Investigation 1

What do poems and songs tell us about the significance of becoming a nation?

Federation wasn’t seen as something to be celebrated just for a day or a year. Speeches and newspaper reports of the time make it clear that 1 January 1901 was seen as a milestone that Australians had worked hard to reach. It was also part of a journey that would continue into the future. When the Acting Premier of Tasmania, Bolton Stafford Bird, spoke to the people gathered in Hobart on Commonwealth Day, he reminded Tasmanians to:

…add a cheer for themselves, remembering that they were now part of the Commonwealth of Australia, wishing it, in its future career, great prosperity. Tasmanians had now realised the position that the people and statesmen had been looking forward to for so many years, and now entered into a larger national life. What the future of the Commonwealth might be no one could tell.

Many writers of the time were proud Australians who believed strongly in their country’s ‘claim to nationhood’. Some expressed their feelings about Federation in poems and songs, such as those you are about to read.

Your Task

Explore the key messages, ideas, values and symbols represented in poems and songs commemorating Federation.


  1. As a class, read the extracts from the poem Fulfilment and the song ‘The Sons of Australia’. Discuss or use a dictionary to find out meanings for any words you don’t know.
  2. In small groups, discuss the following questions and record your answers.
    • What might Dawson have been referring to when he wrote about ‘one in race’, ‘one in speech’, ‘one in blood’ and ‘one in fortune’? Which ideas apply to Australia today? Which ideas no longer apply? Provide reasons for your thinking.
    • Underline words or phrases in the poem and song that are about national pride and being Australian. Provide evidence for your thinking.
    • Underline words or phrases in the poem and song that are about pride in a British ancestry and being part of the British Empire. Provide evidence for your thinking.
    • Which words or phrases tell you that the poem and song were written in the past?
    • How might the poem and song be different if they were written today?
  3. Using ‘think-pair-share’, brainstorm examples of when you, your school, local community or nation have experienced challenges and then overcome them. What helped to overcome the challenges and achieve success? How has this had a positive effect on you, your school, local community or our nation?
  4. Create a story, poem, speech, song or artwork to inform people about one of the challenges you listed.
    • Set the scene for the challenge.
    • Highlight the values and skills needed to overcome the challenge and achieve success.
    • Talk about the lessons that can be learned from this experience.
    Perform your writing or display your artwork to your classmates.