Group Settlement Scheme


1930s map showing Group Settlement Scheme localities

The Group Settlement Scheme was an assisted migration scheme which operated in Western Australia from the early 1920s. It was engineered by Premier James Mitchell and followed on from the Soldier Settlement Scheme immediately after World War I. Targeting civilians and others who were otherwise ineligible for the Soldiers' scheme, its principal purpose was to provide a labour force to open up the large tracts of potential agricultural land to ultimately reduce dependence on food imports from interstate. It was also seen by Australians as boosting the ideals of the White Australia policy by strengthening the Anglo-Australian cultural identity of Australia.[1] High levels of post-war unemployment in Britain saw the UK Government seizing on the scheme as a way to reduce dole-queues. Over 6,000 people emigrated to Western Australia under the scheme which was funded jointly by the State, Federal and UK Governments.

Mitchell's plan was for 40-to-65-hectare (99-to-161-acre) land holdings to be cleared and intensively cultivated by the settlers, initially supervised by experienced farmers, to develop a self-sustaining dairy industry. Premier Mitchell was nicknamed "Moo-Cow" from his perceived obsession with the dairy industry.[2] He and his Nationalist and Country Party colleagues considered the 'unlimited land resources for closer settlement' were the key to the state's economic progress.[3]


Individual family settlements

Under an agreement made with the British government, the state would take up to 6,000 men from the UK and settle them on 6,000 farms over a five-year period.[4]

Migrant settlers received financial assistance for their and their families' passage to Australia, and in return were required to work in small communities in undeveloped areas in the State's South West and Wheatbelt regions.[4] After often only one or two days of acclimatisation and processing on arrival, properties were allocated by ballot and the settlers transported to their selections. After a period of establishment, the settlers were required to repay a 30-year loan (not exceeding £1,000) provided by the Agricultural Bank, and at the completion of the loan repayment the settler would have freehold title to the property. They were paid 10 shillings per day during the land clearing phase and offered a £10 loan for the purchase of household and agricultural equipment.[5] The loan was interest-only for the first five years. The communities (or groups) typically comprised between twelve and twenty families. They cleared land, built fences and established their farms in areas which had previously been unable to attract settlers.

The promises made to applicants were often unrealistic and sometimes grossly misleading, and caused many to resign and walk off the properties soon after arrival and realisation of the task before them. For those that did persevere, communities endured considerable hardships and deprivation. Inadequate resources were provided, and the settlers often lacked the necessary farming skills and suitability for rural enterprise. Unsuitable equipment was often supplied for clearing the immense hardwood timber forests. Uneconomic farm sizes and depressed agricultural prices forced consolidations and various changes to the scheme. In some areas, poor land quality also led to failures. The extreme isolation in the virgin forests and lack of infrastructure such as roads and communications made life difficult. By April 1924, 30% of migrants and 42% of Australians had abandoned their allocations.[4] Others stayed as they had no alternative. Sustenance payments were made to support many families.

Group settlements

The term "Group Settlement" was believed to have come from a suggestion made by a British soldier-settler John Wozencroft who had been assigned a 34.4-hectare (85-acre) allotment near Lefroy Brook at Pemberton. After selecting his property from a plan in Perth with advice from the Lands Department, Wozencroft travelled to Pemberton only to discover it to be impossibly isolated and that the heavily timbered property could only be cleared with the assistance of a small team of men. He wrote a letter directly to Premier Mitchell saying that he and his government "should be had up for misrepresentation".[6] Mitchell reacted quickly, possibly fearing a public relations issue, and despatched Barbe More, a Lands Inspector at Bunbury. More interviewed Wozencroft in November 1920 who relayed his suggestion that future allotments be made to four of five settlers in a group, and that an expert adviser be initially assigned to each group to assist and advise.

The first group settlement was at Manjimup in 1921 and comprised eighteen blocks.[7] Other settlements were established in Northcliffe, Denmark, Nornalup, Walpole, and Bridgetown. A programme of draining the vast floodplains above the Peel-Harvey Estuary was instigated during the same period.[8] This freed up potential farmland in the Peel Estate which was subdivided and allocated to many of the groups.[1] The sandy soils were found to be of poor quality however, and mostly unsuited for cattle grazing or pastures.[8] The urbanised Perth suburbs of Baldivis and Bertram were part of this area.[9] Samuel Bateman's estate in the Byford area was also similarly subdivided.[10]

In 1924-25 the government established a Royal Commission on Group Settlement. The Commission's final report was published on 9 June 1925 and included:[11]

The new method of land settlement was put into effect in March 1921, when Group 1 was started on its way to Manjimup. This group in common with the first 40 inaugurated between this date and December 1922 was made up mainly of colonials or migrants of some years standing, but from then onwards the groups became composed almost entirely of migrants.

