Introduction1890IsolationOne People, One Destiny?GoldConstitutional Conventions
The DebateSeparation for FederationThe DealThe VoteCommonwealth DayAftermath


Nullarbor plain, 1911-13Western Australians woke up on 1 January 1901 to find themselves living in a State of the new Commonwealth of Australia. Most people would have thought nothing much had changed, but it is clear that the new national Parliament would have powers and a status which would make it an attractive propostition to prospective politicians. After ten years as Premier, John Forrest quit the State Parliament to run for a Federal seat, where he would serve for the next eighteen years. He clearly understood where future power would lie.

Railway workers, 1911 - 13The first decade of the twentieth century saw Australia's new political institutions established. The Commonwealth assumed control of areas of government like defence, customs and tariffs, as agreed by the original States. Where areas of jurisdiction were disputed Australia's High Court usually took a non-interventionary role. Yet there was a growing level of discontent among Western Australians with the deal they had been given - a dissatisfaction masked by an infusion of popular patriotism during the First World War.

For nearly all of the first two decades of Federation, Western Australia had remained as isolated from the Eastern States as it had always been. Commonwealth Military Forces, c1901The long-awaited promise of a transcontinental railway line was not met until 1917 when the first train carried dignitaries like Sir John Forrest on the inaugural crossing. Yet in spite of the line opening, rumblings of discontent with Western Australia's position in the Federation, fostered by its isolation, continued to be heard.

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