The Unsentimental Nation? Early Commemoration of the Australian Commonwealth

The Unsentimental Nation?  Early Commemoration of  the Australian Commonwealth

Scholars have disagreed about the degree of sentiment that propelled the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. Was Federation a cynical deal designed to further the economic interests of the wealthy and privileged,
at the expense of the working classes, women, Indigneous people and other non-white Australians? Or was it the achievement of idealistic founders who were pursuing a sacred ideal of nationhood, as John Hirst argued in
The Sentimental Nation

This talk examines the nature of early debates about commemoration of the anniversary of Federation. I will argue that the lack of sentimental attachment to the Federation is evident in widespread indifference towards its anniversary from the very earliest years after 1901. It suggests that Australians’ longstanding resistance to reform of the Federation is linked to their historic lack of attachment to it.

Carolyn Holbrook is an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow in the Contemporary Histories Research Group at Deakin University. She is the author of Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography (NewSouth, 2014), and the co-editor with Keir Reeves of The Great War: Aftermath and Commemoration (UNSW Press, 2019). Carolyn is the director of Australian Policy and History and
co-editor of the Journal of Australian Studies. She is currently writing a history of Australians’ attitudes towards their federation.

Light refreshments and soft drinks will be available from 6.30pm.

Date & time

Wed 05 Feb 2020, 5.30–6.30pm


Allan Barton Forum Australian National University Level 2, CBE Building 26C


Carolyn Holbrook


Liliana Oyarzun


Updated:  29 January 2020/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications