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Video clip synopsis – Federation was a time of jobs and opportunities. With our 12,000 mile coast Australia needed a defence force.
Year of production - 1909
Duration - 2min 12sec
Tags - Australian History, World War 1, see all tags


Federation and Defending Our Shores

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About the Video Clip


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.

Curriculum Focus


Students recognise that the Australian Constitution establishes the powers and responsibilities of the national parliament and the federal legal system including the High Court.

Students consider the influence of key events and ideas in Australia’s development as an independent, self-governing democracy from colonialisation to the present.

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 1 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?

Classroom Activities


1. Using experiences of students explore current examples of interstate rivalries in Australia (for example, in sport). What are the areas of rivalry? Why are the states rivals? Develop this discussion into more current economic and political areas of rivalry. What role does the federal governmnet play? Who wins in this rivalry?

2. After viewing the video, use a map of Australia and students’ undertstandings about the early European settlement of Australia, to explore possible reasons why, in 1901, there might be some range of opinions as to the nature of a new ‘nation’. How might this range of views contribute to the current rivalries?

3. To assist students to effectively utilise this video clip discuss the concepts of nation, federation, constitution, identity, nationhood, commonwealth, conscription. This might be done in conjunction with the video and/or by using more student friendly examples and experiences.

4. By considering the three levels of government in Australia, diagramatically illustrate the duties and responsibilities given to each level including reasons why each level might take a particular responsibility. How does the Australian Constitution moderate the division of powers? Ask students to collect a copy of a constitution from a local club or association, perhaps the school SRC. Why do we have constitutions?

Further Resources


Go to Documenting a Democracy