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Land of Hope: Soldier Settlement in the Western District of Victoria 1918-1930

Monica Keneley

School of Economics, Deakin University, P.O. Box 423, Warrnambool 3280

mkeneley@deakin.edu.au

At the conclusion of the first world war, Australia, along with countries such as New Zealand and Canada acknowledged their debt to returning soldiers with the implementation of schemes to repatriate them on to the land. 1 The Australian soldier settlement schemes of the inter war period grew out of the economic and political imperative to establish and promote intensive land usage. This imperative was driven, as in previous land settlement schemes, by an implicit belief in an agrarian ideal which upheld the image of 'yeoman' farming as the most effective form of land utilisation. 2

In Australia, whilst the Commonwealth held responsibility for defence, it was the States which took responsibility for land settlement and thus enacted separate soldier settlement schemes. In the state of Victoria, the Soldier Settlement Act of 1917 was not just a reflection of government design, it represented a statement of gratitude by Victorians, anxious to repay the 'debt of honour'. The people of Victoria were prepared to reward soldiers with one of the most precious assets the state had to offer; land. This gift was made on the assumption that the prosperity of the individual and the state lay in the exploitation of the land, and it had been the driving force behind earlier attempts to promote a more intensive settlement of the state. Unfortunately these earlier schemes did not led to the promotion of an agricultural and economic base on the scale envisaged by their authors. 3 However, despite the mistakes and failures of previous closer settlement programs, Victorians and their elected representatives, clung to the belief that this agrarian myth could become reality. They were inspired by the enthusiasm of exponents such as E. J. Brady whose Australia Unlimited published in 1918 reflected the general public optimism of the potential agricultural capability of the State. 4

It has generally been acknowledge by contemporaries and later historians that the soldier settlement experiment of the inter war period was a dismal failure. A Victorian Royal Commission in 1925 and a later Commonwealth inquiry were scathing in their criticisms. 5 Later works 6 have also reinforced the consensus that the soldier settlement scheme of the first world war was an abject failure. The general appraisal in the view of one commentator was that the 'mistake of pre war closer settlement could not have been more faithfully repeated. 7 Although this view has been challenged 8 the public perception of its universal failure is still evident today. 9 The condemnation of the policy is largely based on the sufferings of returned soldiers who were placed on the land with inadequate resources to farm it properly. It is an emotive issue, coloured by the stories of great hardship which litter closer settlement files and other records. A scheme which offered such hope to so many and was so profoundly disappointing was bound to call forth public outrage.

Much of the blame for the failure of the scheme was laid at the feet of government and the government appointed Closer Settlement Board responsible for the selection and supervision of settlers. 10 Inadequate provisions under the Act were compounded by a system of supervision which was both dehumanising and degrading. In response government agencies sought to lay the blame on settlers themselves labelling them 'failures' and 'misfits'. 11 In reality a combination of unrealistic expectations and unforeseen economic circumstances jeopardised the scheme from its inception

In Victoria between 1918 and 1934 12 11,639 returned servicemen were allocated blocks under the soldier settlement scheme. Of this number, sixty-one per cent were on blocks in 1934. 13 This aggregation of figures belies the impact of the scheme in localised areas. The experience of soldier settlement in the Western District of Victoria, for example, highlights the controversy surrounding the soldier settlement scheme. Whilst there were some alarming failures, there were also some very successful settlements which reinforced the value of the policy in promoting closer settlement. It is the purpose of this paper to investigate why this was the case and to identify which factors contributed to the success of some settlements and the failure of others.

