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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Edmund Barton

In their own words

Edmund Barton
Audio: 2 minutes

On this day in three weeks, Australia will begin her new career. In affairs which are national in their Australian range, she will act as one. In affairs which are national in the Imperial sense, she will act as a powerful unit of a mighty empire. In reality, she will take a new departure in each of these capacities, and in each she must march with her responsibilities at the heels of her great opportunities.

Let us then consider her advantages and her duties, first as she stands in these seas by herself; and next as she holds herself towards the Empire, with new strength, and, as we all know, with unlessened loyalty. First then, take the primary effects of Federation upon the great group of Australian colonies, which includes Tasmania. Wholly, or almost wholly British in blood (and for convenience I use the word ‘British’ to denote out kinship with the inhabitants of both the British Isles) she is the purest example of the parent stock to be found outside those isles, albeit she is separated further from them by thousands of miles than any other great community of the same stock.

Thus she is furthest in distance, yet closest in kinship. If it is true that our Constitution is a ‘monument of legislative capacity’, it is only because we are of the stock which insists on equal opportunity and uses it boldly but wisely under the feeling of responsibility, or in other words, keeps its balance by the equipoise of freedom and duty.

Acknowledgements

Barton, William (1900) Untitled Speech on Federation, Papers of Sir Edmund Barton 1827-1949, MS 51 National Library of Australia

Attribution

Voiced by Tony Llewellyn-Jones

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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