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State Library of South Australia Advance Australia : South Australia and Federation


The State Library of South Australia has a long tradition of production of bibliographies on key topics of interest to the community. This publication grew out of requests for information, and for help in locating sources about the Federation of the Australian colonies, particularly South Australia's involvement. Advance Australia: South Australia and Federation is the result of painstaking and thorough work by the two compilers, Patricia Moore and Prue McDonald, to provide a substantial point of reference to anyone interested in the development of our nation and South Australia's role in it.

A printed publication, Advance Australia: South Australia and Federation is available from the State Library of South Australia.

This Internet guide will be updated with additional material as it becomes available.

The production of both this Internet version and the printed publication were made possible by a South Australian Federation Grant provided by the South Australian Centenary of Federation Committee which is an initiative of the Government of South Australia. The State Library is proud to have made a lasting contribution to the Centenary of Federation through publication of this work.


In his landmark account of the making of the Australian Constitution, J.A. La Nauze describes how a full picture was only possible after the discovery of the Committee minutes and the 'domestic' records of the Convention of 1897-98 in the basement of Parliament House Adelaide. They had lain untouched and unnoticed for seventy years after the Clerk of the Convention E.G. Blackmore had stored them there before he went to Melbourne as the first Clerk of the Senate in 1901.

The point of this is that our understanding and interpretation of events of the past are dependent on identifying and locating all the relevant documents. The hope is that they have been kept. While some are destroyed, many lie hidden in an archive or store with no means of finding them. In that state they are useless to scholars and the general public alike.

This is what makes Patricia Moore and Prue McDonald's select bibliography of South Australia and Federation such a superb research and information tool. For anyone seeking to trace the making of the Commonwealth of Australia, understand the founding of our nation, or to rescue the lost memory of the absolutely vital role that South Australians played in the process, here is the place to begin.

The National Archives of Australia produced an invaluable publication Federation: the Guide to Records in 1998 which features some South Australian sources. Advance Australia: South Australia and Federation now takes that work a lot further in listing and describing published and archival materials held in the State Library of South Australia; in its general reference collection, in its stacks and in that great repository of our State's history, the Mortlock Library of South Australiana. Because much of it covers the whole federal story from original sources to later commentaries and contemporary studies, anyone with a general interest in the topic can find some introductory references. But if they wish to look at a particular aspect, or study something in depth, the sources are there.

One of the most useful sections is the newspaper references. Anyone who has sat peering at the microfilm reader screen and trawling through pages of irrelevant material to find a few gems, will be amazed at the comprehensive and clear listing of references. In most cases not just the headline but an introductory line or two of the article, or even an extended extract will help you to decide quickly whether the reference is one you need to look at.

But this is no unremitting list of references ��� the publication is full of illustrations in the form of photographs, cartoons, and reproductions of pamphlets and documents which bring the whole thing alive. It would be hard to look through this guide without feeling something of the excitement and energy that the federal movement generated over 100 years ago.

Knowing where we have come from helps us understand where we are today and where we should be going tomorrow. Our nation is one of the world's oldest continuing democracies and most successful federations. Where did the Commonwealth of Australia come from and how was it created? This bibliography provides a means of answering that question. With its help, there is no need for us to be ignorant or confused as we exercise our democratic rights to choose governments and vote 'yes' or 'no' on referendum questions.

John Bannon

About this site

For ease of use, the guide has been divided into two sections:

  1. General sources, about the progress of Federation in Australia
  2. South Australian sources: those written by South Australians, or about the South Australian contribution to Federation

Contemporary illustrations, and examples of primary sources have been included to provide insight into the era. 'Federation images', the pictorial section of the guide, uses contemporary photographs, cartoons and writings to tell the story of Federation and South Australia's participation.

The gradual development of Federation may be followed by reading newspaper articles of the late nineteenth century. The Observer and Advertiser newspapers of the period are indexed within the South Australian section. Quotations taken from articles highlight the personalities and issues which influenced the eventual uniting of the Australian colonies in 1901. Throughout the site, click on the camera icon to view an image or written source.

Please note:

Cartoons and quotations from the Federation era reflect the attitudes of the times and might cause offence in today's society.

This guide features an image that may show Aboriginal people who have died, which may cause sadness and distress to their relatives. Care and discretion should be used when viewing the image.


Advance Australia: South Australia and Federation has been produced with assistance from Centenary of Federation South Australia.

Special thanks to the following for permission to publish:

Advertiser Newspapers Ltd.: Advertiser and Observer banners.

Henry Rankine of Point McLeay Community Council Inc.: Point McLeay photographs.

Robert Symon, Elizabeth Dyer and Perdita Eldridge: Sir Josiah Symon's handwritten annotations to Draft of a Bill to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia, 1891 and 1897.

The authors would like to thank their State Library of South Australia colleagues, and Hon. John Bannon, Kathy Gargett, Jan Hodgson, Pat Stretton, and Barbara Wall, for their contributions.


MLSA: Mortlock Library of South Australiana

RBNC: Rare Books and Named Collections

SAPP: South Australia. Parliamentary Paper