Official explanations for the 'failure ' of soldier settlement

The plight of soldier settlers on the land as they struggled in the precarious economic environment of the 1920's led to public outcry and condemnation. 14 In Victoria, within seven years of the end of the war, a Royal Commission was established to inquire into the workings of the soldier settlement scheme. The Royal Commission found that, although mistakes had been made in the government's haste to set up the scheme, the basic principles were sound and the scheme would eventually be successful. They concluded,

The course lies across an imperfectly charted sea, through many reefs and shoals, and shifting sands called prices. The ship was hastily equipped, but it is well manned, and we believe will ultimately be brought safely to port. 15

The Royal Commission identified four main reasons for the failure of soldier settlers. These were the selection of inexperienced settlers, a lack of capital, the size of blocks allocated and prices received for agricultural products. It was claimed that returned soldiers were allocated blocks of land without having established their ability to manage a farm. 16 The files of the closer settlement board reveal that this was often the case. Whilst preference was given to men with some experience of agriculture, in most cases this was as a farm labourer or employee on a large property. Few had the experience of managing and running a farm enterprise. 17

Lack of capital was also attributed to the failure of settlers The Royal Commission found that few men that went on to farms without capital of their own succeeded. To compensate for the lack of private capital settlers were given advances to buy the necessary stock and equipment. The commissioners found that these advances were inadequate and that repayments were expected at too early a date thus compounding the pressure on farmers. 18 In addition to a large debt burden, another problem faced by settlers was the size of the block allocated. As with previous closer settlement schemes, the size of the block allocated to settlers was determined by the price paid for the land. In the immediate post war years strong competition for land pushed up its price thus limiting the allocation of land to settlers. 19

The last factor identified as contributing to the problems of settlers by the Royal Commission was instability in the prices of farm products. At the conclusion of hostilities agricultural prices had not returned to their pre war level as expected. After an initial period of buoyancy prices adjusted to reflect the changed nature of trading patterns in the post war era. 20 Price instability was an unexpected and persistent feature of agricultural markets in the 1920's. The findings of the Royal Commission were later confirmed on a national scale in the report on the losses due to soldier settlement by Mr Justice Pike. 21

It may be assumed that all of these factors contributed in some measure to the failure of some settlers to survive. Indeed the records of the Closer Settlement Board reveal that the selection of men unfit for the task definitely led to failure and eventually the surrender or abandonment of the farm but not all did so. 22 The files of the Closer Settlement Board point to lack of capital as a reason for failure. However they also indicate that men with comparatively large amounts of private capital invested in their blocks struggled and even abandoned them. 23 Given these parameters it is difficult to explain why some men with no capital and little experience survived whilst others with capital and experience did not. It is hoped that this case study of soldier settlement in the Western District may pinpoint some of the reasons for the success of some soldier settlers and the failure of others.

 

Underlying influences on settlement outcomes

The foundations of the Victorian soldier settlement scheme were undoubtedly based on flawed perceptions of rural life. The popularity of the agrarian myth, which gained currency in the late nineteenth century, had inspired previous resettlement schemes and was still influential in the formation of post war land policy. 24 The belief in the yeoman ideal had been further encouraged in the early part of the twentieth century with the application of science to farming. The success of technical advances in agricultural practices created the optimistic impression that the limits to intensive farming had been overcome. 25 The belief in the efficacy of science was a theme constantly promoted, and implicitly believed by both policy makers and the public. Thomas Cherry, Director of Agriculture, summed up the attitude in 1913 when he proclaimed, '...the limit to production under the new system, provided there is sufficient moisture to bring crops to maturity, is not yet in sight'. 26

The two most significant advances in agriculture were, firstly, the changes to methods of cultivation with the application of artificial fertilisers such as super-phosphate which allowed wheat to be grown in areas which were previously unsuitable for cropping. Secondly, the introduction of the factory system of milk processing which provided the impetus for the expansion of dairy farming. Technical innovations in the wheat and dairy industry had much broader implications for agriculture which were only just beginning to be appreciated at the outbreak of the first world war. For example, it was only just being recognised that the same principles applied in wheat farming could also be applied to the production of fodder crops. In addition, the need to improve milk yields of dairy cows led to the development of feeding and breeding programs which could also be applied in livestock production. 27

Technological advances in agricultural prior to world war one occurred at a time when international trade and specialisation were expanding. The engine for this growth stemmed from the industrialisation of Western European economies, particularly Britain, Germany and France. The expansion of these economies and the concomitant urbanisation of the population created an increasing demand for agricultural commodities from primary producing countries such as Australia. 28 Thus in this period, the demand for farm output appeared to be unlimited.

