Australia in the 1900s


The Commonwealth of Australia came into existence on 1 January 1901. The first prime minister Edmund Barton was sworn into office by the first governor-general, the Earl of Hopetoun.

In March 1901, the first federal elections were held. In May the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia was opened by the Duke of Cornwall and York (the future King George V).

In April 1901, the first Australian Labor Party caucus was convened.

The design for the Australian flag was chosen in September 1901.

The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 (Cth) gave women the right to vote in federal elections. The Constitution said that Aboriginal people were not to be counted in the census, which was to be used as a basis for determining electorates. As a result, they were denied the right to vote.

At this time in the Boer War campaign, the British executed the Australian solider (enlisted in the British army) Henry Harbord (Harry) 'The Breaker' Morant for having shot enemy soldiers who surrendered.  

In September of 1903, Alfred Deakin became prime minister. In December women voted for the first time and four women stood for the Senate.

In 1909, compulsory military training was enacted.

In 1910, Australian Commonwealth silver coins were introduced. In 1911, bronze pennies and halfpennies were introduced.

The first Australian bank notes based on the British system of 12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound were introduced in 1913.

A snapshot of 1908

  • March
    • Mawson and David scale Mount Erebus in Antarctica.

  • May
    • The first official Australian Coat of Arms is granted.
    • Alfred Deakin's government is defeated and Andrew Fisher becomes prime minister.

  • July
    • The Invalid and Old Age Pensions Act 1908 (Cth) is passed

  • August
    • The Great White Fleet sent by President Roosevelt arrives in Australia at Alfred Deakin's request.

  • September
    • 'My Country', Dorothy Mackellar's poem, is published in London's Spectator.

  • October
    • Canberra is selected for the site of a national capital city.


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