The Western Australian goldfields 'Petition of Separation'. The Petition was so long that the pages had to be stuck onto calico sheeting and rolled onto a drum.
Battye Library, Perth
The Western Australian Parliament was reluctant to hold a referendum on the Constitution. Anxious to protect the colony's developing agriculture and industry, many local politicians feared the competition from the east if customs barriers were removed.
This was not a popular view on the Western Australian goldfields. The miners and their families were almost all 't'othersiders', recent immigrants from the east. They disliked local customs duties which made goods expensive.
Federation leagues spread rapidly on the goldfields. Threats were made to secede from Western Australia and form a separate colony which would then join the new federation. Feelings ran so high that in 1900 a petition of over 30,000 signatures, and nearly two kilometres long, was sent to Queen Victoria asking for separation from Western Australia.
Under this sort of popular pressure, Premier John Forrest finally agreed to a referendum. On 31 July 1900 a majority of Western Australians, men and women, voted 'Yes' to the Australian Constitution.