Investigation 1

How was Federation celebrated in Perth?

On 2 January 1901, The West Australian newspaper reported on the excellence of Perth’s Federation celebrations of the previous day. It proudly declared that ‘for its size, no city in Australia more fittingly welcomed the proclamation of the new nation than the capital of the Golden West’.

There was a procession through the city, with prizes awarded for the best floats and decorations. Children were given free rides on the city’s electric trams. And, at Perth’s Esplanade Recreation Reserve, thousands of people gathered to hear the reading of the official Proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia and a message from Queen Victoria.

Imagine the atmosphere in Perth on Commonwealth Day—the sights, the sounds! Imagine how much thought people must have put into the decorations and festivities to make them as fitting and memorable as possible.

Your Task

Discover how Federation was celebrated in Perth.


  1. In small groups, use a mind map to brainstorm what you would have expected to see in the celebrations in Perth on 1 January 1901. What aspects of Federation would have been celebrated? Imagine what the decorations would have looked like, including the colours you would have seen, the sounds you would have heard, and events that might have taken place.
  2. The West Australian newspaper reported that prizes were awarded for the best decorations in Perth on 1 January 1901. 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 include? How should they show what was special about Western Australia becoming part of Australia?
  3. Share your group’s ideas with the rest of the class, and combine the criteria to create one set of criteria that the judges could have used. Agree on the number of points you would award each criterion.
  4. In your groups, read the reports of ways in which the streets of central Perth were decorated. Using the set of criteria you created for the judges, decide how many points you would give to each street. Compare your scores with the rest of the class. Which street in Perth would have been awarded the prize of ‘Best Federation Street’?
  5. Using the descriptions in the newspaper reports, choose one of the streets and draw a picture of what it looked like. Write a caption for it. Display the pictures around the classroom.