Investigation 3

What was the significance of Federation for Western Australians?

Federation wasn’t seen as something to be celebrated just for a day or a year—its significance was greater than that. And so, some Western Australians who took part in the original celebrations also wanted to express their feelings in a more lasting way. One of these people was Julian Mitchell. He wrote a poem, entitled Union, about how he viewed Federation. It was published in The West Australian newspaper on 2 January 1901, along with reports of the State’s Commonwealth Day celebrations. When you read Union today, think about Julian Mitchell’s vision for the new nation and its future, and compare his views with the experiences and hopes of Australians more than a century later.

Your Task

Discover the significance of Federation to Western Australians at the time.


  1. As a whole class, read the poem Union by Julian Mitchell. Use a dictionary to find the meaning of words you don’t know.
  2. Consider the following questions.
    • How do we know this poem is about Australian Federation? What aspects of the poem refer to Federation?
    • What qualities about Federation does the poet admire?
    • What qualities about the people or nation does the poet have faith in?
    • Does your understanding of Federation match the poet’s? How does the poet want Federation remembered? Did it really happen the way the poem describes?
    • Which part of the poem deals with the future? What kind of future does the poet desire?
  3. Work in pairs or groups to recite and/or act out each line of the poem. Different pairs or groups could take responsibility for different lines. You may also want to write music or use percussion or actions to accompany your recital of the poem.
  4. Write a short verse to express your feelings about the six colonies uniting to form the nation of Australia. Express what kind of country you would like it to be in the future. Put all the poems together in a book for your class to share.