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South Australia's Contribution to Federation

South Australia's politicians saw many advantages for a small colony in being part of a Federation. They gave it strong support and played a prominent role in the discussions and Conventions leading up to Federation.

South Australia elected some of its most senior and experienced politicians as delegates to the Conventions, and its delegation was considered one of the most capable. The first session of the first Federal Convention was held in Adelaide. All the members of South Australia's delegation made important contributions. and a number played a prominent part in the Convention's debates.

Thomas Playford Prominent in the 1891 Convention.
JC Bray Prominent in the 1891 Convention.
Charles Kingston He was President of the 1897-98 Convention and played a pivotal role. He proposed the use of referendums to change the Constitution, and drafted the formula for composition of the Houses of Parliament.
Dr John Cockburn He was a progressive who argued for State's rights and spoke out in support for voting rights of Aboriginal people.
Sir John Downer He drafted parts of the Constitution.
John Jenkins He was an American and contributed his knowledge of the American Constitution, including advising that a confederacy would not work.
The Women's Christian Temperance Union in SA Contributed to section 113 of the Constitution which would allow the States to prohibit the use of alcohol.
Catherine Helen Spence She became the first woman in Australia to stand as a political candidate when she stood for election to the first Convention.

All the South Australian delegates united to support the final resolutions of the 1897-98 Convention. Although they disagreed about some of the details they wanted to see in the Federal Constitution, politicians from both sides of South Australian politics supported Federation. With this political leadership, the people of South Australia strongly supported Federation in the two referendums, in 1898 and 1899.

The South Australian delegation was largely responsible for women gaining the vote in the new nation. They argued strongly for this, and threatened to pull South Australia out of Federation if this was not included. But they did not manage to persuade the other States to include a clear right for Aborigines to vote in Federal elections.