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Prior to 1901, Australia was made up of six self-governing colonies; New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. These colonies were ultimately under British rule from the time the First Fleet landed, in 1788, until 1901. Numerous politicians and influential Australians through the years had pushed for federation of the colonies, and self-government. On 22 January 1899, leaders of the six Australian colonies met in Melbourne to discuss a federation bill.

After not being accepted by the states the first time, the amended Commonwealth Constitution was given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900. On 1 January 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved and the Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed by Australia's first Governor-General, John Hope, at Centennial Park in Sydney. Australia's first Prime Minister was Edmund Barton, who was Prime Minister from January 1901 to September 1903. This gave Australia the right to govern itself.

Although the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia came into effect at Federation, this did not mean that Australia was now independent of Britain. When the UK approved colonial federation, it simply meant that the six self-governing states of Australia allocated some functions to a federal authority. Australia gained the status of a Dominion, which meant it remained a self-governing colony within the British Empire, with the Head of State being the British monarch. The British government appointed Australia's Governor-General and State Governors, who answered to the British government.

All Dominions within the British Empire were declared "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations" at the Imperial Conference of 1926. The Statute of Westminster 1931 ratified the discussions of the Imperial Conference. This meant that Australia and other Dominions such as South Africa, New Zealand and Canada could now conduct treaties and agreements with foreign powers, and manage their own military strategies. No longer were the Australian Governor-General, Parliament and individual governors answerable to the UK. The British monarch could only act on the advice of the Australian Government, and the Governor-General was no longer appointed by and answerable to the British monarch.

The defeat of the large British garrison at Singapore in January 1942 came as a very unwelcome shock to the Australian government. It exposed the weakness of Britain and led Australia to seek much closer ties with the US and it was felt that for this the country needed full independence; hence the date for activating the 1931 Statute of Westminster. Australian Parliament formally adopted the Statute of Westminster 1931 under the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942, on 9 October 1942.

Australia reached the next stage of independence on 3 March 1986, when the Australia Acts came into effect. The Australia Acts declared that Australia had the status of a Sovereign, Independent and Federal Nation. The nation still retains Elizabeth II as head of state, but her position as Australia's head of state is a completely separate position from her position as the head of state of any other country, including the UK. What the Australia Act effectively did was remove the ability of the British Government to make laws for Australia and removed the last legal link with the UK by abolishing the right of appeal to the judicial committee of the Privy Council. Also it was not until 1988 that the last state, Queensland, removed this from their statutes as well.

Some might say Australia is still on a path to independence as we are still technically ruled by the British monarchy, even though that monarchy does not have any right to interfere with Australian laws. There will always be those who disagree with the above, as it could be said that Australia received independence in varying degrees.

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Q: When and how did Australia become an independent nation?
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