After the war trading relations changed dramatically with a fundamental shift in the terms of trade. Essentially market forces of demand and supply for primary products were moving in opposing directions. Demand was declining at a time when supply was increasing. In addition, the adoption of inward looking policies and the increase in tariff protection by Australia's trading partners reinforced the decline in the demand for commodities which had been the mainstay of the country's primary sector. 29 Policy makers failed to anticipate the enormous structural changes which had occurred in international economies after the first world war. It was naively assumed that with the cessation of hostilities, trading relationships would resume their pre war patterns. Given this scenario it is perhaps surprising that the soldier settlement scheme was not a greater failure than it was deemed to be. In the post war environment, schemes such as these were always going to be problematic. Essentially settlers were being encouraged to produce more in a market that was already over supplied. The resulting low and unstable agricultural prices were a fact of life which all farmers, not just new settlers, had to contend with in the 1920's.

Soldier Settlement in the Western District

The Western District of Victoria situated in the south west of the State was one of its oldest areas of white settlement. It had traditionally been renowned for its large pastoral estates and the fine merino wool produced there. It had been the target of previous land settlement schemes, most notably under the Closer Settlement Act of 1904, which saw a little over 120,000 acres acquired from pastoral estates for re-settlement. Although the outcome of this scheme in the Western District had largely been deemed a failure 30 it was, nonetheless, seen as an appropriate area for the soldier settlement. Not only was the land cleared and settled, it also had regular and reliable rainfall. An important consequence of the application of scientific farming methods (specifically the use of superphosphate) was the anticipation that problems of soil fertility had been resolved. As a result, the importance of water was a major influence in the evaluation of settlement land. 31 Consequently, good rainfall records were considered more important than the carrying capacity of the land.

The Closer Settlement Board acquired nearly 300,000 acres of land in the Western District for the purpose of soldier settlement in the 1920's. An additional 150,000 acres was also acquired for civilian and migrant settlement schemes which operated in the same period. 32 The majority of land obtained for settlement was from the large pastoral estates which dominated the landscape. Seventy-eight per cent of land acquired was sold to the Closer Settlement Board by pastoralists or trustees of pastoral estates. The remaining twenty-two percent was obtained from smaller landowners. The pace of land settlement was very hectic in the immediate post war period with most properties being acquired between 1918 and 1921. Thirty large pastoral properties consisting of nearly one quarter of a million acres were acquired in this period. A further two were bought in the following three years after which no new properties for settlement were acquired in the District during the 1920's. 33 The timing of the property acquisition had several negative repercussions for the settler. A major problem was that the land acquired was done so on the basis of the pre war price structure. Land values in the Western District had increased consistently in the years 1900 to 1914 spurred on by a buoyant commodity market and an increasing demand for land. 34 Land values still reflected this trend in the first few years after World War One. High land prices were compounded by the artificially high level of commodity prices in the immediate post war period. Consequently, it was generally accepted that, although land prices were high, this would be offset by the prices received by farmers. 35 The market distortion and disruption as a result of the war was not recognised as having a significant long term impact on the future of agricultural markets.

The outcome of the scheme is summarised in Table 1. Overall, seventy-seven per cent of blocks allocated were still being farmed by 1930. If the level of forfeiture is taken as the measure of success and failure, the scheme on the whole appears comparatively successful. It certainly appears more successful than the pre war closer settlement scheme in the District. 36 However, breaking down this data into individual estates it is clear that whilst some subdivisions were very successful others were accompanied by a very high rate of forfeiture. It was plight of settlers on these estates which contributed to the condemnation of the scheme. 37

A key question arising from Table 1 is why were some estates more successful subdivisions than others? Given that all settlers operated within the same economic environment, more specific problems must account for the differentials in forfeiture rates. In investigating the course of soldiers settlement in the Western District it is argued that locational factors played a critical role in determining the success or failure of settlers in the Western District. In this respect four factors impacted on the viability of soldier settlement estates. These were; the suitability of the subdivided land, as determined by its physiographic characteristics and the price paid for it, access to the transport network linking the farmer with ports and markets, proximity to local urban centres, and access to community infrastructure.

