Investigation 2

How did Queenslanders outside Brisbane celebrate Federation?

Cities all around Queensland had more than a year to plan the celebrations for Commonwealth Day, 1 January 1901. In cities and regions where people supported Federation, the celebrations were much anticipated and well planned. In places where people voted ‘no’, they were more cautious about what Federation might mean for their communities, industries and employment. They still celebrated, but on a smaller scale. For example, in Toowoomba, a region that was against Federation, planning the celebrations only began two weeks beforehand.

In the major cities of north Queensland, the celebrations took on a carnival atmosphere. Many community groups were represented in the processions, demonstrations and sporting events. In Townsville, bishops from the Anglican and Catholic churches gave speeches welcoming the new nation, representatives from the town’s Irish and Scottish communities danced ‘jigs’ in the procession, and the town’s Japanese community gave an exhibition of wrestling and dancing.

Your Task

Investigate how various communities around Queensland celebrated Federation.


  1. Divide into two groups and investigate the Federation celebrations in Toowoomba and Mackay. Read the newspaper extracts aloud and examine the photograph of the federal flag. Identify and list the national and Empire symbols and emblems used in the celebrations.
  2. Form pairs in your groups, and sketch one of the national or Empire symbols or emblems described in one of the newspaper extracts. Write a caption for your sketch, stating where it featured and why you think it was in the celebrations. Display your sketches around the classroom.
  3. With your partner, compare the celebrations in Toowoomba and Mackay. In what ways were the celebrations in Toowoomba and Mackay similar and different? You might use a Venn diagram to help with the comparison. Discuss why there might have been differences in the ways towns and regions celebrated, and list your responses.
  4. In your groups, decide on either Toowoomba or Mackay as a focus. Imagine that you are filing a report for radio or television news today. Write a one-minute script describing Commonwealth Day in your selected town, and its significance, using:
    • the referendum results for the town as background to the story;
    • a ‘mock-up’ photograph as a backdrop; and
    • a statement of the town’s feelings about the future.
    A flow chart might be useful for planning your script. If possible, record your story using a video camera. Present your group’s news report to the class.