At that time there were 127 groups in operation throughout the South-West. Establishment of new groups was abandoned briefly but later resumed with more settlements at Northcliffe, Busselton and Manjimup.[4]

Mitchell's successor Philip Collier supported and continued the scheme through most of his Premiership from 1924 to 1930.[1][12] With the 1930s Depression and the collapse of dairy produce prices, ever more settlers walked off their properties. Politicians called for its scrapping due to the drain of the state's resources with the high failure rate. The last settlement established was at Northcliffe in May 1928.[4] In 1930, government support was finally withdrawn and management responsibility for the remaining settlements passed to the Agricultural Bank.


The former Baldivis Primary School, originally known as the Group 50–54 School, opened in 1924 and operated until 1978

The policy helped establish a dairy industry which flourishes today, and many successful farms were cleared by the group workers. It also saw the expansion and establishment of a number of townships, schools and rail links. Over 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of land was cleared by the scheme which had cost the state £3 million.[4]

After World War II, many of the abandoned Group Settlement farms were taken over by immigrants under a new Soldier Settlement Scheme, the next assisted migration scheme.

British newspaper magnate Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, actively promoted the scheme in its early years through his UK newspapers, especially The Times. The town of Northcliffe was established through the scheme and named to recognise his role.

John Tonkin worked as a teacher at a two-teacher school at the group settlement of Nuralingup (near Augusta) for several years from 1923.[13] He later taught at another group settlement at Margaret River. Tonkin became Labor state premier from 1971 to 1974. He is the only former teacher to have reached the office of premier of the state.

The program was succeeded by a Group Migration Scheme operated out of London by the Western Australian Government. Co-ordinated by Digby Blight from 1959 to 1962.[14]

