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Introduction

Australia was actually formed in 1901 by Federation and this exhibition, will allow us to develop these idea. Another point to be emphasised is that writing about Australian history is often seen as rather boring, a history that it is not as dynamic, exciting or interesting as writing about war and violence and revolution. What is suggested in this text is that before 1914, Australia was at the forefront of social reform, considered the social laboratory of the western world, since so many reforms that were introduced here in the country. This without deviate on the violence and death and what many would term genocide, referring of what happened to the Indigenous population. Nevertheless, if we look at history Australia-wide, there certainly are incredible reforms that were introduced during that time and which are worth reminding of and not solely the surplus of violence which did take place. In regards with militarism pre-1914; many will be aware that there were efforts in that direction (e.g. conscription being introduced), but there also existed a peace movement before 1914. Some of those issues we need to think about, when we reflect on Australia’s history before August 1914, when the world was literally turned upside down.

“We enter a new year and the new century a united Australian nation…” That was the Sydney Morning Herald comment about Federation, the birth of a nation. It is often forgotten when looking at the history of Australia, that at this event the nation was born. As an example, it can be discussed the nationalism surrounding Gallipoli since even today the overwhelming message is that it was Gallipoli that created the nation. But it isn’t, in fact. Maybe it is because Federation took so long and that it doesn’t quite have the glamour of male sacrifice that people have written this event out of the story as I am trying to frame it today. In other words, Federation didn’t take place overnight; it began in the 1880s. After a very long and contractive process and very tedious long debates and discussions between the states, it was finally formalised in 1901 after almost ten years of discussion. But as many commentators have noted, this was a peaceful transition, actually quite unique at that time in the Western world when we know that these transitions were rarely peaceful and, in fact, often involved violence and war. So the nation was born at this time in a spirit of optimism and exuberance and a new national pride was felt to develop from it. For the supporters of Federation, it was a positive and exciting time.

JD