Land ownership in South Australia

In 1834 before the province was proclaimed on 28 Dec 1836 it was assumed that all land was owned by the government who could dispose of it as it saw fit to British subjects at not less than 12 shillings an acre.
The ownership of land in South Australia arose via a number of processes
 1. squatting on vacant land. (the land was in fact owned by the indigenous people of South Australia)
 2. as a gift from the Crown.
 3. by purchase prior to 1858 and registration of the deeds at the GRO.
 4. by purchase from 1858 under the provisions of the Real Property Act that gave a Title.
 5. on a perpetual lease from the Crown.

Before 1858
By common law, prospective landowners needed to prove their ownership of a particular piece of land back to the earliest grant of the land by the Crown to its first owner. By registering land ownership with the General Register Office (GRO) under the deeds registration system some legal protection in regard to ownership was afforded. Although a register of who owned what land was maintained, it was unreliable and could be legally challenged. The limits of the deeds registration system meant that transfers of land were slow, expensive, and often new owners were unable to create certainty of ownership.
Acres within the proposed city of Adelaide sold before the site of the city was even determined effectively were sold by the government (although it did not exist at the time) were purchased under this scheme but of course the ownership in this case was secure as these purchasers were the first owners (italics are used here because we know that the land was owned by the indigenous people). The purchase of a city acre entitled the purchaser to buy 80 acres of rural land for farming. The funds raised form these sales were used to pay the fares of the working classes who sought assisted passage. This concept was known as the Wakefield Scheme as was the basis for the establishment of South Australia.

Within this period we have a group of people who gained special privileges because they showed confidence in the proposed colony and purchased land as a prelude to establishing the province. It was deemed that land should be sold in small sections (ideally about 80 acres) at a cost sufficient to fund the migration of labourers. The South Australia Colonisation Act 1834 appointed commissioners, called The Colonisation Commissioners for South Australia, to oversee the sale and leasing of land in South Australia to British subjects. The Act required that the colony was to be self-sufficient and a £20,000 surety had to be created and £35,000 worth of land had to be sold in the new colony before any settlement was permitted. These conditions were fulfilled by the end of 1835. The Act specified the minimum price of land at twelve shillings per acre regardless of the quality. The money raised by the sale and leasing of land constituted what was called an Emigration Fund which was to cover to the cost conveying immigrant labourers and their families from Great Britain and Ireland.

The survey and staking out of sections by William Light’s survey teams for the Adelaide town acres began on 11 January 1837 and was completed on 10 March; the first allocation of purchased land being on 23 March. Surveys of country lands on the Adelaide plains commenced in April 1837. By November about 24,000 hectares had been completed. The first 437 purchasers in England of Preliminary Land Orders were entitled to priority selection by ballot conducted on 28 March 1838 of a town acre and a 134 acre country section—cost: £81-0-0 (effectively 12 shillings an acre). These were surveyed in the prime locations adjoining the diagonal routes and on the best soils east to the foothills.

Persons purchasing land in South Australia from 1835 to 1841 are now available together with details of their purchase on a CD that can be seen at major family history libraries.

From 1858
The Real Property Act (Torrens Title) 1858 gave security and simplicity to all dealings with land by providing for the registration of a title listing all parties with an interest in the property. By this system the registered owner obtains a title secure against everyone whose claim does not appear upon the registry.
From 1872 an Act was passed settlers with only a small amount of capital an opportunity of settling upon the lands of the Crown. The principles of closer settlement were introduced by the Closer Settlement Act of 1897, whereby large tract of pastoral grazing land in areas deemed suitable for cropping were compulsorily acquired, subdivided and sold or leased. This was necessary because in spite of the Wakefield Scheme of small parcels of 80 acres of rural land for farms (that turned out to be inappropriate in SA conditions), most land was initially taken up by large landholders for grazing purposes effectively locking out the smaller cropping farmer.
After World War I the Minister for Repatriation could acquire by purchase, either by agreement or compulsorily, land under any tenure for the purpose of the settlement of discharged soldiers. The Governor could also set apart Crown lands for allocation to discharged soldiers. This land was subdivided into blocks, and offered to them on agreements to purchase or lease including perpetual leases. The Minister could remit any payment.

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