Federation arches, 1901
After a decade of debate and negotiation, residents of the six self-governing colonies of Australia voted by referendum to join together formally as a nation and federate. On 1 January 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was inaugurated at a ceremony held at Centennial Park in Sydney witnessed by 250,000 people.

Around the country people marked the occasion with parades, picnics, sports days, dances and concerts. The main streets of our cities and towns were decorated and temporary arches erected. Many of these arches celebrated Australia’s industry, environment and people, reflecting the emerging national pride and traditional loyalties of many citizens. By night, the streets teemed with people enjoying firework displays and the spectacle of arches and buildings adorned with lanterns and electric lights.

Five months later, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York officially opened the first Commonwealth Parliament at its temporary home in Melbourne. Once again the nation celebrated. On 9 May 1901, Melbourne’s streets were lined with people come to witness the royal procession as it moved through the lavishly decorated streets to the Royal Exhibition Building.

The Duke and Duchess continued their three-month tour of Australia by visiting key towns and cities across the newly federated nation. At each stop the royal couple were greeted by large crowds of well-wishers, enjoying picnics, performances, decorations, arches and night-time illuminations to celebrate Federation and the royal visit.

“The arches rose over the great masses of people in the gorgeousness of their colours like so many rainbows set against a cloudless sky. The senses were whirled away with the bewildering spectacle, and for moments together buildings, people and arches alike were blended in a dizzy hundred-tinted wave of colour.”
The Age, 7 May 1901

This set of images is from a leather bound photo album in our collection titled "Views of Sydney. From W.R. to M.A.".
30 photos · 2,839 views