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Victoria - Concept

Colony of Victoria (1851 - 1901)


The Colony of Victoria is the name of the body that governed Victoria from 1851 until Federation in 1901 when it became the State Government of Victoria. Before 1851 the Colony of Victoria was a district of New South Wales known as the Port Phillip District.


In 1851 Port Phillip District separated from New South Wales and renamed itself the Colony of Victoria. As a result of this a Legislative Council was formed to govern the new Colony of Victoria. The first Legislative Council consisted of 30 men, 10 appointed directly by the newly appointed Lieutenant Governor of the Colony of Victoria, Charles Latrobe. The remaining 20 men (no women were allowed) were elected to office by wealthy land owners. At this point in time only people who owned a significant amount of land were allowed to vote.

The Legislative Council set about establishing a constitution for the Colony of Victoria, building Parliament House, and was the first place in the world to introduce the secret ballot. The secret ballot aimed to protect people from pressure and punishment about their voting.

In 1855 the Colony of Victoria gained self-governance from Britain and established a parliament modelled on the British Westminster system. The new parliament had two houses: a Legislative Council (upper house) and a Legislative Assembly (lower house).

It was the responsibility of members of the Legislative Council (upper house) and Legislative Assembly (lower house) to debate on legislation and proposals for new laws (called 'bills'). To become law, bills had to be debated and agreed upon by both houses of government and then signed off by the Governor General. Bills generally originated from the Legislative Assembly (lower house).

The political party or coalition of parties who held the most seats in the Legislative Assembly (lower house) became the government and the leader of their group or coalition was the Premier. One of the main ideas behind having multiple parties and two houses is that it will ensure as many perspectives as possible go into making laws and that the people making and debating these laws represent as many sections of the Victorian community as possible.

Despite the fact that everyone in the Colony of Victoria had to follow the laws made by the parliament only a select group of people were allowed to vote. Up until 1857 only men who owned a large amount of land could vote. After 1857 all male British Subjects over the age of 21 could vote. Women were not permitted to vote until after Federation in 1901. This meant large portions of the population had little say about the people who would represent them in parliament, and as a consequence the kind of laws that would be made.

In 1901 the Colony of Victoria became the State Government of Victoria.


Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School, Law Library, The University of Melbourne. 'Find and Connect Project - Victorian Legislation', 1 February 2013, held in the project files at the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre.

Prepared by: Elizabeth Daniels and Christine Moje