Collection Number: Souvenirs 7
Title: Australian Historical Events and Commemorations Collection.
Date range of collection: 1901 - 1996.
Scope and content note: The collection contains a diverse range of items relating to events of importance to Australia's history, as well as items produced during the Australia Remembers 1945-1995 activities commemorating the end of WWII in the Pacific.
Provenance: The collection has been acquired over many years, from many different sources and donors.
Extent: 3 boxes (.53 metres), approx. 230 items.
Location: Published and Digitised Collections, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.
- Certificate Collection, Published and Digitised Collections, Australian War Memorial.
- ANZAC Day Souvenirs Collection, Australian War Memorial, Souvenirs 1.
Processing history: Finding Aid updated and collection re-numbered and re-housed in 2005.
Copyright: Contact Curator, Published & Digitised Collections.
Preferred citation: Australian Historical Events and Commemorations, Australian War Memorial, Souvenirs 7.
- Australia Day
- Parliament House
- Commonwealth Jubilee
- Australia House
The Commonwealth Parliament and the creation of the Federal Capital City (Canberra), 1901
The Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed on 1 January 1901 and the first federal elections were held in March of that year. The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York officially opened Australia's first Commonwealth Parliament at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne on May 9, 1901, as the site for the federal capital city had not yet been decided. More than 10,000 guests were present, including politicians, naval and military officers, judges, consuls, mayors and clergy. The Commonwealth Parliament continued to meet in Melbourne until a Parliament House was established in Canberra in 1927.
The site of the federal capital city was a contentious issue, especially between the two largest states (New South Wales and Victoria) who each wanted it to be located in their respective capital cites. A compromise was reached, and it was written into the Constitution that 'The seat of Government of the Commonwealth ... shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and shall be in the state of New South Wales, and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney' (Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, Section 125). Canberra was finally chosen as the site of the new capital city in 1908.
The new Federal Capital City officially came into being on 1 January 1911, and at a ceremony on 12 March 1913 the foundation stones were laid and Lady Denman, the wife of the then Governor-General announced that the national capital was to be officially named 'Canberra'. It was determined that, for financial reasons, a temporary Parliament House would be built which was intended to last for 50 years, although it was actually used for 61 years. The House was officially opened on 9 May 1927, again by the Duke of York (later King George VI).
Australia Day, 1915-1918 and Sesquicentenary celebrations and the Commonwealth Jubilee, 1951
On 26 January 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip landed at Port Jackson, taking 'formal possession' of the Colony of New South Wales and 'claiming' the land for the British Empire. This occasion was celebrated by the colonists from the colony's early days, and throughout the 19th century was known as 'Foundation Day'. By 1888 all the colonial capitals, except Adelaide, had declared 'Anniversary Day" (as it was now known) a public holiday.
In 1871, the Australian Natives' Association was founded in Victoria. Chapters spread throughout the colonies and in 1915 a branch was established in London. The ANA campaigned for Federation of the colonies, and called for the whole of Australia to celebrate a unified national day called 'Australia Day'.
From 1915-1918 in South Australia, however, a different 'Australia Day' was celebrated. It was held to celebrate the anniversary of Australia's entry into WWI, and was used as a means of raising money for soldiers and their dependents, with proceeds going to 'The South Australian Soldiers' Fund'.
In 1938 the nation celebrated the sesquicentenary (150th anniversary) of white settlement of Australia. Captain Phillip's landing at Port Jackson was re-enacted, and it was also on this day that Aboriginal activists held a 'Day of Mourning' conference aimed at securing national citizenship and equal status for Aborigines.
The Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations in 1951 were initiated by the Commonwealth Government to celebrate 50 years since Federation.
Australia Remembers, 1945-1995
Australia Remembers, 1945-1995 was a program of activities organised to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, culminating in key national ceremonies held in Brisbane on 15 August 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific.
- Australia Day Council of NSW, Australia Day History (http://www.australiaday.com.au/history.html).
- McIntosh, Greg., As it was in the Beginning (Parliament House in 1927) Research Paper 25 2000-01 (Social Policy Group, 27 March 2001).
- Willis, Elizabeth., The Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne: A Guide (Melbourne: Museum Victoria, 2004).