Celebrations and Futures
How should Western Australians commemorate Federation now and into the future?
Additional activities and exercises to explore in the classroom.
On 1 January 1901, Western Australia began a new part of its history – as one of the States in Australia’s new federal system. This was Commonwealth Day, when Australia was proclaimed a nation. All States would have a say in Federal Parliament’s leadership of the nation. They would have the Commonwealth’s protection if their security needed to be defended. And, Western Australia along with the other States would now be able to trade more easily with one another.
In Western Australia, as in the other States, it was a day of great celebration, both in the capital, Perth and in regional communities. Through street decorations, processions and special events, the celebrations highlighted the idea of nationhood – forging stronger relationships with the other States, and strengthened feelings of national pride.
At the same time, the celebrations also highlighted the ties many Australians had with Britain, and the part that British culture played in Western Australian life. The Australian nation was part of the British Empire and this was a source of great pride. For many Australians, the most exciting occasion in the first year of Federation was not Commonwealth Day, but a visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. They came to Australia to open the first Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne on 9 May 1901.
However, celebrations of Federation involve more than just celebrating the nation as a whole and its place in the world. State identity is important too – the unique story that each State can weave from its individual history, the changes and developments that have shaped it, and how it sees its future. Western Australia has seen many changes and developments since 1901. Will these influence the way Western Australians celebrate Federation today and in the future?