Soldier Settlement Commission

Public Record Office Victoria
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Full description

The Soldier Settlement Commission (SSC) was established under the Soldier Settlement Act 1945 (No. 5107) and began operating in February 1946.

The powers and functions of the Commission included the following:

- To inspect and report on land deemed to be potentially suitable for soldier settlement

- To recommend the setting apart or acquisition of land for soldier settlement

- To view all books and accounts relating to land and its operations, where this information would assist in determining the suitability of land

- To acquire land either by agreement or compulsorily for the purposes of the Act

The Soldier Settlement Amendment Act 1946 (No. 5133) went through Parliament in May 1946, making it easier for people with sufficient capital to buy their own farms. In December 1946, Parliament passed the Soldier Settlement Act 1946 (No. 5179) which, among other things, authorised the Soldier Settlement Commission to advance money to former members of the forces for single unit farms. The last single unit farm applications were accepted in 1959 when World War II settlement in Victoria was nearing its end.

The SSC purchased more than half of the freehold acreage it would eventually acquire for War Service Land Settlement (WSLS) subdivision in the first 3 years of its establishment. Victoria's land price controls were lifted in late 1949 and land costs increased by 60%. Throughout the 1950s, (except for an enforced halt for some months in 1952 due to loan fund cutbacks) the SSC steadily bought established properties from private owners however the annual acreages purchased were lower than those of earlier years and the prices higher. In 1961 the SSC purchased its last major estate, the Gooramgong property outside Euroa, owned by the Sargood family.

The last group settlement was on the 24 block Warrowie estate near Colac, which was formally advertised in the Government Gazette on 30 November 1960. Ivan Roy Fitzgerald was recorded as the last name in that group. It wasn't until 1969-70 that the last settler obtained his Purchase Lease.

Land Settlement

By the beginning of 1951 the SSC commissioners had decided to think seriously about developing three major areas of Crown land - Heytesbury, Yanakie and Nyora. A conference was held on 8 February 1951 to discuss the feasibility of settlement in these areas and the Minister of Lands expressed interest in settlement opportunities for others as well as ex-servicemen.

In December 1953, the Land Settlement Act (No. 5768) was passed opening up settlement opportunities for young civilian men without previous war service. The main provisions of the Soldier Settlement Act for acquiring and setting apart land were to apply to the Land Settlement Act, although settlers could choose whether to finance their own farm development or accept assistance from the SSC. The enterprise was an initiative of the Victorian Government and funded and administered through the SSC. However, the SSC's primary task was still to be soldier settlement and until this tapered off no large scale operations under the Land Settlement Act were visualised.

Thorough preparation of undeveloped Crown land for settlement took some time. Major operations didn't begin at Heytesbury until 1956, by which time Victoria's World War II Soldier Settlement program was starting to wind down. The last of Nyora's 15 blocks were allocated to soldier settlers in that year.

By the time Victoria's soldier settlement scheme ended in 1961 (the final loan request had been processed by July that year), two major Crown land areas had been developed solely for soldier settlers - at Robinvale and Nyora. Civilian and soldier settlement schemes operated side by side at Yanakie, the first eight civilian settlers having been allocated blocks during that year. Yanakie's second-stage development under the Land Settlement Act was eventually completed by 1965.

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