Investigation 3

How did Queenslanders feel about being part of the new Commonwealth?

On 1 January 1901, the Brisbane Courier welcomed the new Commonwealth with the headline ‘Queensland: The Sunny State’. Queensland, once a colony of the British Empire, had taken its place in the new nation, and was willing to be a little less independent—to be part of something much bigger than it could have aspired to on its own. The coming together of the colonies had created a ‘nation for a continent’. Queenslanders were now citizens of Australia, and they would share the benefits of the new nation but they would also now have obligations to other Australians.

Poets of the time captured what coming together as a new nation meant for the people of the Australian colonies. The poets expressed the joy of uniting and becoming one nation. A poet from Toowoomba, George Essex Evans won the 50 guinea prize in a competition that was held for the best verse commemorating Federation for his Ode to Australia. Another poem of his, A Federal Song, was also important in inspiring the people of the colonies to see themselves as part of one nation.

Your Task

Explore how the people of the colonies understood their new identity as Australians—citizens of a new country.


  1. In pairs, examine either the text on ‘The New Citizenship’ or the song. Discuss when it was written, why it was written and what it might mean. Think of ways to communicate your understanding of it to others visually, without using words or talking.
  2. Combine with other pairs who considered the same text, and share your understanding of the piece. Decide the best way to demonstrate your understanding of the text to the rest of the class. You might consider acting out the lines of the piece, creating a storyboard, or creating a short film/video.
  3. As a class, think about what the two texts have in common. Why do you think the authors of these texts thought it was important for Queenslanders in 1901 to think about Federation in these ways?
  4. Discuss which of the feelings in each text you think Queenslanders would agree with today. Which would they not agree with? Why?
  5. Poems can take many forms. Write a short poem (perhaps a haiku) summing up how the people in the colony of Queensland celebrated and felt about Federation in 1901.