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The Colonies

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An 1850's example of one of Australia's first postage stamps. The 3d Sydney View.

The lead up to Federation, and what came before...

The collection of mostly British Colonies known as Australasia included islands such as Fiji and New Zealand. Today, this same geography is known collectively as Australia and Oceania . Some Australasian Colonies began issuing their own stamps from 1850. Each Colony, according to its needs, printed, or had printed for them, designs and denominations of their own choosing. Naturally, Colonial stamps were not valid for use in other Colonies of Australasia. Of course, it was valid to post letters between colonies, but it was fraudulent to use the stamp of one colony in another. The obvious reason for this was that not only each Colony had widely divergent rates a for a given service, but each colony, in effect, was a separate country! Western Australia for instance had a 2d local postage, while some others adopted a 'universal' penny postage. Each colony derived it’s own income from it’s own postage.

Between 1850 and 1890,  many of the colonies achieved self government. By the 1890’s many of the colonies of Australasia were moving towards sovereign independence from Britain. Many saw it in their own self interest to federate. The Federation of Australian States, later known as the Australian Commonwealth, came into being on New Years Day, 1901. It consisted chiefly of all five mainland Australian colonies, viz . Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales, and the island of Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). Norfolk Island was administered by New South Wales, and the Northern Territory by South Australia. The fact that such a huge and diverse area would federate, was a remarkable event in itself. It was by no means certain that Western Australia would join, and, it was a surprise to many that New Zealand did not.

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At Federation in 1901, there was no change to the existing postal arrangements or rates that each former Colony had in place. For reasons explained later, each state continued issuing only its own postage stamps (just as before), at the same differing postal rates, and only valid in its own state (just as before).

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A most beautiful NSW Charity issue (also valid for postage). Typical of many Colonies in the decade before Federation. It is worth observing that the printing technique used for producing it is now lost. The equipment to produce this type of printing no longer exists.




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