Investigation 1

How was Federation celebrated in Melbourne?

The official proceedings to celebrate the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia in Melbourne on 1 January 1901 were low-key. The Premier of Victoria, George Turner and other key Federation figures, such as Alfred Deakin, John Quick and Isaac Isaacs, had gone to the inauguration ceremony in Sydney. Melbourne’s main celebrations coincided with the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament celebrated a few months later, in May. Despite the low-key approach to celebrating Commonwealth Day, those visiting Melbourne on the long- awaited day still had the opportunity to view decorations, attend special church services and be entertained at picnics and social gatherings.

Your Task

Discover how Federation was celebrated in Melbourne on 1 January 1901.


  1. Form small groups. Use a mind map to brainstorm what you would have expected to see in the celebrations in Melbourne 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. Read the extracts from newspaper reports. How does what they recount compare with the expectations you recorded on your mind map?
  3. Individually or with a partner, write a letter to the editor of either The Argus or The Age newspapers expressing your delight or disappointment regarding the city’s efforts to celebrate this most special of days.
  4. Your group has been given responsibility for providing ‘festal garments’ (decorations) for public buildings on the streets of Melbourne. Brainstorm a list of public buildings or streets that you would like to decorate. Consider the following questions.
    • How could they be decorated?
    • What colours, symbols and slogans could you use to represent Federation?
    Draw sketches of your ideas, including the slogans or words you would display.