The Victorian Soldier Settlement Scheme 1917-1935

Victoria sent about 90,000 men and women to serve overseas in the First World War, about 70,000 of whom survived to return home. As the war continued, the issue of repatriating returning soldiers became increasingly urgent.  As well as providing War pensions and other financial assistance, State governments of the time set up ‘settlement’ schemes to support returning soldiers with work. These schemes involved subdividing large rural estates into smaller farming blocks and leasing them back to discharged service-people. Victoria’s scheme was created under the Discharged Soldier Settlement Act 1917.  Reports from the time indicated there were around 11,000 farms created, although it seems likely this figure includes successful applicants to the scheme who did not end up going on to the land.

Historian Dr Charles Fahey explains the beginnings and operation of the scheme in Victoria.

A useful introduction to what soldier settlers were given to expect is a booklet printed by the Crown Lands Department to outline the financial and other requirements of the scheme. That booklet is available on the State Library of Victoria catalogue.

Returned service people and their families moved on to the land from the first mass demobilisations right up until the 1930s, although the majority of blocks were granted in the early 1920s. The case studies on this site give a sense of the variety of experiences that building a new life on the land offered.

Key Dates

1917: Discharged Soldier Settlement Act passed in Victorian Parliament.

1919: First large scale arrivals of returning troops to Port Melbourne.

1925: Royal Commission into Soldier Settlement reports.

1929: Beginning of the Great Depression.

1932: New Closer Settlement Act passes and the ‘revaluation’ of soldier settlement properties begins.