Australia Act of 1986: Full Independence Down Under

On this date in 1986, the Australia Act of 1986 came into effect.

Here are some things you may not have known about Australia’s independence from the United Kingdom.

The Australia Act of 1986 cut the last constitutional ties between Australia and the UK.

The process began in 1901 with the creation of the Dominion of Australia. Dominions were semi-independent, self-governing parts of the British Empire. Dominion status was somewhere between that of a colony and a full-fledged state. The first country to be called a dominion was Canada in 1867. Australia was second, followed by New Zealand and Newfoundland, which was then separate from Canada. The Union of South Africa became a dominion in 1910, followed by the Irish Free State in 1922.

Australia established a bicameral federal legislature, a high court and the office of Governor-General, who was the monarch’s representative. The site of the federal capital was also set with a compromise between Melbourne and Sydney leading to the establishment of the new city of Canberra.

In 1931, the Statute of Westminster increased the independence of the dominions, cutting almost all ties between them and the UK. It provided that laws made by the British Parliament would only have an effect on a dominion at the request of that dominion. It also allowed the dominions to enact laws that were inconsistent with those of the UK. The statute applied automatically to Canada, the Irish Free State and the Union of South Africa. The other three dominions’ parliaments needed to pass legislation to enact it.

Australia didn’t enact the Statute of Westminster until 1942, after British forces were defeated in Singapore, and Australia needed to form its own alliance with the United States. The act was backdated to the beginning of World War II in 1939.

The Australia Act ended the last of the British Parliament’s power to legislate in Australia. The British monarch, however continues to be the head of state in Australia. The High Court of Australia has established that March 3, 1986, marks the establishment of Australian independence.

Australia remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, along with many former British colonies.

Our question: What is the largest country by population that is eligible to be, but is not, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations?

Today is World Wildlife Day, Liberation Day in Bulgaria and Girl’s Day in Japan.

It’s unofficially World Day of Prayer, National Cold Cuts Day, and What If Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day.

It’s the birthday of inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who was born in 1847; actress Jean Harlow, who was born in 1911; and athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who turns 55.

This week in 1986, the top song in the U.S. was “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister.

The No. 1 movie was “Pretty in Pink,” while the novel “Lake Wobegon Days” by Garrison Keillor topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: What television series had the second-most-watched finale in the U.S.?

Our first correct answer was from Celia from Bermuda. We also had correct responses from Alex Thompson, Kevin Lazar and Tom, who didn’t give his last name.


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