Soldier Settlement

South Australian legislation in place between 1915 and 2009 assisted the settlement of returned servicemen through the provision of farming land, infrastructure, training and financial assistance.  The scheme was known as the Soldier Settlement Scheme (the Scheme).

Description of the scheme

World War One era - the Scheme applied to any person who `has been a member of the Australian Imperial Forces or any other forces raised in Australia, who served overseas and was honourably discharged’ [1]. The South Australian Government nominated areas of land available to soldier settlers and provided assistance with erecting buildings, purchasing of stock or seeds, establishing fences, draining and irrigating land and making general improvements to the land. Approximately 37,000 soldiers took up land under the Scheme.

World War Two era - a similar scheme was established in 1945 via an agreement between the State and the Commonwealth Governments.  Under the agreement an eligible person was one who ‘was honourably discharged from the armed forces and who had undertaken at least six months war service’ [2]. The State Government administered the scheme on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and was also responsible for the provision of land and loans to Settlers.  The South Australian Housing Trust was responsible for providing settlers with houses, sheds and other outbuildings. The South Australian Government also provided irrigation assistance in the form of windmills, water pumping stations and other infrastructure.  Training in agricultural techniques and equipment was also provided by the South Australian Government.  Approximately 12,000 soldiers took up land under the Scheme.

Administration of the scheme

From 1915 to 1919, administration of land settlement for returned soldiers was conducted within the Department of Agriculture. No separate branch appears to have been responsible, but many different branches reported being affected by the large amount of work involved.

In March 1919, the administration of the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Acts of 1917 and 1918 was transferred from the Department of Agriculture, to the Lands and Survey Department. The work in connection with the applications of soldiers for land and advances was carried out in a separate branch of the department under the management of the Superintendent of Soldier Settlements ('SSS'). The work with regard to the acquisition of land was performed by the general staff of the department directly under the control of the Secretary for Lands.

Due to a fire in the offices of the Superintendent’s Office in 1924, some records were lost.  As a result State Records’ collection of Soldier Settlement records can contain gaps.

As land could be allocated to spouses and children, some land transactions are still being managed under the scheme. Therefore some records are still active and in the custody of the Lands Titles Office and the Department for Environment and Water.

Types of records available

A wide range of records were created to manage the Scheme.

Indexes and registers are arranged by the land occupied or by the settler. Both types include the names of settlers, property location (Section and Hundred), and land area. For post-World War One era settlement, start with this Special List.

Records of settlers can include applications made by individuals to the Scheme.  Information recorded can include name, address, regimental number, age, marital status, details of children, details of military service, occupation, amount of pension and capital, and the type of farming proposed to be undertaken. The success or otherwise of the application is also recorded.  State Records also holds a series of correspondence files from the Superintendent of Soldier Settlement documenting a broad range of Scheme activities administered after World War I and II.

Maps such as Hundred Maps, contain lease information marked by hand in red or pink ink. If the section bearing the lease is a Soldier Settlement block, it often contains agreement number ('A.S.' number), and sometimes the settler's name.  State Records also holds maps from the Superintendent of Soldier Settlers showing those areas advertised as available for selection by Soldier Settlers.

Committee records such as Land Settlement Qualifications Committee records document the business of assessing applications made under the Scheme.  State Records also hold minutes of the Soldier Settlement and Irrigation Enquiry Committee.


[1] Act no 1226 “An Act to make provision for the Settlement of Returned Soldiers on Crown Lands”, Parliament of South Australia, 1915.

[2] Act no 33 of 1945, “War Service Land Settlement Agreement Act”, South Australian Parliament, 1945.

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