|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
The Closer Settlement Board (previously known as the Lands Purchase and Management Board) was responsible for the administration of closer settlement and subsequently soldier settlement from its establishment in 1905 until its dissolution in 1933.
Closer Settlement Prior to the Land Purchase and Management Board
The Land Act (No.1602) 1898 had made provision for the acquisition of land for the purpose of closers settlement. The Board of Land and Works (VA 744) was authorised to repurchase land and the object of this and subsequent legislation was to transform large estates into closely settled communities engaged in agriculture. The repurchased land was made available as farm allotments, agricultural labourers' allotments and workmen's home allotments to suitable applicants under the terms of conditional purchase leases. Certain residence and improvements conditions applied, initially for the first six years, after which time lessees were at liberty to mortgage, transfer or sub-let with consent and, on payment of the balance of the purchase money, to obtain a Crown Grant. Subsequently lessees were also eligible to apply for advances to assist them to erect dwellings and outbuildings and for other approved purposes.
Although statutory responsibility for closer settlement was vested in the Board of Land and Works (VA 744), operational responsibility was exercised by the Closer Settlement Branch of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).
Establishment of Lands Purchase and Management Board
The Lands Purchase and Management Board was established in 1905 as a body corporate under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1904 (No.1962). The powers of the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) under part (1V) of the Land Act 1901, were vested in the Lands Purchase and Management Board which was authorised to acquire land for the Crown either compulsorily or by agreement. The Board was authorised to dispose of land previously acquired and, with the approval of the Governor-in-Council, to dispose of any unalienated and unoccupied Crown land including any swamp or reclaimed Crown land. The Board allocated land to applicants under conditional purchase leases which required lessees to fence the land, to destroy vermin and noxious weeds and to make other improvements. The leases were granted subject to residence requirements and lessees of agricultural labourers' allotments and workmen's home allotments were required to erect a dwelling within one year.
The Act authorised the Board to make advances to lessees to assist them to fence their land and to build the required dwellings and, at the request of the lessee, the Board could erect the required dwelling. The Board was also empowered to set aside land for townships and reserves; to make improvements to the land prior to sale and to sell land as sites for churches, public halls, schools, cemeteries, butter factories and creameries, quarries and recreation reserves.
Relationship of Board to Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538)
Prior to 1905, the officers of the Closer Settlement Branch of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey had been responsible to the Secretary for Lands but following the establishment of the Lands Purchase and Management Board, the officers were to have been responsible to the Board whose Secretary was appointed by the Governor-in-Council, subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act. However the officers of the Board remained subject to the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) in relation to promotions and matters of general discipline and their salaries were paid from the Department's salary vote.
In 1913, following concern expressed by the Minister and the Secretary of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey that the Closer Settlement Branch was not working effectively, it was agreed that a large part of the work of the Branch should be amalgamated with similar land settlement work being undertaken within the Department and divided control of the function was thus established. Administrative difficulties continued however and the chairman of the Board argued before the Royal Commission on Closer Settlement (1914) that these inefficiencies arose from there being dual control of the officers, whereby most were responsible to the Secretary for Lands and only ten or eleven were wholly responsible to the Secretary to the Board. The Royal Commission however was very critical of the Board's failure to organize its office properly and reported that ".....the Board does not appear to have taken charge of the Officers at all. Throughout, the Department has controlled the Board." The role of the Department in the administration of closers settlement continued to be significant until 1938 when complete responsibility was assumed by it.
Transfer of Responsibilities to the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723)
In 1913, under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1912 (No.2438) certain powers of the Lands Purchase and Management Board were transferred to the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723) which was authorised to acquire and dispose of lands for closer settlement purposes. This transfer of authority applied only to land which was considered suitable for closer settlement under irrigation conditions and which was situated or likely to be situated within an Irrigation and Water Supply District within the meaning of the Water Act 1905. However the leases were to be issued by the Governor-in-Council; the Commission was not to grant advances to lessees after the expiration of six years and after that period authority reverted to the Board. These restrictions were subsequently repealed by legislation. (Closer Settlement Act 1918 (No.2987)).
In 1917 under the provisions of the Discharged Soldiers' Settlement Act (No.2916), the Board became responsible for the settlement of discharged soldiers on lands set aside exclusively for them. The Act also authorised the Board to make special provisions for the settlement of discharged soldiers.
Establishment of Closer Settlement Board
Under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1918, (No.2987) the Closer Settlement Board assumed the powers and responsibilities of the Lands Purchase and Management Board. Although the Act made changes to requirements concerning acquisition of land, valuation of land, the granting of advances, the conditions under which leases were issued and the administration of the Closer Settlement Fund, the responsibilities of the Closer Settlement Board were essentially the same as those of its predecessor.
Settlement of Assisted Immigrants
Under the provisions of the Empire Settlement Act 1922, approved British immigrants, particularly those wishing to settle permanently on the land, were encouraged to migrate to Australia. Subject to the Commonwealth and State Agreement of 21 September 1922, (see schedule to British Migrants Agreement Act 1933, No.4143) the Board assumed responsibility for the settlement of immigrants on the land. Under the Agreement the State was responsible for providing farms and for receiving immigrants on arrival. The State agreed to offer them employment in country areas or to allot them land, if there was evidence of their having sufficient knowledge and previous experience; to provide supervisors to assist the settlers and to provide advances for the purchase of equipment and stock and for improvements including housing.
Review of Closer Settlement Schemes
In the mid 1920's the closer settlement programmes, particulary the soldier settlers schemes became the subject of a number of inquiries including a Royal Commission in 1925 and Boards of Inquiry in 1926 and 1927. In 1927 the Commonwealth Government appointed Mr Justice Pike to inquire into soldier settlement in all States. (See VPRS 7921 Report and Working Papers, Royal Commission on Soldier Settlement).
These inquiries subsequently led to the abolition of the Board and the establishment of the Closer Settlement Commission. (VA 2268)
Abolition of Closer Settlement Board
In 1933, under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1932 (No.4091) the Closer Settlement Board was dissolved and the Closer Settlement Commission (VA 2268) was established. The Commission assumed responsibility for all functions previously administered by the Closer Settlement Board and for the closer settlement responsibilities of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723).
Location of Records
There are significant holdings of records concerning the administration of closer settlement in the custody of the Public Record Office.
See List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.6.2 (Department of Crown Lands and Survey); 3.6.21 (Closer Settlement authorities) and 3.23.2 (State Rivers and Water Supply Commission).