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Inauguration of the Commonwealth (1901)


This documentary shows the official parade and the swearing in of Australia’s first Governor General and Federal Cabinet for the Inauguration of the Commonwealth on the January 1, 1901.

Curator’s notes

Inauguration of the Commonwealth is possibly the first feature length documentary made in Australia and the first Australian film to use multi-camera coverage. Produced by the Salvation Army Limelight Department and commissioned by the New South Wales government, the film was shot using nearly all the cameras available in Sydney at the time.

The director, Joe Perry, dashed from one location to another as the parade continued. Catching a lift with a horse-drawn fire truck, he managed to pass the crowds without delay. Each camera was mounted on a timber platform, specifically constructed to provide unobstructed views for the coverage.

The film premiered in Australia on 19 January 1901, but with the death of Queen Victoria on 22nd January, just 3 weeks after the inauguration, cinemas were closed out of respect which delayed the general release of this film. It was eventually screened in cinemas and overseas in Britain and Canada, proving it to be the most widely distributed film of its time. It was also the first film to screen simultaneously at two different cinemas in Melbourne.