People and Places

Investigation 1

What were Tasmania’s towns and rural areas like in the late 1800s?
Resource Sheet 1

Investigation 2

What were Tasmanians like in the late 1800s?
Resource Sheet 2

Investigation 3

Who were some Tasmanians working for change in the 1890s?
Resource Sheet 3

Investigation 4

Who were some other prominent people in Tasmania in the late 1800s?

What are you thinking now?

Additional activities and exercises to explore in the classroom.


Tasmania was the smallest of the six colonies. At the time of Federation, its population was about 172,000 – less than 5 per cent of the new Commonwealth’s total. Its size and physical isolation played an important part in shaping Tasmanians’ attitudes towards Federation. Tasmania had to be confident that its interests would be protected under a federal system just as much as those of the other colonies.

When the campaign for Federation began in the 1890s, Tasmania had been a self-governing colony for more than 30 years. It was the second-oldest Australian colony and was proud of the progress that it had made since its founding in 1803. Towns and industries had developed, and the mainland colonies bought many Tasmanian products.

Colonial pride was clear in the work of politicians, leading citizens and groups such as the Tasmanian Natives Association. This was an organisation of Australian-born settlers, who promoted the idea of ‘Tasmania for Tasmanians’. At the same time, Tasmania was also proud of its continuing links to Britain. It was part of the British Empire, just as the Australian nation would remain after Federation. Many people still thought of England as their ‘mother country’. Some aspects of Tasmania’s environment and society also seemed particularly ‘English’. One writer described it in this way:

Its towns and villages, its country mansions and farmhouses, its highroads and green lanes, its orchards and its hop gardens, are all redolent of the mother country ... All the elements of the picturesque are there—the lofty hedgerows, white with blossom in the spring, and crimson with berries in the autumn; the luxuriant foliage, the winding lane, the sweet breath of the new-mown hay ... and the rustic bridge spanning a brawling brook.

A Glance at Australia in 1880 by HM Franklyn.

Despite this connection to Britain, many people in Tasmania and the other colonies believed that social and political changes were needed to better suit Australia’s distinct culture. Many also believed that Federation could achieve this. An economic depression in the 1890s made the need for change even more urgent. The challenge was to campaign for a federal system that could ensure the best possible future for Tasmania and the other Australian colonies.