Australia in the 1890s


In 1893, Federal leagues formed in various country towns, and in Victoria the 'Australian Natives' Association' (made up of those who had been born in Australia rather than those who had migrated from overseas, but not including Australia's Indigenous people) became particularly active.

In 1898, referendums were held in all colonies, except Queensland and Western Australia, to gain popular approval of a draft bill for a federal constitution. Majorities were reached in all other colonies but NSW proved a stumbling block. For a while the cause seemed lost but colonial 'native-born' politicians such as Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin managed to reignite enthusiasm.

Between May and September 1899, a second round of referendums was held. This time five colonies voted in favour, and a year later, Western Australia also approved.

Alfred Deakin

A snapshot of 1898

  • April
    • The Eighth Intercolonial Trades Union Congress is held in Adelaide.

  • June
    • A referendum is held in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria to approve the draft Constitution of Australia.
    • The constitution is accepted by the required majority in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, but not in New South Wales.

  • October
    • The Perth Zoo opens with two lions and a tiger in its collection.
    • The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney is completed.
    • Hobart is lit by electricity.


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