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Research Guides

Government Records about the Australian Capital Territory

2. Federation and the search for a capital, 1891–1913

In the 19th century, there was a concerted push for independence by the Australian colonies as they established themselves as separate units of government. Each colony developed its own system of administration, trade and tariffs, and even rail gauges. Victoria took over the mantle of the dominant colony from New South Wales following the gold rushes of the 1850s.

Yet this drive for independence was tempered by fears of foreign invasion. Russia was considered a threat, while rumours of France's annexation of the New Hebrides in 1883 also heightened tensions. An initial Australasian Convention held in Sydney on 28 November 1883 achieved little. However, Germany's annexation of New Guinea in 1888 ultimately led to an Australasian Federation Conference held in Melbourne in February 1890. Delegates agreed on the need for a union of the colonies and resolved to consider means by which a federal constitution could be developed.


Chapter 2
Federation and the search for a capital, 1891–19