Investigation 1

How did Queensland’s regional interests affect attitudes to Federation?

In southern Queensland, the manufacturers around Brisbane and those in the rural industries on the Darling Downs benefited from intercolonial tariffs. The tariffs were a tax charged on products imported into the colony making them more expensive. The people of central and northern Queensland, however, resented having to pay high prices for products made in the south. They did not want to be ruled from Brisbane, and often complained of unequal treatment. Those in central Queensland regarded Rockhampton as their major city, and up north, there were the growing towns of Cairns and Mackay.

In the 1890s, Federation and unity were of growing importance for the Australian colonies. But, many central and northern Queenslanders wanted to separate from the south and form their own colonies. Federation took on different meanings for Queenslanders depending on where they lived.

Your Task

Explore how regional differences and interests affected Queenslanders’ attitudes to Federation.


  1. In groups of four, examine the map of Queensland. Using an atlas, identify the major cities in each division. Using the scale and a ruler, calculate the distance between Brisbane and each city. Brainstorm reasons why Queenslanders might have seen themselves as having different interests depending on where they lived.
  2. Read the newspaper extracts with others in your group. Locate where the newspaper came from on the map.
  3. In a soapbox session, choose an extract and explain it to your group. As you do so, have other group members place a tick or a cross, in favour or against Federation, in the area on the map where your newspaper is from. When all four extracts are analysed in this way, which parts of Queensland were for, and which were against Federation?
  4. As a group, make a list of the issues that divided Queenslanders on Federation. Create posters using words and images in order to persuade those against Federation to resolve their differences and join together as a colony. Display the posters in the classroom.