Investigation 1

How was Federation celebrated in Adelaide?

On 1 January 1901, Adelaide’s newspaper The Register printed messages and greetings from eminent local and world leaders to the people of the now united Australia. The newspaper’s editor told South Australians that they could look forward to a day filled with flags, roaring cannons, music and singing.

Thousands of people flocked to the Adelaide Town Hall to see the swearing in of His Excellency the Right Honourable Lord Tennyson as Governor of the State of South Australia. The South Australian Government also organised a people’s concert for Adelaide’s celebrations. A concert highlight was the procession of decorated and illuminated bicycles.

Imagine the atmosphere in Adelaide on Commonwealth Day—the sights, the sounds! Imagine how the people of Adelaide were feeling on this long-awaited day.

Your Task

Discover how Federation was celebrated in Adelaide.


  1. In small groups, use a mind map to brainstorm what you would have expected to see in the celebrations in Adelaide on 1 January 1901. What aspects of Federation would have been celebrated? Imagine what the city would have looked like, the things you would have seen, the sounds you would have heard and the events that might have taken place.
  2. As a class, read through the newspaper reports about Adelaide’s Federation celebrations and examine the photograph and flyer. Compare the information on the celebrations with the mind maps you created and add to them, if necessary.
  3. The Register newspaper reported that the Government would be awarding a prize of £25 for its decorated and illuminated bicycle competition. Working in your groups again, and using the information on your mind map, create a set of general criteria that would have helped the judges make their decisions. What should the decorations on the bicycles include? How should they show what was special about South Australia becoming part of Australia?
  4. Share your group’s criteria with the rest of the class, and combine ideas to create one set of criteria that the judges could have used. Agree on the number of points you would award each criterion.
  5. Make a drawing of how a decorated and illuminated bicycle might have looked. Alternatively, someone in your group could bring a bicycle to school for your group to decorate.
  6. Display the finished drawings or bicycles and judge the results, referring to the set of class criteria.