1999, 3 x 56 Minutes
An epic tale about the making of Australia. This series tells the stories of the founding fathers and of the people in six separate colonies in the decades leading to Federation. It's a tale of winners and losers, of great debates which unified the country, of the struggle not just to make an Australian nation, but to create Australian democracy.
The Land In the winter of 1889, Sir Henry Parkes, the three-times premier of NSW, the grand patriarch with the big white beard, decides he will federate the colonies, to create one nation. But in these isolated regions separated by armies, train gauges, customs houses and with every capital setting its own time, it will take more than the grand vision of one elder statesman to create a nation. Though a constitution is written, the squabbling colonies find it impossible to agree. What is achieved in the first attempt is a national political map. Within these boundaries Australia's political existence would be wrestled into being — but by the next generation.
The People After floundering in the doldrums of the Depression, the quest for federation is revived. Some people realise that creating a nation will require the determination of the people. But in creating a nation, they are also creating Australians and there are new demands for a fair go, for the right to vote and for a fairer, more egalitarian society. What does it mean to become citizens of a nation? Some people would become Australians, some would be lost in a great constitutional silence.
The Nation For years federation had defeated all those who'd tried; however, in 1897 the 'men with beards' try again to bring the colonies together. But to the very end, Western Australia remains defiantly apart, insisting on a better deal.
This is the story of bargains struck, drunken arguments, lost tempers, lost causes, constitutional crises and bad poetry—all written in the name of federation. The constitution, rejected by the people in a first poll, would be accepted in a second. And then the haggling with Britain began. Making a nation, as Alfred Deakin said at the time, ‘must always appear to have been secured by a series of miracles’.
A Film Australia National Interest Program produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Producer: Anna Grieve
Director: Ian Munro
Narrator: John Doyle
Principal Cast: Leo McKern (Henry Parkes), Peter O’Brien (Alfred Deakin), Deborah Kennedy (Louisa Lawson), Richard Piper (Edmund Barton) (Voiceovers)
Running Time: 170 Minutes
Curriculum Links: Civics & Citizenship–Discovering Democracy, Australian History, Politics, Studies of Society, English and Media studies. Of particular relevance for NSW History Stage 5, Topic 1 'Australia to 1914 - How and why did Federation occur?'