Soldier Land Settlement Scheme

The Soldier Land Settlement Scheme was created in the context of national efforts to settle returned soldiers on the land during and after the First and Second World Wars. Tasmanian legislation was introduced by the Lee government in 1916, to settle soldiers on farms as producers for themselves. Properties were purchased in all parts of the state, with an early focus on purchasing individual 'ready-made' farms for soldiers. Soon the scheme began to register failures, as soldiers could not make a living from the land after rent and repayments on money lent for the purchase price, and in many cases, established farmers were merely replaced by inexperienced soldiers. Small allotments, market fluctuations in the 1920s, and poor seasons also contributed to their hardship.

Legislative amendments could not halt the deteriorating retention rate, and in 1926 a Royal Commission found fault with major elements of the scheme, concluding that it was doomed by too lenient qualification rules, unworkable financial obligations and undue political influence. Little practical was done after 1926 apart from shoring up the remaining settlers, but failures continued. In 1929, a survey of soldier land settlement found that Tasmania retained only 777 out of 1976 settlers a failure rate of 61 percent, the worst in Australia. Financial losses were extremely heavy, and Depression compounded the problems.

After the Second World War, a more modest and closely managed scheme was embarked upon with more stringent qualifications. By the 1960s some 28 percent of the 551 post-Second World War settlers had 'failed' due to poor administration and under-funding, but overall this scheme was more successful.

Further reading: Q Beresford, 'The World War One Soldier Settlement Scheme in Tasmania', THRAPP 30/3, 1983; M Reynolds, 'The noble failure', Centre for Education thesis, UT, 1982; S Garton, The cost of war, Melbourne, 1996; A Richardson, 'The long road home', PhD Thesis, UT, 2005; C Martin, 'War and after war', MA thesis, UT, 1992.

Andrew Richardson