Following the advice in the 1839 report of the Canadian governor-general Lord Durham, the British government embarked on a project to give the settler colonies what is known as responsible government.
An Act of Parliament in 1842 decreed that the original penal colony of New South Wales would be ruled by a governor working with a legislative council, the majority of whose members would be elected.
The penal colony of Van Diemen's Land (later Tasmania), Western Australia and South Australia were established as separate settlements in the early 1830s. However, well into the 1840s all three were ruled by more direct government through a governor and an appointed council.
Parliament's Australian Colonies Government Act of 1850 made important changes. A new colony, Victoria, was created in the south-eastern part of New South Wales, along with a majority-elected legislative council.
It established similar elected councils in Van Diemen's Land, South Australia and Western Australia.
It also split off a northern section of New South Wales to form a new colony – Queensland - with responsible government.
Constitutions were drafted to make each colony's government responsible to its particular legislature. The UK Parliament enacted these measures by statute in 1855.
Federation and Commonwealth
Federation, which had been achieved in Canada in 1867, took longer, but provincial political leaders eventually submitted a draft Bill to Parliament, which was quickly passed in 1900.
From 1 January 1901 a federal government made up of the six states in the Commonwealth of Australia was created, all overseen by a governor-general as representative of the monarch.
The federation achieved complete autonomy from the British Parliament in 1942, when Australia's legislature ratified the 1931 Statute of Westminster.