What concerns about Federation were important to the communities of Western Australia’s goldfields?
The communities that grew on the eastern goldfields of Western Australia were different from other parts of the colony. They formed a major part of the colony’s population, but they were largely made up of ‘othersiders’ – newcomers to Western Australia who had moved to the colony from the east hoping to make their fortunes. These new arrivals did not necessarily feel that the interests of Western Australia were more important than those of the nation as a whole.
The communities of the eastern goldfields weren’t sure that Western Australia’s Parliament, based in Perth, would give them a better deal than they would receive under a federal system. Western Australia’s Government valued the wealth the goldfields generated, and used it to fund many building projects. But, it also taxed the miners for the services they needed and for importing goods from other colonies.
During the 1890s, the colony became divided in its attitudes towards Federation. The government and some of the people it represented continued to doubt and delay. In the mining communities, however, opinions in favour of Federation grew stronger and stronger. By 1900, the eastern goldfields were willing to separate from the rest of Western Australia and form a new colony that would join the other colonies.
Explore why the ‘othersiders’, gold miners who had come to Western Australia, were in favour of Federation.
- In pairs, read the petition and ‘A Federal Fairy Tale’. Discuss how they are similar and different. Why do the ‘inhabitants of the Eastern Goldfields’ and the ‘beautiful princess Kalgoorlie’ want to be part of Federation? Share your understandings with others in the class.
- Using an atlas and the map of Western Australia, draw the boundaries of the eastern goldfields region as described in the petition. Label Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie.
- Decorate your map with illustrations (or clip art) to show the situation and desires of the eastern goldfields region as described in the petition.
- Write a caption for your map to explain what it represents.
- Re-read ‘A Federal Fairy Tale’. Draw illustrations of the characters: Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, the ‘Knight’ Sir John Forrest and ‘the great fairy Australia’. Write a speech bubble for each character to show their point of view.