Investigation 6

if you had been a New South Wales voter, would you have been in favour of Federation or against it?

The road to Federation involved many issues that people had to consider. How could Federation serve the interests of New South Wales and, at the same time, help to create the best possible future for the nation as a whole? Could there be disadvantages for New South Wales and its people if it became part of a federal system instead of remaining a separate colony?

Imagine that you had lived in New South Wales in the late 1890s. What issues would have been most important for you and your colony? After weighing up the issues, what would your opinion on Federation have been?

Your Task

Decide the importance of the issues surrounding Federation and how you would have voted.


  1. You have considered a variety of issues surrounding Federation, including:
    • equal representation in the Senate;
    • voting rights for women;
    • defence;
    • immigration;
    • distribution of money raised by a Federal Parliament; and
    • location of the new nation’s capital.
    Use the chart to rank the issues in order of importance from 1 to 6, with 1 being the issue that is the most important and in most urgent need of resolution. Provide reasons for your rankings.
  2. Find four or five classmates that had the same issue ranked as number 1. Work as a team to develop an argument about why your issue was the most important.
    • Provide an introduction to the issue. Why was it an issue?
    • Present your first reason for ranking your issue as number 1.
    • State your second reason for your ranking.
    • Outline your third reason for the ranking.
    • Conclude your case with a summary of the arguments.
    Present your case to the rest of the class.
  3. Have the arguments presented by the other groups convinced you to change your mind about which issue was the most important? Using the preferential voting system, conduct a vote to see how the class ranked the issues. Cast your vote using the voting slip. Remember to number the squares from 1 to 6, and that every square must be numbered.
    • Tally the votes. Which issue was voted the most important? Which one was the least important? Were any issues deemed to be of equal importance?
    Information on the preferential voting system can be found at the Australian Electoral Commission website.