Government in Australia

Key points

  • The Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901.
  • Australia's government is a constitutional monarchy.
  • The Australian Constitution sets out how the country should be governed, including the separation of powers between different levels of government.
  • The Governor-General is the Queen's representative in Australia.
  • Edmund Barton was Australia's first Prime Minister.

Parliament house

All about Australia's government

The form of government in Australia is called a constitutional monarchy. The Australian Constitution set out the rules of how the power to govern should be shared (called the separation of powers) and how the country should be governed including the responsibilities of each level of government - federal, state and local.

The Federal Parliament consists of the Governor-General, representing the Queen, the House of Representatives and the Senate,and has a range of functions. The NSW parliament consists of the Governor of NSW, representing the Queen, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly (each 'house' has its own functions). Each state is divided into local government areas (or municipalities) which are governed by councils or shires made up of a few suburbs, a town or a rural area.

One of the main functions of both federal and state parliaments is making laws. A proposed law is called a bill which may become a law after being considered and agreed to by parliament. Councils have the power to make regulations or ordinances called by-laws.


In 1889 Henry Parkes called on the Australian colonies to 'unite and create a great national government for all Australia'. For giving this impetus towards federation, he is often referred to as the Father of Federation.

Sir Henry Parkes

On 1 January 1901, in Centennial Park in Sydney, Australia's six colonies were joined together to form the Commonwealth of Australia. This Federation was the result of years of discussion, hard work and determination.

Edmund Barton was Australia's first Prime Minister.

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