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Australia was settled as a series of British colonies between 1788 and 1829. By that time, aboriginal peoples had inhabited the area for at least 50,000 years. Between 1850 and 1891 six separate self-governing colonies emerged, each with a constitution and institutions of government of its own.

Throughout this period there also was some pressure for union, for economic, defence and other purposes. The final and most serious phase of the federation movement took place during the 1890s. The terms of federation and of the constitution on which it was based were negotiated in two major constitutional conventions in 1891 and 1897-98. The conventions were attended by delegations of Members of Parliament from each of the colonies. The constitution that emerged from this process was approved by referendum in each of the Australian colonies before it came into effect as an Act of the British Parliament.

In designing the constitution, the framers drew on the constitutional arrangements of both Britain and the United States. After some debate, they adopted the principles and institutions of responsible government'already in operation in the six colonies'for the new national government, the Commonwealth of Australia. Like Britain, they saw no need for constitutional protection of political rights. The federal system and the constitutional framework, however, were modelled on those of the United States.
The constituent parts of the Australian federation are the Commonwealth and the six Original States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. In addition, Australia has two self-governing mainland territories, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The territories are not full partners in the federation, but are treated as polities in their own right for many purposes.

- Handbook of Federal Countries, 2005

Australia profile by Cheryl Saunders Return to Top Privacy Policies