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An illuminated recognition of service

Illuminated addresses were a popular late 19th-century form of bestowing honour on individuals, either in acknowledgement of outstanding service or to mark a special occasion.

Charles Alfred Topp was an educationist and public servant who graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1869 with degrees in arts and law. He was warden of the University Senate from 1886 to 1890 and a member of Council from 1890 to 1896. His later career as a public service administrator won him distinction for his versatility and efficiency. In 1894 Topp became under-secretary of the Chief Secretary's Department where he supervised parliamentary elections and the Commonwealth general elections in 1901.

The address was presented in November 1899 by the Government of Victoria to Topp, for his 'valuable services … in the honorary capacity as returning Officer for the colony in connection with the Australasian Federal Convention Poll 3rd June 1898 and the poll on the amended Australasian Federal Constitution 27th July 1899'.

It depicts Melbourne's Parliament House, including a dome that was planned but never built, as the background motif. Britannia is the central figure among the women symbolising the various colonies. Western Australia is absent, having yet to accept federation by a referendum in July 1900. The address is the quintessential expression of national hope. It was painted by Melbourne architect and artist, George Brougham Hubert Austin, who designed the La Trobe Street courts and many of the public decorations used in the Federation celebrations in 1901.

Professor Charles Edmund Moorhouse, donor of the address to UMA, was Topp's grandson. Moorhouse's personal papers are held at UMA.

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