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Birthplace of the nation

On 1 January 1901, 60,000 people gathered in Centennial Park to witness the proclamation of the Federal Constitution, uniting six formerly independent colonies as one Commonwealth of Australia. The people of Sydney celebrated Federation with a week of festivities.

A reception at the Domain for the Governor-General was followed by a military and official procession through the city to Centennial Park. The procession entered Centennial Park through Paddington Gates, elaborately decorated for the occasion.

The high point of the festivities was the ceremony in what is now known as Federation Valley, chosen because its rising slopes afforded the whole crowd good views.

A 14-metre high octagonal, domed plaster pavilion was made for the ceremony. The pavilion was richly decorated with bas-relief castings of native flora and the imperial coat of arms.

An enclosure with seating for 7,000 dignitaries and guests and 300 members of the press surrounded the pavilion. Three choirs sang as part of the occasion, being:

  • a 400 voice church choir under the baton of Mr. Joseph Massesy, organist of St. Andrew’s Cathedral
  • a choir of a thousand conducted by Mr. J.A. Delaney
  • a choir of 10,000 public school children conducted by Herr Hugo Alpen.

As part of the ceremony, Queen Victoria’s official proclamation was read by Australia’s first Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, and Federal ministers were then sworn in after a twenty-one gun salute. these Ministers included:

  • The Right Honorable Edmund Barton P.C., Q.C.; Prime Minister (1 Jan 1901 - 24 Sep 1903);
  • The Honorable Alfred Deakin; Attorney-General (later became Prime Minister);
  • The Right Honorable George Turner P.C., K.C.M.G.; Treasurer;
  • The Honorable Sir William John Lyne K.C.M.G.; Minister for Home Affairs;
  • The Right Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston P.C., Q.C.; Minister for Trade and Customs;
  • The Honorable Sir James Robert Dickson K.C.M.G.; Defence Minister;
  • The Right Honorable Sir John Forrest P.C., G.C.M.G; Postmaster-General;
  • The Honorable Richard Edward O'Connor Q.C.; named honorary minister without a portfolio; and
  • The Honorable Neil Elliot Lewis; named honorary minister without a portfolio.

Singing by the massed choir concluded the ceremony.

The ceremonial pavilion was a temporary building constructed for the occasion from plaster of paris and it quickly deteriorated and was removed in 1903.

Further Reading

Accounts of the day and a copy of the program

The Australian Constitution and Federation

Federation Collection at National Library of Australia

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