Table 1: The Subdivision of Estates for Soldier Settlement in the Western District 1918-1930

Soldier Settler Estate

Year
acquired

Allotments
Allocated

Allotment
Forfeited

Allotments
Re-disposed of

% of Allotments Forfeited

Chrome

1924

9

0

0

0

Ettrick

1919

3

0

0

0

Tahara

1920

6

0

0

0

Hilgay

1920

34

0

0

0

Poligolet

1918/1924

6

0

0

0

Nangeela

1920

15

0

0

0

Green Hills

1920

18

1

0

5

Koonongwootong N

1921

32

2

2

6

Narrapumelap

1921

52

5

2

10

Knebsworth

1923

19

2

1

11

Hensely Park

1921

14

2

2

14

Murndal

1919

7

1

1

14

Wooloongoon

1921

7

1

1

14

Glenorchy

1921

47

7

7

15

Mt Bute

1921

174

27

26

16

Warrong

1920

90

14

14

16

Shadwell Park

1920

25

4

4

16

Gringelona

1920

31

5

5

16

Gala

1919

5

1

1

20

Glenronald

1918

25

5

5

20

Chocolyn

1920

43

9

9

21

Struan

1919

61

13

10

21

Kolora

1921

42

9

9

21

Purrumbete S

1918

39

9

9

23

Terrinallum

1921

43

15

12

35

Derrinallum

1918

112

41

32

37

Koort Koort Nong

1921

30

11

9

37

Larra

1920

3

3

3

50

Korongah

1919

12

6

4

50

Mt. Violet

1921

86

44

42

51

Wollaston

1919

19

10

10

53

Mt Elephant

1921

29

16

16

55

Total

 1141

 260

 237

 23

Source: Collated from the reports of the Closer Settlement Board 1920-30, Victorian Parliamentary Papers 1920-3 0.

 

The Western District is characterised by a series of land systems, 38 however the most significant is the vast volcanic plain covering an area of nearly 20,000 square kilometres which forms the heartland of the district. This is an area of extensive basalt plain dotted with stony outcrops resulting from volcanic activity. It was also an area which was the focus of many of the soldier settlement subdivisions, and it generally had a very low carrying capacity of less than one sheep to the acre.

In the past the physiographic features of area contributed to the extensive nature of land usage in the District.The low carrying capacity had encrourgaged the proliferation of large estates. Historically the region had evolved as a pastoral economy and as such, tended to be sparsely populated with limited urban development. The dominance of the pastoral industry was associated with weak forward and backward linkages inhibiting the growth of secondary and tertiary industries and thus the need for urban centres. 39 Although pre war closer settlement schemes had attempted to encourage local development, the region had retained the characteristics of a pastoral economy. Lack of urban development also impeded the expansion of a transport network. Whilst the major towns had road and rail links to ports and metropolitan centres, links to the rural hinterland were not strong, adding to the isolation of settlers. 40

The accompanying map illustrates the distribution of soldier settlement estates in relation to the District's physiographic profile.Two distinct clusters of settlement can be identified. The most significant grouping of estates is located on the volcanic plains.Whilst the majority other settlements are situated in the Dundas tablelands, an area of higher carrying capacity and with soil types more suitable for cultivation and mixed farming.

Analysis of the more successful estates tends to reinforce the importance of locational factors in determining the outcome of the settlement process. A common characteristic of the most successful estates, (those with no forfeitures of land) was that they were located on land with a carrying capacity of more than one sheep to the acre. In addition they were close to significant urban centres of more than 1,000 inhabitants and close to already established transport infrastructure. The proximity to transport and urban centres enabled small cash crops to be marketed bringing in a return which settlers on isolated estates did not have access to.

Of the six estates with no forfeitures, four were located within the Dundas land system which had a completely different physiographic profile to that of the plains country where the worst failures were located. The land in this area was generally of a much higher carrying capacity than estates acquired on the volcanic plain. In addition there was not the same degree of marginal swampy or stony country which plagued settlers on estates located on the volcanic plain. The more successful settlements also had access to more established transport infrastructure giving them greater access to the main urban centres. The estates of Chrome, Tahara and Hilgay, for example, were close to the existing rail network between Hamilton, Casterton and the port of Portland. The majority of the more successful estates were situated in proximity to the town of Hamilton which had a population of around 5,000 in the 1920's. As such they had access to local markets and the transport network as the town was a major link in the route between Melbourne and South Australia.

