How was Federation promoted, and what were the results of the Western Australian referendum?
On 31 July 1900, Western Australians voted on whether their colony would join the Commonwealth of Australia. This was only five months before the Commonwealth’s inauguration.
As well as being about an important and urgent issue, the vote was significant in other ways. It included a wider range of people than ever before in the colony’s history, with women being allowed to vote for the first time.
Western Australians already knew how some leaders would vote. Premier John Forrest had put aside his reluctance to accept Federation and now believed that his colony should join. During the six-week campaign period, the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases were both actively promoted. Nobody could be sure what the result of the referendum would be or how it would compare with the results from other colonies.
Discover how Western Australians voted for Federation, and why.
- In a small group, closely examine the map of Australia as shown in the referendum promotional material. List all the arguments used to persuade people to vote for Federation. Which do you think would be most effective? Provide reasons for your thinking.
- Study the photograph showing the results of the referendum. What percentage of Western Australians voted ‘yes’ and what percentage voted ‘no’?
- To find the percentage of ‘yes’ votes, divide the number of ‘yes’ votes by the total number of votes and multiply by 100.
- To find the percentage of ‘no’ votes, divide the number of ‘no’ votes by the total number of votes and multiply by 100.
- In pairs, locate the results for the electorates of Murchison, Toodyay, Beverley, Coolgardie, North Coolgardie and Dundas on the results board in the photograph. Repeating the steps in Activity 2, find the percentage of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes for these electorates. List them in a table. Examine the results for these electorates and describe what you see.
- Look at the map of the Western Australian electoral districts, 1900. With a partner, locate the electorates of Murchison, Toodyay, Beverley, Coolgardie, North Coolgardie and Dundas on the map. Recalling your map of the eastern goldfields (Resource sheet 2), which of the electorates would you describe as the eastern goldfields electorates? Look again at your table. What conclusions can you reach about the popularity of Federation in Western Australia?