Investigation 3

Who were some of the political figures from New South Wales that played a leading role in the Federation movement?

The ‘father of Federation’, Henry Parkes, was a New South Wales politician. He gave a speech in 1889 calling for all the Australian colonies to unite. He was a leading figure in the movement to make Australia a nation until his death in 1896. Other political leaders of the colony, such as Edmund Barton and George Reid, also played significant roles in making Federation a reality.

As politicians, these men had a special responsibility to work for the best interests of New South Wales. They had to understand the issues and questions relating to Federation that might be of concern to people in the colony. For example, how trade with other colonies and overseas would be affected, and whether New South Wales would still have its share of political power and importance. They had to be able to understand and weigh up different viewpoints—some strongly in favour of federating and some strongly against. They had to convince people to follow their lead.

What qualities do you think these people would have needed to be effective political leaders and to succeed in guiding New South Wales toward Federation?

Your Task

Discover the values, leadership qualities and motivations of three leading New South Wales politicians of the late 1880s.


  1. Our values guide the decisions we make and the actions we take. As a class, brainstorm a list of values. The nine Values for Australian Schooling may be a starting point. Then, click on ‘National’, followed by ‘National Framework: Nine Values for Australian Schooling’. Brainstorm a list of leadership qualities. It might be useful to have some leaders in mind when creating this list. Discuss how people demonstrate values and leadership through their actions.
  2. Form groups of three. Each group member will be responsible for reading one of the biographies. Your task is to highlight examples of your person’s values and leadership qualities. The biography may include all or only some of the values or leadership qualities identified on the first list. As you read the biography, consider why you believe specific facts or events are examples of a value or leadership quality.
  3. Read your person’s biography to your group. Explain the values and leadership qualities that you have identified. Be prepared to justify your observations if required.
  4. As a class, make a list of the possible motivations that Henry Parkes, Edmund Barton and George Reid might have had for wanting to make a difference in New South Wales. and in supporting Federation. There are no right or wrong answers, but you need to be able to justify your suggestions based on the biographies that you have explored.