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The Tenterfield Oration was a speech given by Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of the Colony of New South Wales at the Tenterfield School of Arts in rural New South Wales, Australia on 24 October 1889 calling for the Federation of the six Australian colonies, which were at the time self-governed but under the distant central authority of the British Colonial Secretary.
The town of Tenterfield suffered from the disunited administration of the States, as it was distant from the New South Wales state capital of Sydney and rather closer to commercial centres across the border in Queensland. Border importation tariffs were imposed by Queensland at this time and people in neighbouring districts were strongly in favour of free trade.
The primary reason given by Parkes, the then Premier of NSW, for federation in the Tenterfield Oration was the united defence of the Australian continent. As stated in 1999 by Bob Carr (premier of NSW 1995-2005) the Tenterfield Oration has similar significance to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the American colonies. At Tenterfield, Parkes urged the seven colonies to ‘unite and create a great national government for all Australia’. He explicitly stated the inspiration that the union of the US states should hold for Australians, in terms of its gaining any independence from the British. This sentiment struck a chord with colonials. Due to the widespread public reception of this speech in media splashes, and due also to Parkes' subsequent roles in the colony petitioning the queen  and the drafting of the constitution, he is regarded as the father of federation. The site of the Tenterfield oration was commemorated by the Commonwealth Governor General in 1946.
Prompted by Parkes' Tenterfield Oration, the colonies agreed to send delegates to Melbourne in 1890 for a Constitutional Conference. That set in motion the process of writing and adopting the Commonwealth Constitution over the course of the 1890s, resulting in the union of the colonies and the establishment of a system of federalism in Australia.
- "SIR HENRY PARKES AT TENTERFIELD.". The Melbourne Morning Herald (NSW: National Library of Australia). 25 October 1889. p. 8. Retrieved 29 May 2012.