general works about Federation, select the Browse alphabetically tab, then subjects. Some examples are:

 Personal names can also be used:

In addition to browsing you can use different search terms alone or combined to identify a wide variety or location-specific items. The following are some examples that can be used:

  • constitutional conventions
  • Federal Council of Australasia
  • federation Australia
  • federation colonies
  • Edmund Barton
  Government and politics History

The Centenary companion to Australian federation


Irving, Helen Dorothy (1999) The Centenary companion to Australian federation
Cambridge ; Melbourne : Cambridge University Press


For peace, order and good government is an online exhibition from the Parliament of Australia relating to the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Badge inscribed Australia's Commonwealth, 1899

(1899). [Badge inscribed: Australia's Commonwealth, 1899]

A badge worn by supporters of the Australian Commonwealth. Similar in nature, if not the same, as that discussed in the newspaper article 'A Federal badge' in 1898.


If you are a registered reader you can request items to read and photocopy in the reading rooms of the National Library of Australia.

Registered readers can also search selected subscription databases via our eResources service.

If you can't visit the Library, you can use the Copies Direct service to request copies and have them sent to you via mail or email. Please note there may be copyright restrictions when using this service.

You can also search Trove to find a library closer to you which has the item in their collection.

If there is no library near you with the item, you may be able to arrange an interlibrary loan through your local public or institutional library. Please ask staff at your local library for assistance with this.

Catalogue tips video

Not sure where to start?