Photo: Government Printing Office, NSW, Inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth, Sydney, 1st January 1901
National Heritage List inscription date 3 October 2018
Why should oaths have been administered and the proclamation read within the close shut walls of any building when Nature has endowed the people with this fine park commemorating the foundation of Australia?
First Governor-General Lord Hopetoun’s Inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia speech, 1 January 1901, Centennial Park.
Centennial Park occupies a special place within the story of Australia. The park has outstanding heritage value to the nation as the site chosen for the 1901 inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia. The inauguration event held at Centennial Park was a defining moment in Australia’s progress to a unified Commonwealth – the six colonies of South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland were united as the Commonwealth of Australia.
As a publicly accessible ‘People’s Park’ established in 1888, Centennial Park was considered the ideal choice as a symbol of a democratic space. The natural amphitheatre of the park, surrounded by rocky ledges and grassy hills, formed a gallery that allowed hundreds of thousands of ordinary members of the public to witness the inauguration ceremony alongside the dignitaries.
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A Grand Procession
On 1 January 1901, a reception at the Domain was followed by a procession through the city through numerous ceremonial arches, and past 'lavish decorations, illuminations and ornaments' installed along the major streets of the city on its way to Centennial Park. The 'Great Inaugural Procession' led from the Domain to Centennial Park. Thousands lined the 8 km route.
They were eager to see the parade and be a part of the historic celebrations. The footpaths were overflowing, people crammed onto balconies, hung out of windows and even perched on rooftops.
Some 10,000 people participated in the parade. They included troops, mounted police, military bands, members of trade unions, stockmen, firefighters and Friendly Societies such as the Sons and Daughters of Temperance, the Ancient Order of Druids and the Irish National Foresters. There were members of state parliament, along with representatives of foreign governments and community and church groups.
Inauguration of a New Nation in a People's Park
Centennial Park chosen as the site for the proclamation of the Federal Constitution, uniting the six colonies as one Commonwealth of Australia. The NSW Premier, William Lyne chose the natural amphitheatre at the Park where a special pavilion was constructed in which the proclamation of the Commonwealth and the swearing-in of Ministers would occur.
At the inauguration ceremony, Queen Victoria’s Royal Proclamation and Letters Patent were read. The Royal Proclamation established that the Commonwealth of Australia and the Australian Constitution took effect from this day, 1 January 1901. The Letters Patent established the Office of Governor-General and Lord Hopetoun’s Commission.
Lord Hopetoun was sworn in as the first Governor-General of Australia after taking and signing three oaths: the Oath of Allegiance, the Official Oath and the Judicial Oath. The Federal Executive Councillors were then sworn in, each taking and signing two oaths: the Oath of Allegiance and the Executive Councillor’s Oath. Edmund Barton was sworn-in as the nation's first Prime Minister, along with the first federal cabinet.
These actions marked the creation of a new democracy. From this moment, on 1 January 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia became a self-governing nation.
Inside the Federation Pavilion structure sat the 'Federation Stone,' a hexagonal stone created to symbolise the unification of the six colonies of South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. Known also as the Commonwealth Stone, in 1904 it was erected on a sandstone pedestal on the site of the original temporary Federation Pavilion. In 1988 a new Federation Pavilion was constructed which houses the Federation Stone, and is a permanent memorial to mark the exact spot where the Commonwealth of Australia came into being.
Today you can visit the new Federation Pavilion in Federation Valley and see the Federation Stone, the exact spot where the nation known as Australia officially came into being.