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Video Clip Synopsis:
Federation was a time of jobs and opportunities in city and country alike. But our 12,000-mile coast was long and open to attack. Australia realised it needed a defence force.

Duration:
2min 12sec

Federation and Defending Our Shores is an excerpt from the film Cavalcade of Australia 1901-1951 (34 mins), produced in 1951.

Cavalcade of Australia 1901-1951: Produced by the Australian National Film Board to celebrate the Jubilee of Federation, Cavalcade of Australia 1901-1951 provides an historical review of the development of the nation between 1901 and 1951. The film opens with the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary) to Australia in 1901 to open the first Commonwealth Parliament. Through the use of historical footage, the film not only covers notable events in the Commonwealth story but also social development, fashions and economic growth over the period.

Cavalcade of Australia 1901-1951 was produced by the Department of the Interior.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: SOSE/HSIE
Year: 11-12
Theme: Wartime Work

Key Concepts

Federation; Defence; Colony; Empire; Invasion

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Past; Sources; Processes
NSW:N/A
NT:History Stage 2
Qld:Senior History Unit 8 Modern Australia
SA:History Stage 2
Tas:Senior Australian History — national identity
Vic:Australian history Unit 3 — Colony to Nation
WA:Year 11 Australian Studies — Australian identity

Context / Background Information

Before 1901 Australia was a collection of separate colonies. Each was part of the British Empire, but they were not formally linked together, other than by being on the same area of land and all being British colonies.

Federation changed that. The Federation process of the 1890s resulted in the creation of a new nation, Australia, by the voluntary joining together of the six separate colonies. Each colony gave up some of its powers to the new national parliament, though each remained tied to Britain, as did the new Commonwealth of Australia.

In 1909 the British military leader Kitchener was brought to Australia to make recommendations about the nature of the new national defence forces and his report led to the creation of the system that would be in place when Australia entered World War One, the Great War, in 1914.

In considering why Federation occurred, historians are always conscious of the role of defence. They disagree, however, about how significant a force the need to come together for defence purposes was in breaking down the separate colonies' reservations about creating the new nation. Was it a major motivation? Or was it one of a number of factors that helped create a climate in which Federation was more likely to occur?

Discussion Pointers

  1. In 1901 Australia became a new ‘nation’. What does that mean?
  2. Some aspects of life are better dealt with by a national government, rather than by separate state governments. Make a list of some of those national issues.
  3. Clearly defence is a power better given to a national parliament than to separate state parliaments. It was one of the powers given to the new Commonwealth Parliament in the 1901 Constitution for Australia. Why, according to the video clip, were people at the time so anxious about defence — why did they think it was needed and was important?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. One of the key elements of Kitchener’s recommendations was the creation of a scheme of compulsory military training for all Australians aged 12-18. Research and report on how this form of ‘boy conscription’ was accepted in Australian society.
  2. Australians often like to see themselves as anti-authoritarian. How can they reconcile this supposed element of national identity with the reaction to the ‘boy conscription’ scheme?

Modules That Use This Clip

SOSE/HSIE Year 9-10, SOSE/HSIE Year 11-12, English Year 9-10