January 1st 1901: Federation of Australia

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Australian flag

On this day in 1901, the six British colonies in Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) became one nation. Upon federation, Edmund Barton was appointed the first Australian Prime Minister. It took years for the goal of federation to be realised, as there was initially opposition to the move among the populace. In 1899, the issue was put to a referendum and the majority voted for federation. Queen Victoria gave her Royal Assent to the new Australian Constitution in July 1900. On January 1st, federation was proclaimed in Centennial Park, Sydney. Australia remains part of the Commonwealth and thus the Queen still has a representative in Australia in the form of the Governor-General.

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Souvenir booklet commemorating Federation

Federation was an important milestone in Australian history. One has to wonder whether the spirit which led to the approval of the federation referendum could be revived in the coming years and lead to Australia leaving the Commonwealth. Whilst a previous referendum on becoming a republic failed to secure the majority vote, it remains a possibility that Australia could become a republic or even leave the Commonwealth.

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