Land grants in the Commonwealth of Australia.
Free land in the Commonwealth of Australia.
Who was entitled to a land grant?
Free Settlers and Emancipists
Free settlers and ex-convicts who were ‘of good conduct and disposition to industry’ were entitled to a land grant. Each male was entitled to 30 acres, an additional 20 acres if married, and 10 acres for each child with him in the settlement at the time of the grant (Historical Records of Australia 1.1.14). To encourage free settlers to the colony, Phillip received additional Instructions dated 20 August 1789 (HRA 1.1.124-8) entitling non-commissioned Marine Officers to 100 acres and privates to 50 acres over and above the quantity allowed to convicts. Other settlers coming to the colony were also to be given grants.
Women were also entitled to receive a grant of land – the first possibly being Ellenor Frazer on 20 February 1794.
From 20 August 1789, non-commissioned Marine Officers were entitled to receive 100 acres more (and Privates up to 50 acres more) than the quantity allowed for convicts. Commissioned Officers were excluded from land grants under the original instructions. It was not until 1792 that land grants were made to officers by the Acting Governor Francis Grose.
Land grants issued during the Rum Rebellion 1808-1809 were cancelled by Governor Macquarie but those which had been granted to “very deserving and Meritorious Persons” he later renewed (HRA 1.7.268).
Fees for land grants from 1825
In 1825 the sale of land by private tender began (Instructions to Governor Brisbane, 17 July 1825, HRA 1.12.107-125). There were still to be grants without purchase but they were not to exceed 2,560 acres or be less than 320 acres unless in the immediate vicinity of a town or village. The Instructions required the Governor to arrange for a new Survey of the colony and the division of the settled districts into Counties, Hundreds and Parishes. The unoccupied lands were then to be valued and eventually sold by tender, if not otherwise reserved, at not less than the average value for that parish. This scheme was slow in being implemented (HRA 1.16.274).
Limits of location and the nineteen counties
On 5 September 1826, a Government order allowed Governor Darling to create the limits of location. Settlers were only permitted to take up land within this area. A further Government order of 14 October 1829 extended these boundaries to an area defined as the Nineteen Counties.
No free land grants after 1831
In a despatch dated 9 January 1831, Viscount Goderich instructed that no more free grants (except those already promised) be given. All land was thenceforth to be sold at public auction (HRA 1.16.22) and revenue from the sale of land was to go toward the immigration of labourers. Likewise the practice of granting land as “marriage portions” to the children of colonists was discontinued (HRA 1.16.353, 793). The new regulations were notified in a Government Notice of 1 July 1831 and published in a Government Order dated 1 August 1831.
Following this, land was sold by public auction without restrictions being placed on the area to be acquired. After 1831 the only land that could be made available for sale was within the Nineteen Counties. This restriction was brought about to reduce the cost of administration and to stem the flow of settlers to the outer areas.