People and Places

Investigation 1

How did distance and isolation affect Western Australians?
Resource Sheet 1

Investigation 2

What happened in Western Australia in the late 1800s, and what were the impacts on the colony?
Resource Sheet 2

Investigation 3

What problems and challenges resulted from the Western Australian gold rush?
Resource Sheet 3

Investigation 4

Who were some influential citizens in Western Australia in the late 1800s?
Resource Sheet 4

Investigation 5

Who was John Forrest, and what were his contributions to Western Australia?
Resource Sheet 5

What are you thinking now?

Additional activities and exercises to explore in the classroom.


Each colony had particular concerns, challenges and opportunities to take into account when considering Federation. For Western Australia, some of the main challenges were caused by distance and isolation. These factors had influenced Western Australians’ lives and attitudes from the colony’s earliest days, and they were still important in the 1890s.

Long distances meant long, slow journeys – generally by sea for any destination outside the colony. The voyage from Western Australia to Britain took longer than a month, and even travelling to Adelaide took about a week. Cargo and mail also travelled mostly by sea, so communication was slow, too. There was a telegraph system that allowed messages to be sent rapidly, but only small amounts of information could be transmitted.

However, while Western Australia continued to face many challenges in the 1890s, the colony was also growing in importance, population and prosperity. Large goldfields were discovered in 1892, and thousands of people came to Western Australia hoping to find their fortunes. The colony’s harbour at Albany was a key port for ships travelling to and from Europe, but this was a long way from Perth. Another deep-water harbour was completed at Fremantle in 1897, which was one of a series of major government building projects that contributed to Western Australia’s growth in the 1890s. For eastern colonies, in contrast, these years were a time of economic difficulty.

Premier John Forrest, leader of Western Australia’s first elected government, had to take many issues into account as he faced the task of guiding his colony towards a decision on Federation.