The least successful estates, with forfeitures rates of more than twenty per cent, were predominantly located on the District's volcanic plain. Although rainfall was generally reliable, poor drainage was a problem during the winter months. The carrying capacity of the land was generally low, with much of the area capable of carrying less than one sheep to the acre. This explained why the land had been dominated by large pastoral estates in the past, and why no significant urban centres had become established there. Without population clusters and urban centres there was not the infrastructure necessary to support small scale farming. 41 Thus, although there was a regular rainfall and little cost involved in clearing the land, the other ingredients necessary to farm successfully were missing.

Two of the worst failures of the soldier settlement scheme, the Mount Violet and the Mount Elephant estates, highlight the influence of locational factors on the outcome of the settlement process. The Mount Violet estate acquired in 1920, was situated in the volcanic plains. It was isolated, windswept and scattered with stony outcrops. The land was essentially grazing country. Most of it was classed as capable of carrying less than two sheep per acre. In addition it was isolated from any significant urban settlement and there was lack of roads into the area. This meant that any subdivision had to be accompanied by a road building program to enable settlers to sell their produce. 42 A total of eighty-six blocks were allocated on the estate, an average of 190 acres per settler. Assuming that the land was capable of carrying at the most two sheep per acre the total size of the settlers flock would not be more than 400 sheep. This was insufficient to generate enough income from wool for the farmer to live on. 43

It was assumed that the problem of block size could be overcome if settlers took to dairy farming instead of wool production. 44 The result was disastrous for settlers on estates such as Mt. Violet. Not only was the land inappropriate for this type of farming it was totally isolated from the transport system necessary to carry milk to processing plants. Settlers who went into dairy farming quickly encountered problems. Although an average size block of 190 acres could be considered adequate if the land was suitable, this was not the case on Mt. Violet. The nature of the land made the intensive cultivation necessary for dairy farming very difficult. The extent of stony outcrops and poor drainage made it hard for farmers to cultivate the necessary fodder crops.

The experience of John Finn is typical of many soldier settlers on this estate who had been advised to take up dairy farming. In 1924, two years after taking up his block Finn appealed to the Board, arguing that his block was ' absolutely unfitted for dairying not only that is dangerous to cows in Winter in that being so cold and wet it is likely to cause udder trouble'. The inspector who visited Finn's farm concluded in an understated manner, 'from a dairying point of view this allotment it is not the most attractive proposition in the District.' 45 Finn walked off his block in July 1925. The land was reallocated between neighbouring settlers who switched to grazing and wool production. 46 Finn's experience was fairly typical of the initial settlers on this estate which had a forfeiture rate of 51 per cent. The land apart from being of inferior quality was insufficient to grow the fodder crops necessary for dairy cows. The Closer Settlement Board later affirmed that the Mt. Violet estate was not suitable for dairy farming. 47

Mt Elephant was a similar type of property. A total of 3,564 acres of the estate was acquired for soldier settlement in 1921. An average of 23 per acre was paid for the estate which was capable of carrying less than one sheep to the acre. The average size of blocks restricted its use for grazing and dairying was seen as a viable alternative. Settlers who were allocated dairying farming blocks fared little better than those on the Mt. Violet estate. 48 The rate of forfeiture on this estate was the worst in the Western District.

Locational problems were further compounded by the relatively high price paid for land on these estates. Mt Elephant and Mt Violet were two glaring examples of the failure of soldier settlement scheme principally because a high price was paid for land which was inappropriate for its required purpose. The differentials in the prices paid for the best and worst estates also indicate that settlers on failed estates were handicapped from the start. For example the Closer Settlement Board paid 70,207 for 6,686 acres of the Hilgay estate an average of 10/5 per acre. This can be compared to the Mt. Elephant estate where 82,000 was paid for 3,500 acres, an average of 23 per acre. This price differential impacted on the average size of the settlers block. On the Hilgay estate the average farm was around 196 acres whilst on Mt. Elephant it was 140 acres.

