Sir John Forrest 1891

Despite agreement on a draft Constitution, the federation movement ground to a halt in 1891. Local economics and politics were still more important.

Cover of the Melbourne Cartoon, 3 March 1891, copyright application.
Cover of the Melbourne Cartoon, 3 March 1891, copyright application. NAA: A1786, 4873B
Portrait of John Forrest, taken from a photograph of the premiers’ conference, Melbourne, 29 January – 2 February 1899. Photographer unknown.
Portrait of John Forrest, taken from a photograph of the premiers’ conference, Melbourne, 29 January – 2 February 1899. Photographer unknown. NAA: A1200, L16930

Sir John Forrest (1847–1918) was famed as an explorer, leading expeditions in Western and South Australia before becoming Premier of Western Australia at the end of 1890. As a delegate to the three federal conventions between 1890 and 1898, Forrest expressed his concerns about the impact of federation upon his colony. In 1918, Forrest was made a life peer of the House of Lords but died en route to Britain.

Audio:   Re-creation of speech by Sir John Forrest, ‘Official record of the proceedings and debates of the National Australasian Convention’, 10 March 1891, p. 106. Original printed document NAA: R216, 167

Read the transcript

The colony I represent is in a very exceptional position…It has a large area, nearly one-third of the continent of Australia. It has, as you are all aware, a small population. It is just entering upon the management of its own affairs. It is like a young man just starting upon his career. Its people have not considered this great question of federation.

Sir John Forrest