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The Commonwealth of Australia

FIRST STAMPS see individual states.



1913, sterling.
1966, 100 cents = 1 Australian dollar

Formed on 1 January 1901 by the federation of the six self-governing colonies. In 1885 a Federal Council had been formed which was used as forum for discussion between the states. In 1897 delegates of all the states except Victoria met to try to frame a constitution. In 1900 Victoria having by then joined in, the constitution was agreed and the Commonwealth became law.

The first Federal Parliament met in Melbourne and the seat of government remained there until the Federal Capital was established at Canberra in 1927.

The Commonwealth started as a Dominion of Great Britain; gradually, over the years, direct control from Britain was relaxed and Australia became fully independent after World War II.

Postal History
The problems of aligning the individual needs of each of the states presented many difficulties. An initial start was made with the Post and Telegraph Act of 1902, which agreed similar rates for telegrams and newspapers.

The first stamps of a common design were the Postage Due stamps issued in July 1902, but no postage stamps were issued until 1913. In May 1911 the rates throughout Australia were made uniform by the Postal Rates Act of 1910. At the same time, stamps of each state could be used throughout the Commonwealth.

The great distances involved in the carriage of mail in Australia led to the early use of travelling post offices (TPOs) on the railways (see separate section), and this was followed by intense interest in air transport. In July 1914 a flight from Melbourne to Sydney carried 2500 cards, and towards the end of World War I a number of trial flights were started. From these early beginnings, internal services quickly developed and before the end of the l930s a regular service between Perth and Adelaide was in operation. This enabled mail to be landed in Western Australia and flown to the east coast. The first experimental through mail via Karachi was carried from Adelaide to London in December 1929 and this was followed by a special Christmas mail in 1931 between Sydney and London. A regular service was introduced in December 1934 when the London-Singapore service of Imperial Airways joined with Qantas to complete the link to Sydney.

During both World Wars, Australia supplied troops to many theatres of operation. Special postmarks were used for the forces though letters from active service were carried free of charge.

Since World War II, mails have gradually moved from seamail to airmail. Speed has increased until the schedule for mail between London and Sydney is now down to about 24 hours elapsed time.

Travelling Post Offices

Because of the vast distances involved in Australia, the sorting of mail on trains became very important. This was particularly true of the more commercially oriented eastern states.

Western Australia and Tasmania, the latter because of its size, did not start a service until 1889-90. However, in all other states the need to link centres of population led in the 1860s to the introduction of railway services and travelling post offices (TPOs).

Victoria began the system on eight different lines in 1865. The coaches were owned by the railways, but, as in Britain, they were staffed by postal clerks. The number of TPOs rose to 19 by early in this century, but by 1932 all the TPOs had been withdrawn. The most important Victorian TPOs were those which served the goldfields at Ballarat (TPOs 1 and 2) and Bendigo (TPOs 3 and 4).

Queensland followed the lead of Victoria in 1867 with the establishment of a service from Ipswich near Brisbane to Toowoomba. This expanded into four systems, two based on Brisbane and one each from Rockhampton and Townsville. A fifth line was opened in 1911. The TPOs were withdrawn in 1932.

In South Australia the sorting clerks accompanied the mail trains from 1868. By 1883 ten sorters were employed, and there was a widespread service operating out of Adelaide, mostly on the northern routes towards Terowie. In October 1917 South Australian services began to decline and by 1932 all TPOs had been withdrawn.

New South Wales was the last of the eastern states to introduce TPOs, but it also kept them running much later. The service began in 1869 on the Northern, Western and Southern lines operating out of Sydney. In 1872 a Late Fee of 3d was proposed, but owing to public opposition it appears to have been dropped. Special hand-stamps for each of the lines were used up to 1954 and later. At that time the TPO service in the state covered some 3000 miles in the most eastern area.

Western Australia relied on the overland route from Perth to Albany for all its foreign mail service but it was not until 1889 that the railway system between these two centres was completed. TPOs began to run in 1895 and continued to expand until 1900. This service was particularly important for the new goldfields in and around Kalgoorlie. The TPOs were discontinued gradually during the first years of this century and had vanished by 1917- 20.

The first TPO service in Tasmania was not introduced until the government took over the main line between Hobart and Launceston in 1890. The second or Western Line came into operation in 1903. Extension followed until a peak in the early 1920s.

Lord Howe Island
Island in the Tasman Sea. Discovered in 1788, first settled in 1834 and administered from New South Wales. It was handed over to the Commonwealth of Australia in 1914.

No stamps have been issued, but New South Wales and Australian stamps have been used. A postmaster was appointed in 1878; the receiving office became a P0 in 1882 and an obliterator lettered LHI was introduced. This continued to be used until the 1920s. Current styles of date-stamps have been used since then.

Norfolk Island

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED Van Diemens Land 1853; New South Wales; and Commonwealth of Australia.



1947, as Australia.

Island in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. It was discovered by Cook on his voyage in 1774, and was first settled as part of New South Wales in 1788. It was abandoned in 1805 and the original settlers were provided with land in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania).

In 1826 it became a penal settlement under New South Wales administration, but was transferred to Van Diemens Land from 1844 to 1856 because the convicts had been removed from New South Wales at that time. It reverted in 1856, was incorporated into New South Wales in 1896, and became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1914.

Postal History
In 1832 the commandant's clerk was acting as postmaster for the garrison of the island. In 1840 a civil postmaster was appointed and the first hand- stamps were provided. These were two line marks reading 'Free/Norfolk Island' for official mail and 'Paid at! Norfolk Island' for general correspondence.

In 1853, while under the administration of Van Diemens Land, a numeral obliterator '102' was allocated to Norfolk Island and stamps were sent, but none have been recorded. After 1856 the mail was irregular and few examples have survived, but stamps of New South Wales were available from 1896. The island was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 July 1914, though stamps of Australia may have been used in the preceding 18 months.

During World War II New Zealand Forces POs were established on the island.

Australian Commonwealth to 1913
Click map for larger view

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