About this record
This is an excerpt from Edmund Barton's annotated copy of the 1891 draft of the Constitution. Barton’s handwritten notes in red ink record the decisions made by the Constitution Committee, which he chaired, at the Australasian Federal Convention of 1897–98.
For more information about the Australian Constitution view the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution ACT 1900 (UK).
Drafting the Australian Constitution
The possibility of Australian Federation had been discussed for many years. But it was not until 1890, at the Australasian Federation Conference, that the colonies decided on a process for the drafting of a federal constitution.
Designing the Constitution proved to be a long, difficult and drawn-out process. It was eventually drafted over a series of conventions from 1891 to 1898.
The first was the National Australasian Convention. It opened in Sydney on 2 March 1891 and was led by Queensland premier Samuel Griffith. 7 delegates appointed by each of the Australian colonies attended. There were also 2 delegates from New Zealand, which was also a British colony at the time.
The second convention, the Australasian Federal Convention, took place over 3 sessions in 1897 and 1898. It was chaired by Edmund Barton, who went on to become Australia’s first prime minister. At this convention, the delegates modified the draft produced in 1891.
The draft Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill, containing the Australian Constitution, was endorsed by Australian electors in each colony at referendums in 1899 and 1900. The British Parliament requested further changes before passing the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900.
When Queen Victoria gave her assent, on 9 July 1900, the Act finally became law.
You can learn more about the history of the Australian Constitution on a virtual tour of our exhibition Voices / Dhuniai: Federation, democracy and the Constitution.
Learning resource text © Education Services Australia Limited and the National Archives of Australia 2010.