High land prices also impacted on settlement blocks which would otherwise have been very suitable for small scale farming. 49 Under the terms of the Soldier Settlement Act, the size of the block was tied to the price of the land. Settlers were only allowed land and advances to the value of 2,500. 50 Consequently high land prices were matched by a reduction in the acreage allotted to each settler.

The problems arising from high prices paid for estates were compounded by the fact that in the immediate post war years the price of livestock and machinery were also high due to the effect of wartime shortages. 51 Settlers who were establishing their farms in the period between 1918 and 1922 were paying high prices for stock and equipment. The outcome was to impose a pre war cost structure on settlers who were about to do battle with the emerging post war price structure. The net effect of high land prices was to saddle settlers with a debt burden which could not be serviced when the price of commodities fell after 1922.

Locational factors and high acquisition prices were also often associated with an inappropriate use of the land. The assumption that dairying could be successful on land which could not sustain one sheep to the acre sealed the fate of many settlers on estates in the plains country. However, those lucky enough to be allocated blocks on land which was more suitable for intensive farming fared better. Settlers on estates such as Tahara and Hilgay had a better chance of survival because the land they were allocated was better situated to the type of farming settler were expected to adopt. Although they also had to pay high prices for livestock and equipment they did not have the devastating stock losses and crop failures associated with settlements located in the poorer class of country.

Conclusion

The course of soldier settlement in the Western District highlights the dilemma of a blanket policy which attempted to impose a set of rigid rules and structures on a landscape which was vastly different in its capacity to sustain closer settlement. The experience of settlers in the Western District indicates that despite all the handicaps they had it was still possible for some to become successful farmers. The fact that by the 1930's over seventy per cent of blocks allocated were still used for farming purposes by settlers indicates that there was some merit in the policy of settling men on the land. Undoubtedly there were fundamental weaknesses with the Soldier Settlement Act and its bureaucratic administration. The files of the Closer Settlement Board indicate that even the more successful farmers experienced hardship and deprivation which was often compounded by the inflexibility of the Closer Settlement Board's approach. 52

It has been suggested that one reason why inappropriate land was acquired was that graziers were able to use the Solder Settlement legislation to dispose of unprofitable and unproductive land. 53

In hindsight it seems clear that one key factor in influencing land acquisition was the misguided perception that scientific methods of farming had solved the problems which had impeded the closer settlement of such land in the past. For example, one reason why dairying was often seen as an alternative land usage to grazing was because of the assumption that the application of science to agriculture had overcome the barriers to intensive land utilisation. Technological advances, which occurred in agriculture with the revolution of the wheat and dairy industries, had created a climate of artificial optimism. 54 Since the turn of the century the Western District had been viewed as an area where the application of new farming techniques had created the potential to support a highly intensive agricultural sector. Visionaries such as Thomas Bent imagined the region populated with thousands of prosperous small farmers. 55 Although this had not occurred during his tenure as Premier, the belief that this was possible was still current in the debate over the Soldier Settlement Scheme. 56

This view of the capability of the land was further reinforced by the Australia Unlimited mentality. Brady wrote of the Western District, 'These lands are destined in the future to support a dense population of contented settlers when intensive methods of farming are substituted for extensive methods of culture'. 57 This pervading optimism undoubtedly led to the acquisition of land at which was unsuitable for its required purpose. However, it also promoted some very successful subdivisions. Of the 1,141 original settlers allocated land under the scheme in the early 1920's, 881 had retained their holdings into the 1930's. As such they had passed what may be termed the 'pioneering' stage 58 Improving agricultural prices from the mid 1930's and the concessions given to settlers as a result of the changes to the Act in 1932 allowed these farmers to eventually gain equity in their farms.

Despite the hardships and handicaps endured the survival of these settlers indicates that the policy was not a universal failure.

