Description of the scheme

South Australian legislation assisting in the settlement of returned servicemen was in place between 1915 and 2009. Assistance covered:

  • farming land
  • infrastructure
  • training and financial assistance

The scheme was known as the Soldier Settlement Scheme.

Staff in the Secretary of Lands Department oversaw the acquisition of land.

The principles of the Scheme's operation were similar to that of 'Closer Settlement' - encouraging individuals to take up smaller primary production blocks, set close to each other in communities. Records relating to 'closer settlement' may overlap with soldier settlement.

The Scheme applied to any person who had been a member of the Australian Imperial Forces or any other forces formed in Australia, who served overseas, and was honorably discharged.

The South Australian Government nominated areas of land available to soldier settlers and provided assistance with:

  • erecting buildings
  • purchasing of stock or seeds
  • building fences
  • water management
  • general improvements

Irrigation blocks were administered slightly differently from the main Scheme management, with the Irrigation Branch taking responsibility for allocating land.

Records from Irrigation Areas are not as well indexed - so far. You may be required to undertake more browsing of original ledgers, books and files.

A similar scheme was established in 1945 in an agreement between the State and the Commonwealth Governments.

Under the agreement a service person was eligible if they had been honorably discharged and had undertaken at least six months war service.

The State Government administered the Scheme on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and was responsible for providing land and loans to Settlers.

The South Australian Housing Trust was responsible for providing settlers with:

  • houses
  • sheds
  • outbuildings

The South Australian Government provided irrigation assistance such as:

  • windmills
  • water pumping stations
  • 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.

The Department of Agriculture managed the scheme from 1915 to 1919.

In March 1919, the responsibility passed to the Lands and Survey Department.

The branch that managed the scheme was overseen by the Superintendent of Soldier Settlements ('SSS').

We hold records relating to land applications, assistance and relief for soldier settlers from 1915.

Some records were lost in a fire in the offices of the Superintendent of Soldier Settler’s Office in 1924.

Records relating to 'Closer Settlement' are also likely to be of value for research into soldier settlement.

Many records relating to land administration are open for public access.

Some records containing sensitive financial information about individual cases might be restricted for up to 60 years.

This means that post-World War One era records are more easily accessible than those from the post-World War Two era.

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 Land Services Group within the Department for Infrastructure and Transport, and the Department for Environment and Water.

Indexes and digitised records

Index for GRG35/320 - Record of land held by soldier settlers, 1917-1931 - A-Z

This index covers soldiers returning from World War One and is arranged by the surname of the settler.

View the digitised copy in volume 1 or 2 below to locate the entry for the settler, or visit our Research Centre to view these on our search computers.

References to 'SSS', 'L&S', 'DL', or 'AS' in the digitised record can help to locate records in other series and tell you more about the property that the soldier settler held.

Docket numbers refer to:

  • GRG35/104 (‘L&S’ or ‘DL’ files) – Correspondence files - Lands and Survey Department
  • GRG35/176 ('SSS' files) Correspondence files, annual single number series - Superintendent of Soldier Settlement
  • GRS/3507 (‘A.S.’ number) Registers of agreements relating to acquired land under Discharged Soldiers' Settlement Act

Visit the Research Centre for help with ordering additional records, or contact us for a copy of the page once you have a file reference.

Information in these records include

  • name of settler section
  • Hundred area in acres
  • dates of settlement
  • docket number
  • amounts paid
  • valuation
  • type of lease

Other types of records

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

Mostly held within correspondence files from the Superintendent of Soldier Settlement (GRG 35/176), these files include applications made by individuals to the Scheme. Information recorded can include:

  • name and address
  • regimental number
  • age
  • marital status
  • details of children
  • details of military service
  • occupation
  • amount of pension and capital
  • the type of farming proposed to be undertaken

The success or otherwise of the application is also recorded.

Maps such as Hundred Maps and Out of Hundreds areas (GRS 6910) contain hand written lease information in red or pink ink. We are in the process of uploading these popular Hundred Maps to our Flickr page - maps for each Hundred have been grouped into an Album.

Soldier Settlement land sections often contain agreement numbers ('A.S.' number), and sometimes the settler's name.

We also hold some maps from the Superintendent of Soldier Settlers showing land available to Soldier Settlers through a series of Estates (Discharged soldier settlement lands - plans of lands open to application - Soldier Settlement Branch, 1919 - GRG35/321).

Ledgers with details of land purchased for Discharged Soldiers - Soldier Settlement Branch, c1920-1924(GRG35/187) focuses on the Government's purchase of land for later distribution to settlers. It contains ledger sheets in alphabetical order by the name of the person selling the land. There are some summary sheets at the front of the volume to help identify the parcels of land within the ledger.

For a broader period of time, try Lands repurchased for Closer Settlement - War Service Settlement Branch, 1904-1954(GRG35/620). This volume is arranged by the Estate to be settled.

Agreement Schedules are usually a single sheet per lessee, outlining the details of their lease and the conditions under which it is held, and then a ledger of payments and advances.  You can use the A.S. number from other sources, including the Hundred Maps, to locate records within Registers of agreements relating to acquired land under Discharged Soldiers' Settlement Act, 1918-1939 (GRS/3507). Reference to other file series are usually noted on these schedules.

For Irrigation lease holders, similar information can be found within Registers of soldiers' irrigation perpetual leases, 1918-1931(GRS/3523).

Minutes of the Soldier Settlement and Irrigation Enquiry Committee, c1931 (GRG35/206) focuses on irrigation as a subset of the Soldier Settlement scheme. Key people in the various Irrigation Areas are likely to have been interviewed, but there are no lists or documents relative to individual cases. The minutes may provide a good overview of general economic matters for each region - whether dealing with the production of grapes for wine, or butter fat for ice cream.

Page last updated: 7 September 2022