The Federation of Australia

 Australia’s 6 British colonies became one nation on 1 January 1901.

The Constitution is one of the Commonwealth of Australia’s founding documents. After many years of debate and drafting, it was passed by the British Parliament, and given royal assent (approval by the Queen), in July 1900.

The passing of the Constitution enabled Australia’s 6 British colonies to become one nation, the Commonwealth of Australia, on 1 January 1901.

Under the new Constitution, the former colonies (now called states) would retain their own systems of government, but a separate, federal government would be responsible for matters concerning the nation as a whole.

The Constitution sets out the basic rules for the Australian system of government. It provides the political and legal framework for the nation which underpins many aspects of daily life. The Constitution also established the office of the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative in Australia.

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

Curriculum areas

  • Year 6 History


  • Edmund Barton was working on a draft of the Constitution in 1891. Why do you think it was another 10 years before Federation?

  • Why did the British Parliament pass an Act to create the Commonwealth of Australia, and why did Queen Victoria give assent to (approve) the Act?

  • What do you think the 6 colonies hoped to achieve from becoming one nation?