A map of Australia from the 1800s would look very much like it does now. Early on all of eastern Australia was known as NSW, but as each colony was granted self government the area known as NSW became much smaller. Each of the mainland states has regions of desert – this land is arid and receives little rainfall, as a consequence not many people live in desert regions, most people live on the coast.This lead to a series of colonies, which sprang from small settlements, the first Sydney followed by Hobart Brisbane Melbourne Adelaide and Perth – these cities all became the capitals of their respective states.
But Australia was just the name of the island continent. What we call Australia today was 6 separate colonies. Outposts of Mother England. 3 Million people scattered across a vast continent. Geographically distant and quite remote from each other. They behaved like separate countries – they had their own navies, and armies. The Geelong rifles would help to defend Victoria from NSW? Passing across boarders meant passing through customs. If travelling by train, you had to change trains because each colony had a different rail gauge. If you wanted to trade with the other colonies there were tariffs.
Now, we are now a federation of 6 states and 2 territories.
But combining the jealous bickering colonies was no easy task, it came about largely to protect the country from the wrong type of migrant.
The prevailing thought at the time was a superiority of immigrants from good old mother England. The driving force for Federation was that many thought that a united Australia might help control just who came here.
On October 24, 1889, then New South Wales Premier Sir Henry Parkes told a gathering at Tenterfield, that the time had come for the states to consider Australian federation.
In 1890, on Parkes’ initiative, the representatives of seven British colonies (which included New Zealand) met in Melbourne and agreed in principle to establish an Australian federation.
A year later, a Federation Convention held in Sydney produced a draft Constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia.
Changes in government, the Depression and other factors held back Australian federation. In the meantime, referendums had been held, and more conventions set up. And in 1900 that a final draft Constitution was approved.
At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve 1900, as the clock ticked into 1901 and the 20th century, whistles, gongs, church bells, rattles, pots, pans, accordions and all manner of noise-makers joined the sirens of boats on Sydney Harbour. It was in Sydney, in the city’s Centennial Park, that the federation of Australia’s six states was formally forged on January 1, 1901.
The constitution gave each state the rights to manage and control it’s own education system. At no time since has there been a united curriculum
By the early 1900 most children went to school until they were 12., In fact on the 1901 census, 2,992,915 people (84.2%), stated they could read and write, 77,058 people (2.2%), (36,621 males and 40,437 females) stated they could read only and 463,252 people (13.0%), (255,961 males and 207,291 females) stated they could not read or write.(9) IN school, children had to sit up straight speak only when spoken to – classes were usually large, teachers were very strict, and bad behaviour was punished with the use of a strap or cane.
The school day was spent in reading writing spelling dictation arithmetic grammar history geography and singing, nature study was the new subject
Most of the time children learned their work off by heart – a good memory guaranteed good marks in exams. Very few children went to secondary school.
Private schools were a different consideration – later in the century they even took girls and some even completed secondary education. They wore special capes when being awarded prizes to distinguish them from other students.
Although in the 1920s more children were going to secondary school, most left after 8 years of elementary school. As late as 1938 only 20% of children in NSW continued to secondary schools. In Vitoria it was 15% and Queensland saw only 3 in every hundred doing so