In October 1929 more than a quarter of the population of Perth crammed the city's streets to watch the centenary parade. It was the biggest community event in the history of the State and the biggest display of local patriotism since the victory parade celebrating the end of the First World War some ten years before.
While the twenty-fifth anniversary of Federation in 1926 had passed almost unnoticed in Western Australia, the centenary of the founding of the Swan River Colony was celebrated with energy and enthusiasm. Huge crowds cheered the passing cavalcade of military bands, vehicles, sporting bodies, social clubs, community groups and some 48 floats representing a range of historical scenes, displays of wildflowers, primary produce and the State's mining industry. The parade was nearly two and a half kilometres in length, and took an hour to pass any given spot. It was a reflection of local pride in the achievements of the pioneers who established the colony on the Swan River and in the State's role in feeding and clothing the British Empire.
Few among the crowds along St George's Terrace could have imagined that within five years they would vote in overwhelming numbers to secede from the Commonwealth of Australia. The federal government was a remote institution about which local politicians and public figures like the editor of the Sunday Times regularly complained, but there was little to suggest that secession could become a popular issue for ordinary people. How did it happen?