Records of the Australasian Federal Conventions of the 1890s

Australasian Federal Convention, Sydney 1891, National Library of Australia, an14293711
Australasian Federal Convention, Sydney, 1891, National Library of Australia, an14293711

The records of the Australasian Federation Conference of 1890 and the Australasian Federal Conventions of 1891 and 1897/8 are among the most significant founding documents of the Australian nation.

At the Australasian Federation Conference held in Melbourne from 6 to 14 February 1890, leading politicians from the six Australian colonies and New Zealand affirmed the desirability of ‘an early union under the crown’ and committed themselves to persuading their governments to send delegates to a convention which would ‘consider and report’ on a scheme for a federal constitution. Accordingly, the members of the National Australasian Convention of 1891 which met in Sydney from 2 March to 9 April did not debate whether the colonies should federate but how. They devoted themselves to finding a draft constitution to which they could agree and which they could take back to their legislatures for discussion and endorsement. When the Australasian Federal Convention met, in three sessions, in Adelaide Sydney and Melbourne in 1897 and early 1898, the delegates modified the draft produced in 1891. The Australian Constitution was contained in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill, which was endorsed by the voters of each Australian colony at referendums in 1898, 1899 and 1900, passed by the British Parliament, and given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900.

This web site provides access to the following documents:

Debates and Proceedings of the Australasian Federation Conference, Melbourne, 6-14 February, 1890

Debates of the National Australasian Convention, Sydney, 2 March–9 April 1891

Debates of the Australasian Federal Convention of 1897/8 in three sessions:

These links provide the ability to browse the daily debates of each of the listed conventions. A key word or phrase search across the convention database can be conducted by using the Australian Parliament ParlInfo Search facility, and choosing '1890s Federal Conventions' in the collection 'Constitution'.

The text of these documents has been generated by electronic scanning of original published volumes of the debates and proceedings. This process may have caused errors in the text which have not been identified by checking with optical character recognition. Before citing from this source, data should be checked against the original documents:

Official Record of the Proceedings and Debates of the Australasian Federation Conference, 1890. Melbourne, Robert S. Brain, Government Printer, 1890

Official Report of the National Australasian Convention Debates. Sydney, 2 March to 9 April, 1891. Sydney, George Stephen Chapman, Acting Government Printer, 1891

Official Report of the National Australasian Convention Debates. Adelaide, March 22 to May 5 1897. Adelaide, C.E. Bristow, Government Printer, 1897

Official Record of the Debates of the Australasian Federal Convention. Second Session. Sydney, 2nd to 24th September, 1897. Sydney, William Applegate Gullick, Government Printer, 1897

Official Record of the Debates of the Australasian Federal Convention. Third Session. Melbourne, 20th January to 17th March 1898, 2 vols.

Melbourne, Robert S. Brain, Government Printer, [1898]

Errors in the text will be corrected where identified. They should be notified to research.sen@aph.gov.au

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