Notes

1. For a discussion of New Zealand and Canadian schemes see J. M. Powell, Debt of Honour: Soldier Settlement in the Dominions 1915-1940, Journal of Australian Studies, June (1981) 64-87.

2. The yeoman image was part of the romanticisation of the Australian countryside which gained in popularity in the 1850's and 1860's. The yeoman farmer was typically portrayed as a prosperous and independent small landholder imbued with high moral standards which set the tone for the rest of society to follow. J. M. Powell, Mirrors of the new world; Images and Image-Makers in the Settlement Process. (Canberra, 1970) 76-83.

3. T. Dingle, The Victorians: Settling, ( NSW. 1984) 124-27: L. E. Frost, Victorian Agriculture and the Role of Government 1880-1914, (unpublished PhD thesis, Monash University 1982) 244-45.

4. E. J. Brady, Australia Unlimited (Melbourne 1918) 367-83.

5. Royal Commission on Soldier Settlement, Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 32 (1925). Report on the Losses Due to Soldier Settlement By Mr Justice Pike Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers, 2 (1929).

6. M. Lake, The Limits of Hope: Soldier Settlement in Victoria 1915-38 (Melbourne, 1987); J. M. Powell, The Debt of Honour Soldier, op.cit.

7. G. Taylor, Closer Settlement in Victoria, Economic Record, 12 (1936) 62.

8. J. Templeton, Set Up To Fail? Soldier Settlers in Victoria, Victorian Historical Journal, 59,1 (1988) 42-50; D. Wood, Limits reaffirmed: new wheat frontiers in Australia, 1916-1039, Journal of Historical Geography, 23,4 (1997) 471-72.

9. For example Lake, op.cit. xiii-xviii.

10. Terang Express, 11 August (1922) 4; Mortlake Dispatch, 16 March (1923).

11. J. M. Powell, Australia's 'Failed' Soldier Settlers, 1914-1923: Towards a Demographic Profile, Australian Geographer, 16 (1985): J. M. Powell, An Historical Geography of Modern Australia The Restive Fringe (Cambridge 1988) 117-18; Lake, op.cit., 195-228.

12. In 1933 new legislation (The Closer Settlement Act 1933) introduced significant changes to the soldier settlement scheme which saw the writing off of a large proportion of settler's debt.

13. Report of the Closer settlement Commission for the Year ended 30th June 1934. Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 10 (1934-35) 9.

14. Lake, op.cit., 195-200.

15. Royal Commission on Soldier Settlement, op.cit. 27.

16. Ibid, 16; Powell, Debt of Honour, op.cit., 67.

17. The files of the Closer Settlement Board indicate that experience was an important criteria in determining the allocation of settlers blocks. See for example (Victorian Public Records Series) VPRS 746 Box 269 Advances Files, Harold Simms, Box 102 Advances Files, John Finn, VPRS 748 Box 52 Advances Files George Fitzgerald.

18. Royal Commission on Soldier Settlement, op.cit. 17.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid. 18.

21. Report on the losses due to soldier settlement op.cit., 22-25.

22. The history of the one soldier settler on the Wollaston estate highlights this point. This settler who had lost one leg in the war was allocated a dairy farm on a hilly estate. His failure was inevitable as he could not farm his block with such a handicap. Victorian Public Records Series VPRS 746 Box 130 Advances Files, Thomas Harwood.

23. VPRS 746 Box 102 Advances Files John Finn

24. J. M. Powell, Mirrors of the New World, op.cit., 70-83; Lake, op.cit., 25.

25. M. Keneley, The Impact of Agricultural Intensification on the Pastoral Economy of the Western District of Victoria, 1890-1930, Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History, November (1999)3-4.

26. T. Cherry, Victorian Agriculture (Melbourne, 1913) 278. See also The Argus, 27 June (1908) 20; The Willaura Farmer, 30 November (1906) 3.

27. Cherry, op.cit., 198-99.

28. W. A. Lewis, Economic Survey 1919-39, (London 1966) 108; B. Pinkstone, Global Connections A History of Exports and the Australian Economy ( Canberra 1992) 49.

