What were the issues as the people of New South Wales considered whether or not to support Federation?
In the years before Federation, many people in New South Wales felt that there were aspects of their society that should be changed or strengthened. Some people believed that immigration should be more carefully controlled so that the colony would continue to have a mostly British population. There was also a belief that the colonies of Australia should improve their ability to defend themselves—and help to defend Britain—against any foreign powers that might pose a threat. People also demanded democratic and economic freedoms. For example, women wanted the right to vote, which they did not yet have in most colonies. Others wanted the freedom to travel and trade between colonies without unreasonable cost or inconvenience.
These issues were widely discussed in New South Wales in the 1890s. There was a widespread belief that it was time to take action to bring about change and build a better future. Many people believed that Federation was key to achieving this.
Explore the issues facing the people of New South Wales as they considered the advantages and disadvantages of Federation
- As a class, read and examine the texts, photograph and cartoon. Underline any words you do not know. Use a dictionary to find out what they mean.
- Form four groups. Each will examine one
of the issues in the primary sources: defence, customs, immigration or voting rights for women. Discuss the following questions and record your answers.
- What issue does your primary source explore?
- Who might it have been created for? Provide reasons for your thinking.
- Could the issue have been used as a reason for New South Wales to federate with the other colonies? Provide reasons for your thinking.
- Could the issue have been used as a reason not to federate? Provide reasons for your thinking.
- Based on what you know about your group’s issue (defence, customs, immigration or voting rights), use the ‘choices and consequences chart’ to record:
- the issue;
- the positive (pluses) and negative (minuses) consequences for taking action on the issue;
- the positive and negative consequences for taking no action on the issue; and
- your group’s position on the issue if they had lived in New South Wales at the time—to take action or take no action. Provide reasons for your thinking.
- Share your group’s chart with the class.
- Based on what you have found out so far, do you believe the road to Federation would have been an easy one or a hard one? Discuss as a class, providing reasons for your thinking.