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Commonwealth day

The Australian nation was born on 1 January 1901, the first day of the twentieth century. Celebrations to mark Commonwealth Day were held throughout Australia. Lord Hopetoun, our first Governor General presided over an official ceremony in Sydney while in Western Australia celebrations took the form of parades, games and picnics. The following extract from the Kalgoorlie Miner tells how the strongly pro-federation goldfields celebrated the creation of a new nation.
"The residents of Kalgoorlie and district, reinforced by many thousands of visitors from outside centres, made Commonwealth and New Year's Day a real high holiday in this town. Fine weather, though perhaps a little warm for some folks, favoured festive gatherings, and old and young had abundant inducement to go from their homes to join their fellow beings in vast assemblages for celebrations and enjoyment. Kalgoorlie was arrayed in festive finery and glitter as never before, the predominant note being Australian national as well as Imperial unity ...

Kalgoorlie procession, 1901In the forenoon the great event of general public concern was a great procession, to see which some 15,000 or 20,000 people must have gathered in the town. Great streams of visitors had poured into Kalgoorlie from a very early hour, and some of the trains from the Boulder bore passengers even on the roofs of the carriages in spite of the repressive efforts on the part of railway officials. It was half past 10 o'clock when the signal 'March' was given at the mustering place ... Riding in the van was the chief marshal Mr W. R. Burton, and he had as escort on either side mounted police constables who did their share well in keeping a clear course for the procession through the dense packs of spectators in the street."
The procession which followed included members of the Reform League, given pride of place in the first vehicle by 'special resolution', representatives of the town council, as well as members of the Australian Natives' Association, volunteer organisations, the Trades and Labor Council, the Chamber of Mines, and hundreds of school children among many others. The Kalgoorlie Miner continues,
"Then came what was really the best display of all - made by the Japanese of Kalgoorlie. Little brown men were represented by a remarkably complete copy of a man-of-war ship of their nation. This ship had been built up on three lorries in line. It was fully dressed with bunting, with the Japanese flag fluttering over the stern. Main, bowsprit, funnels, ventilators, port-holes, and the like were admirably presented. On deck were Japanese in proper nautical attire, and on the bridge were Japanese officers in uniform. Altogether it was a fine display and the Japanese who were responsible for it had their reward in cheers and cordial approval."
Approval for the Japanese participants was limited to their float. Non-whites were seldom welcomed as permanent residents in a white Western Australia. The Federal Parliament, which opened in Melbourne in May 1901, quickly passed racist legislation to enshrine a White Australia Policy for the next fifty years.

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