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During the late 19th century, the WA government (like that of New Zealand) was reluctant to commit to the proposed Federation of British colonies in Australasia, and was lobbied by Federation committees from WA and the other colonies. This changed little with the granting of self-government to WA in 1889 – and the election of the Colony's first Premier John Forrest – which meant virtual independence from Britain, in all matters except defence, foreign affairs and trade. After the discovery of gold at Coolgardie (1892) and Kalgoorlie (1893), these towns were at the centre of the "Eastern Goldfields", and the flow of immigrants from the Eastern Colonies increased.

Tensions emerged during the mid-1890s between the Goldfields and the capital city. There were three main reasons for this: 1) the extremely rapid growth of the Goldfields meant that its population soon rivaled that of the Perth metropolitan area; before the opening of the Perth-Kalgoorlie railway and Fremantle Harbour (both in 1897), Goldfields residents interacted relatively little with the metropolitan area (i.e. people moving from the Eastern Colonies to the Goldfields usually passed through the deep water port of Albany, took trains to Broomehill and then travelled by horse or on foot along Holland's Track to Coolgardie);

“Auralia” - Goldfields Separation Movement

Western Australia - 1900

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2) Forrest's government favoured large mining companies over individual prospectors, antagonising many people in the Goldfields and; 3) many Goldfields residents, due to their ties with the Eastern Colonies, strongly supported Federation.

In 1899, after several years of lobbying, the Eastern Goldfields Reform League compiled a Petition to Her Majesty the Queen from persons residing on the Goldfields, together with a refutation of the statements made in the petition, by Sir John Forrest. It argued the case for the Goldfields' separation from Western Australia and the formation of a new Colony/State in the Goldfields, named "Auralia". In early 1900, Walter Griffiths travelled to London on behalf of the Eastern Goldfields Reform League executive, to present the petition to the British government and lobby the Colonial Office to either approve Auralia's separation, or force Western Australia to accept Federation. However, in spite of many requests by Griffiths, the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain refused to meet him.

Nevertheless, the petition put pressure for the Western Australian government to join Federation. Forrest led a push to include recent immigrants from the east on the electoral roll, ensuring that the referendum would pass. From 1 January 1901, when WA formally joined the other Colonies in federating as States of the Commonwealth of Australia, the impetus for creation of Auralia waned.

In 1900, Western Australians voted in a referendum to consider the draft Australian Constitution of the proposed Federation of Australia. The result of the vote was 44,800 in favour and 19,691 against. Most country electorates voted 'No', except Albany and the Goldfields, which voted 'Yes'.

The Constitution, which came into force on 1 January 1901 states in its opening preamble:

“ WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established.

And whereas it is expedient to provide for the admission into the Commonwealth of other Australasian Colonies and possessions of the Queen ... [emphasis added] ”

Western Australia was not specifically mentioned in the preamble as its support was given too late for the document to be redrafted.

Map showing Western Australia and the proposed ‘Auralia’