One of the reasons why Britain decided to establish a colony in Australia in 1788 was the rebellion of its colonies in America - Britain needed somewhere else to send its prisoners. Australia's experience as a colony of Britain was very different from that of the United States.
Before looking at why and how the British colonies in Australia decided to become one nation we will check how and when those colonies came into existence, and when they began governing themselves. Use the resources of your library to find answers to the questions associated with each map.
1788 - New South Wales (named by Captain Cook, who thought that it looked like South Wales in Britain) was defined in Governor Phillip's commission from the British Government. Remember Europeans were still not quite sure of the shape and nature of the continent. The western limit was defined as being longitude 135 degrees east. Find that in an atlas and see where it goes. Can you think of any reason why that would have been chosen as the boundary?
1825 - Van Diemen's Land was defined as a separate colony. White settlement had begun there in 1803. Where did that name come from? When did it become known as Tasmania, and who was it named after?
1829 - Western Australia was defined following white settlement in 1829. The boundary of New South Wales had been shifted west to 129 degrees east.
1836 - The 'Province' of South Australia was defined. When was the first white settlement in South Australia?
1851 - The colony of Victoria (named after whom?) came into formal existence. The first white settlers set up a whaling station at Portland. When?
1859 - Queensland, the last colony to be created, came into existence. Oxley explored Moreton Bay and named the Brisbane River in 1823. When was the first permanent white settlement? Queensland gained its current borders in 1862. Note what has happened to New South Wales. What might that mean about its northern section?
1863 - The administration of the Northern Territory was transferred to South Australia. Why might that have been?
1911 - The Australian Capital Territory was established and the Commonwealth Government took responsibility for this new territory and took over responsibility for the Northern Territory from South Australia. The Australian Capital Territory was established as a site for the capital of Australia. It is between Sydney and Melbourne. Why do you think that happened?
The colonies were initially governed by Britain, but they were progressively granted self-government. In this case, self-government means that a group of people were elected to a parliament which had the power to decide about matters of local concern.
When did the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory establish local parliaments?
Copy the following table and fill in the dates using the information from the maps above. Fill in the columns by providing the relevant dates. Work out how long each colony had been governing itself in 1901. Write the answers in the 'Years of self-government to 1901' row.