Australia's Democratic Story

Timeline: 1900 to 1926


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1900 to 1926


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



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



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



Women in Tasmania win right to vote in State elections

Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth)
Australians gain a High Court, and lose a Prime Minister



Women in Queensland win right to vote in State elections

Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (Cth)
A fair go – a win for the workers



British New Guinea becomes Commonwealth territory of Papua



Justice Higgins sets male basic wage in Harvester judgement in Conciliation and Arbitration Court

Referendum to alter Section 13 of the Australian Constitution successful



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 Surrender Act 1909 (NSW)
Creating federal territory

Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 (Cth)
The fight for the Federal Capital Territory finished at last

Referendum to alter Section 105 of the Australian Constitution successful



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



Transfer of the Northern Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth

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



Design competition for Federal capital won by Walter Burley Griffin

Special grants started by Commonwealth to Tasmania



Australia's national capital founded and named Canberra



Britain declares war on Germany and the countries of the Empire follow



Anzacs land at Gallipoli



Conscription plebiscite lost



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



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



Treaty of Versailles 1919 (including Covenant of the League of Nations)
The only international document to shape Australia's constitutional framework



High Court decides Engineers Case, ruling that Commonwealth Arbitration Court decisions are binding on State governments



Edith Cowan elected to Western Australia Parliament, first woman parliamentarian in Australia



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



Commonwealth Electoral Act 1924 (Cth)
An Australian first – compulsory voting becomes law



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


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