On 8 April 1933 the people of Western Australia voted to secede from the Commonwealth of Australia by a margin of more than two to one. The result represented a culmination of nearly three years of intensive campaigning by the Dominion League during the height of the Depression.
Voting patterns indicate that a solid majority of voters in most districts voted yes to the question "Are you in favour of the State of Western Australia withdrawing from the Federal Commonwealth established under the Commonwealth of Australia Constitutional Act (Imperial)?" The only area to reject the call to secede was the goldfields. It accepted an alternative proposition, rejected and ridiculed by secessionists, to call a national convention to alter the Australian Constitution.
On the same day that Western Australians voted to leave the Commonwealth they decimated the government which had proposed and strongly supported secession. The anti-secession Labor Party of Philip Collier was swept to power. Premier James Mitchell, and a number of cabinet ministers, lost their seats in an election which punished a government which had been elected in 1930 with the promise of 'Jobs for All'. The Depression years were not happy ones for governments seeking re-election.
The question remains as to whether the 1933 referendum represented an exceptional result caused by unusual times, or a true reflection of a deep secessionist belief. It has been argued that Western Australians sought to blame someone for their problems, regardless of whether they believed secession to be constitutionally possible, and the ballot box was the only way for a powerless population to show their disapproval. The Dominion League was merely a protest movement people were happy to support only because they suspected secession would never succeed. Certainly the Dominion League found the victory much harder to cope with with than the campaign.
Please note: The content on this website is made available for archival purposes and may not meet the State Library of Western Australia's current standards for web accessibility, mobile device compatibility, historical accuracy and cultural sensitivity.