Colonial and Provincial Separation Movements in Australia and New Zealand, 1856-1865



Publication Details

Brett, A. (2019). Colonial and Provincial Separation Movements in Australia and New Zealand, 1856–1865. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47 (1), 51-75.


This article examines separation movements in Britain's Australasian colonies during the first decade of responsible government, 1856-65. Separation movements sought to carve new colonies from the territory of existing ones or, in the case of a number of New Zealand movements, to create new provinces within that colony's quasi-federal system. Their demands rested upon assertions that a colonial or provincial government neglected large and prosperous hinterlands from which considerable revenue was collected. Only one colonial separation movement achieved its goal, but four provinces succeeded. I argue that responsible government played a major role in the success or failure of these movements. Responsibility concentrated authority in a remote capital; colonial separatists desired to exercise this privilege within a smaller new colony that they controlled, but its operation within the larger existing colony provided London with justification to reject most appeals. Further, it allowed New Zealand's parliament to frame a mechanism that enabled discontented regions to become provinces without referral to local or imperial legislatures. Thus, I provide new insights into the formation of colonial polities and the influence of responsible government on settler political campaigns.

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