Australia's Democratic Story

Timeline: 1837 to 1899


to 1836 | 1837 to 1899 | 1900 to 1926 | 1927 to 1951 | 1952 to 2001 |

1837 to 1899


Queen Victoria crowned

William Light and Boyle Travers Finniss survey Adelaide

Governor Bourke names Melbourne

Church Act in Van Diemen's Land



British naval base established at Port Essington, Cobourg Peninsula

Molesworth Select Committee recommends abolition of convict transportation to New South Wales

German settlers fleeing religious persecution arrive in South Australia and in Brisbane



John Lort Stokes of HMS Beagle charts and names Port Darwin

Governor La Trobe's Instructions 11 September 1839 (NSW)
Enter La Trobe

First immigrants from Scotland arrive at Port Phillip

First Supreme Court sitting in South Australia

In New South Wales, military juries for criminal trials abolished



In New Zealand, Maori chiefs cede lands to Queen Victoria in Treaty of Waitangi

In Van Diemen's Land, military juries for criminal trials abolished

Order-in-Council ending transportation of convicts 22 May 1840 (UK)
The hated convict system given its notice



New South Wales Constitution Act 1842 (UK)
The seeds of democracy sown in the colonies

Sydney and Melbourne incorporated as towns

South Australia Act 1842 (UK)
Back to basics: a Legislative Council for South Australia

Robert Towns establishes company to trade in the Pacific Islands



First elections for two-thirds elected legislature in New South Wales



Port Phillip members of New South Wales Legislative Council petition for establishment of separate Colony



Aboriginal people on Flinders Island in Bass Strait petition Queen Victoria



Anti-transportation movement begins in Van Diemen's Land



Ordinance enabling transportation of convicts to Western Australia 29 December 1849 (WA)
Western Australia prepares for the first convict ship

British occupation of north coast ends when Port Essington base abandoned



Convict transportation to Western Australia begins

Australian Constitutions Act 1850 (UK)
Constituting colonies

Port Phillip District separated from New South Wales and renamed Victoria

South Australia, Van Diemen's Land and Victoria gain two-thirds elected legislatures

University of Sydney Act 1850 (NSW)
An opportunity to become great and useful to your country



Gold rushes begin in New South Wales and Victoria

Victoria separates from New South Wales



Last convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land



Miners rebellion – Eureka stockade at Ballarat, Victoria



New South Wales Constitution Act 1855 (UK)
The first self-governing Parliament is created by Britain, on the initiative of the Australians

Victoria Constitution Act 1855 (UK)
The spirit of Eureka

Responsible government in New South Wales and Victoria

Chinese Immigration Act 1855 (Vic)
Charging for 'certain immigrants'

Constitution Act 1855 (Tas)
Parliamentary self-government

Order-in-Council changing name to Tasmania 21 July 1855 (UK)
A new identity



Constitution Act 1856 (SA)
A Constitution for South Australia

Responsible government in South Australia and Tasmania

Pitcairn Islanders moved to Norfolk Island, under control of New South Wales Governor

Electoral Act 1856 (Vic)
The Australian ballot

Voting by secret ballot introduced in Victoria and South Australia



Real Property or 'Torrens Title' Act 1858 (SA)
Real property in South Australia



Queensland separates from New South Wales

Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK)
A Queen's land … still searching

Order- in-Council establishing Representative Government in Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK)
A Queensland first: two Houses



Crown Lands Acts 1861 (NSW)
On our Selection? The Robertson Land Acts

Telegraph lines link Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane



Letters Patent altering the western boundary of Queensland 1862 (UK)
Queensland goes West … still searching

John McDouall Stuart's final expedition reached the north coast of the continent, mapping a route from Adelaide



Letters Patent annexing the Northern Territory to South Australia 1863
Stuart's sixth journey starts a successful land grab

The Northern Territory Act of 1863 (SA)
Acting in the dark



Constitution Act 1867 (Qld)
Getting it together, constitutionally



Convict transportation to Western Australia ceases



Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 (Vic)
Democracy in reverse

Tasmania and Victoria connected by telegraph

South Australian Surveyor-General George Goyder begins Northern Territory survey at Port Darwin



British troops withdrawn from the Australian colonies; each established own forces

Western Australia becomes the sixth colony to have a part-elected legislature

Payment of Members Act 1870 (Vic)
The cost of representation



Education Act 1872 (Vic)
Schools for citizens

South Australian government completes construction of Overland Telegraph from Port Augusta to Port Darwin



South Australia becomes the first Colony to allow registration of trade unions



Completion of telegraph link from Adelaide to Perth



Queensland Coast Islands Act 1879 (Qld)
Queensland goes North



First census of all Australian colonies gives non-Indigenous population as 2.3 million people



Queensland Government of Sir Thomas McIlwraith annexes southern New Guinea, but the British Government overrules this



Pacific Island Labourers Act Amendment Act 1884 (Qld)
A model of shame

British Protectorate declared over south-eastern New Guinea; Germany then annexes north-eastern New Guinea

Henrietta Dugdale, Annie Lowe and Vida Goldstein form Victorian Women's Suffrage Society, soon followed by active societies in all the Australian colonies



Gold discoveries in Western Australia



Federal Council of Australasia formed



Queen Victoria's 50-year Jubilee

Palmerston (Darwin) to Pine Creek (NT) railway completed



Five premiers agree to a common policy restricting Chinese immigration

Britain annexes south-eastern New Guinea



Bridge over the Hawkesbury River, New South Wales, completes railway network linking Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, though with different railway gauges

Sir Henry Parkes' 'Tenterfield oration' advocating Federation



Constitution Act 1890 (UK)
Western Australia's Constitution becomes law

Letters Patent re Constitution 25 August 1890 (UK)
Creating a Western Australian Governor under the Constitution

Western Australia's Foundation Day – the Constitution proclaimed on 21 October

Australasian Federal Conference: colonies decide to hold a Convention on Federation



National Australasian Convention, held in Sydney, agrees to adopt the name 'Commonwealth of Australia' and adopts a draft Constitution

Jessie Ackermann organises colonial branches of the international Woman's Christian Temperance Union, established here since 1882, into a national organisation, lobbying for the suffrage, 'the symbol of freedom'



Queensland Elections Act introduces 'preferential' voting system



Corowa Federation Conference



Constitution (Female Suffrage) Act 1895 (SA)
First in the world – voting rights for South Australian women

South Australia and New South Wales pass Federation Enabling Acts



Tasmania and Victoria pass Federation Enabling Acts

Bathurst 'People's Convention' discusses the 1891 draft Constitution



Delegates from five colonies at National Australasian Convention sessions in Adelaide and Sydney

Queen Victoria's Diamond (60-year) Jubilee

Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (Qld)
Drugs and discrimination



National Australasian Convention session agrees on amended draft Constitution

People in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia vote 'yes' in referendum for Federation



Constitution Acts Amendment Act 1899 (WA)
First votes for women in Western Australia

Second referendums on the Australian Constitution succeed in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia

Secret Premiers conference in Melbourne

30 000 supporters of Federation on the Western Australian goldfields send a petition to Queen Victoria

Boer War begins in South Africa, colonial troops embark to support British forces


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