The Story

A Story of the Federation of Australia

The suggestion that the British colonies on the Australian continent might one-day unite to form a nation was first made early in the 19th century. By the 1870s many people took it for granted. However, despite a multitude of compelling arguments for federation, there were many people who fought against it.

Queensland’s destiny seemed driven by its north where Pacific Island labourers had been captured to work on sugar plantations in virtual slave conditions. This practice, opposed in the south, led to a strong movement for separation of the north from the south.

As Queensland approached its referendum to join the commonwealth a NO vote seemed to be the most likely outcome. This would have excluded Queensland from being a state of the nation of Australia.

Arthur Rutledge, a brilliant lawyer and Queensland Attorney-General was a delegate at the vital 1891 Federation Convention in Sydney and took part in the drafting of the Australian Constitution. His vision was nothing short of one nation covering the continent. It was his passion for this objective that drove him to reject lesser proposals being put forward by some other politicians.

Arthur Rutledge convinced Queenslanders, especially in the north, that their young thinly-populated colony could not survive if it were not part of the commonwealth. There had to be Unity in Queensland and Unity in Australia. With his persuasive campaign he managed to get Queensland across the line with a very slim majority. That success was also a significant influence on Western Australia to join the commonwealth; thus making the “Grand Island Continent” complete.

This book is the story of Sir Arthur Rutledge and his struggle to unite Australia as a nation.

“Fellow Australians, let us reject the counsels of selfishness and exclusiveness; let us put aside the policy of narrow provincialism which would paralyse our energies, restrain our legitimate ambitions and ultimately drag us down to the despicable level of a stagnant community content to thrive upon itself. Let us respond to the clarion call of nation-hood, and resolve to cast in our lot with those whose glorious aim it is to achieve for our Grand Island Continent.”

The Hon. Arthur Rutledge MLA