29. C. B. Schedvin, Australia and the Great Depression, (Sydney 1970) 27; W. A. Sinclair, The Process of Economic Development (Melbourne 1976) 177.

30. Royal Commission on Closer Settlement in Non-irrigable Districts, Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 21 (1915); M. Keneley, The Pattern of Change in the Economy and Society of The Western District of Victoria 1890-1934, (unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Melbourne 1999) 166-74.

31. This pre-occupation with water characterised much of the approach to agriculture from the early 1900's to the 1920's. In other areas of the state it had influenced the construction of large irrigation schemes to encourage settlement. See L. E. Frost, The Case of Irrigation in Victoria, Australian Economic History Review, 32 (1992).

32. Ibid., 180-1.

33. Reports of the Closer Settlement Board 1920-29 Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 1920-30.

34. Keneley, op.cit., 144-45.

35. Royal Commission on Soldier Settlement op.cit., 18.

36. Keneley, The Pattern of Change, op.cit. 166,173-74.

37. Terang Express, 11 August (1922) 4. Mortlake Dispatch, 10 March (1923)3.

38. At least six physiographic divisions can be determined. See F. R. Gibbons and G. R.Downes, A Study of Land in South Western Victoria (Melbourne 1964). Fringing the volcanic belt are the coastal plains which make up the land systems along the sea board. In the eastern part of the region these plains are extremely fertile and as a consequence were already heavily settled at the time of the soldier settlement scheme, In the west however, the plains are comprised of poor sandy soil, poorly drained swamps and scrubland. To the north of the volcanic plain, constituting part of the Dundas highlands, is the Wannon valley. This is a small fertile area highly valued for it s suitability for wool growing, very few soldier settlement were located in this area.

39. The services required by the wool industry were adequately met by the larger urban centres of Geelong and Melbourne. There was little requirement to provide them at a more local level. In this respect wool as the staple industry in the region, determined the pattern of economic development as outline by J. McCarty, The Staple Approach in Australian Economic History, Business History and Archives 4 (1964) 5-8.

40. Keneley, The pattern of change, op.cit., 289-90.

41. Ibid., 90-91.

42. Mortlake Dispatch 19 September (1922) 2.

43. Keneley, The pattern of change, op.cit., 259-60. Advances Files George Fitzgerald VPRS 748 Box 52.

44. L. G. Lomas, The Western District Farmer 1914-1927, ( unpublished PhD thesis, Monash University 1979) 575.

45. John Finn to the Closer Settlement Board 23 August 1924. VPRS 746 Box 102.

46. Advances Files John Finn VPRS 746 Box 102.

47. Royal Commission on Migrant Land Settlement, Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 3 (1933).

48. William Earls to the Closer Settlement Board 1926 VPRS 746 Box 90.

49. Two examples of this are the Korongah and Wollaston estates which were located close to the towns and ports of Warrnambool and Port Fairy. However the high price paid for this land led to block sizes which were too small to earn a living from. Koroit Sentinel 3 July (1920) 2. Conference between settler and directors of the Closer Settlement Board 16 April 1924 VPRS 746 Box 1187; Advances files of settlers on the Wollaston estate VPRS 746 Box 269,142.

50. An Act to Further Amend the Closer Settlement Acts and for Other Purposes (Victoria Act No. 2629 1915); An Act to Make Provision For the Settlement of Discharged Soldiers on the Land and for Other Purposes ( Victoria Act No. 2916 1917).

51. Advances file J. Finn VPRS 747 Box 102.

52. Advances File Henry Sims VPRS 746 Box 269; Advances Files George Fitzgerald VPRS 748 Box 52.

53. Lomas, op.cit. 570-78.

54. Keneley, The Impact of Agricultural Intensification, op.cit. 5.

55. Victorian Parliamentary Debates 15 August (1907) 662, The Leader 16 November (1907).

56. Victorian Parliamentary Debates, 8 December (1921)1679-83.

57. Brady, op.cit. 367.

58. Powell, Australia's 'Failed' Soldier Settlers. op.cit., 226.

 

Published: 11-04-2000
http://www.jcu.edu.au/aff/history/articles/keneley2.htm
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