How did Federation affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
Thanks for your question, Phoebe.
Federation occurred on 1 January 1901 when 6 separate British colonies—New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia—joined together to form the new nation of Australia.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were not part of the discussions leading up to federation, nor the drafting of the Constitution. Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had lived in Australia for over 60 000 years, they were not mentioned in the Australian Constitution. Apart from some Aboriginal people in South Australia, the first peoples of Australia also did not participate in the referendums in which the public agreed to the draft Constitution.
So for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, federation did not directly impact their lives.
However, there are 2 sections of the Australian Constitution which have since been used to make laws specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These are section 25 (races disqualified from voting) and section 51 (xxvi) (the Australian Parliament can make laws for any race).
Children celebrating Federation, Melbourne 1901.
National Library of Australia, an13117280-22
This black and white photo is of a group of older children in 1901. They are dressed in elaborate costumes to celebrate Australia's Federation. The costumes highlight Australia's British heritage. A large Union Jack is being held by one of the group.
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