List of Group Settlements

List of Groups in the Group Settlement Scheme[15][16]
Group Number Local Identification Postal Address District Office
1 Mitcheldean Manjimup Manjimup
2 Springdale Pemberton Manjimup
3 Kudardup near Augusta Busselton
4 Kudardup near Augusta Busselton
5 Graphite Road Manjimup Manjimup
6 Nuralingup, Western Australia (renamed) Forrest Grove Busselton
7 Nuralingup (renamed) Forrest Grove Busselton
8 Eastbrook Pemberton Manjimup
9 Eastbrook Pemberton Manjimup
10 Glenoran Manjimup Manjimup
11 Boojetup Pemberton Manjimup
12 Cowaramup Cowaramup Busselton
13 Cowaramup Cowaramup Busselton
14 Tutunup Siding Busselton (Abba River area) Busselton
15 Hithergreen Busselton (Abba River area) Busselton
16 Abba River Siding Busselton (renamed Ruabon) Busselton
17 Bramley Siding near Cowaramup Busselton
18 Wirring near Cowaramup Busselton
19 Lanark Manjimup Manjimup
20 Willyabrup Busselton (Abba River area) Busselton
21 Middlesex Jardee Manjimup
22 Rosa Brook Margaret River Busselton
23 Yanmah Manjimup Manjimup
24 Karridale East Karridale Busselton
25 Karri Hills Jardee Manjimup
26 Barronhurst Pemberton Manjimup
27 Kalgup Busselton Busselton
28 Acton Park Busselton Busselton
29 Oakford Peel Estate Wellard
30 Oakford Peel Estate Wellard
31 Middlesex Jardee Manjimup
32 Ruabon Busselton Busselton
33 Byford Peel Estate Wellard
34 Yoongarillup Wonnerup Busselton
35 Mundijong Peel Estate Wellard
36 Sabina River Busselton Busselton
37 Cornvale Peel Estate Wellard
38 McLeods Creek Karridale area Busselton
39 Cornvale Peel Estate Wellard
40 Chapman's Hill Busselton Busselton
41 Carmarthen Denmark Denmark
42 Carmarthen Denmark Denmark
43 Serpentine Peel Estate Wellard
44 Ambergate Busselton (Abba River) Busselton
45 Serpentine Peel Estate Wellard
46 Serpentine Peel Estate Wellard
47 Serpentine Peel Estate Wellard
48 Blythe Park Busselton (Abba River) Busselton
49 Lilyvale Busselton - Ambergate area Busselton
50 11 Mile Camp Peel Estate Wellard
51 Ellensbrook Margaret River Busselton
52 Lennox Busselton Busselton
53 Carbunup Busselton Busselton
54 11 Mile Camp Peel Estate Wellard
55 Jarrahbank Peel Estate Wellard
56 Biswae Peel Estate Wellard
57 Witchcliffe Margaret River Busselton
58 Harewood Scotsdale Road Denmark
59 Boallia Busselton - Vasse Busselton
60 Boyndlie Park (now Metricup) Busselton Busselton
61 Yelverton Busselton (near Metricup) Busselton
62 Great Hope Valley near Cowaramup Busselton
63 Rapid Landing Margaret River (east side Busselton
64 Arumvale Margaret River (west side Busselton
65 Diamond Tree Pemberton Manjimup
66 Baldivis Peel Estate Wellard
67 Karnup Peel Estate Wellard
68 Karnup Peel Estate Wellard
69 Sheoak Karridale (near Alexander Bridge) Busselton
70 Stake Hill Peel Estate Wellard
71 13 Mile Peel Estate Wellard
72 Walgine Margaret River Busselton
73 Woolstone Busselton
74 Gnarabup Karridale (near Alexander Bridge) Busselton
75 Warner Glen Karridale (near Alexander Bridge) Busselton
76 Nillup Karridale (near Alexander Bridge) Busselton
77 Rosa Brook Margaret River Busselton
78 Courtenay Margaret River Busselton
79 Linfarn Manjimup Manjimup
80 Walyancup Peel Estate Wellard
81 Folly 13 Mile Estate Wellard
82 Maramanup Peel Estate Wellard
83 Manjimup Appadene Manjimup
84 Airedale Margaret River Busselton
85 Osmington Margaret River Busselton
86 Rosa Glen Margaret River Busselton
87 Blake Snake Busselton Busselton
88 Rosa Glen Margaret River Busselton
89 Channybearup Road Pemberton Manjimup
90 Channybearup Road Pemberton Manjimup
91 Byford Byford (Peel Estate) Wellard
92 Hells Hole (Scotsdale Road) Denmark Denmark
93 Six Mile (Nornalup Road) Denmark Denmark
94 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
95 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
96 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
97 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
98 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
99 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
100 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
101 East Denmark (Lindsay Road). ... Denmark Denmark
102 Hells Hole (adjoins Group 92) Denmark Denmark
103 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
104 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
105 Kentdale Denmark Denmark
106 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
107 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
108 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
109 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
110 Kentdale Denmark Denmark
111 Harewood Road Denmark Denmark
112 Wellard Peel Estate Wellard
113 Parry's Denmark (South West Highway) Denmark
114 Scotsdale Road Denmark (adjoins Group 58) Denmark
115 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
116 Marks Siding Nornalup Denmark
117 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
118 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
119 Quininup Jardee Manjimup
120 Quininup Jardee Manjimup
121 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
122 Treeton Great Hope Valley Busselton
123 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
124 Chapman's Hill Busselton Busselton
125 Maramanup Peel Estate Wellard
126 Hester Catterick Manjimup
127 Hester Catterick Manjimup
128 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
129 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
130 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
131 Greenbushes Greenbushes Manjimup
132 Greenbushes Greenbushes Manjimup
133 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
134 Quininup Jardee Manjimup
135 Quininup Jardee Manjimup
136 Kaloorup (Sussex) Busselton (near Jindong) Busselton
137 Rosa Brook Margaret River Busselton
138 Hazelvale Denmark Denmark
139 Hazelvale Denmark Denmark
140 Peel Estate Peel Estate Wellard
141 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
142 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
143 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup
144 Marybrook Busselton Busselton
145 Quininup Jardee Manjimup
146 Capeldene via Kirup Manjimup
147 Shannon Northcliffe Manjimup
148 Smiths Brook Manjimup Manjimup
149 Channybearup Road Pemberton Manjimup
150 Northcliffe Northcliffe Manjimup

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Group Settlement". J.S. Battye Library. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  2. ^ Gabbedy (1988) p. 39
  3. ^ Stannage (1981) p. 262
  4. ^ a b c d e f Gregory, Jenny and Gothard, Jan, ed (1999) pp. 431-432
  5. ^ Gabbedy (1988) pp. 233-234 "The Migration Agreement, Schedule A."
  6. ^ Gabbedy (1988) pp. 78-79
  7. ^ Gabbedy (1988) p. 117
  8. ^ a b Bradby, Keith (1997). Peel-Harvey : The Decline and Rescue of an Ecosystem. Greening the Catchment Taskforce, Mandurah. ISBN 0730980413.
  9. ^ "History of metropolitan suburb names – B". Western Australian Land Information Authority. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  10. ^ "The Brook at Byford" (PDF). Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  11. ^ Gabbedy (1988) p. 86
  12. ^ Gabbedy (1988) pp. 202-204
  13. ^ Gabbedy (1988) pp. 211-212
  14. ^ "Reflection on the Public Sector". 27 September 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  15. ^ "Group Settlement". Leaver Genealogy. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  16. ^ "Index to Western Australian group settlement information". Western Australian Land Information Authority. Retrieved 25 March 2021.


  • Gabbedy, J.P. (1988). Group Settlement - Part 1, Its Origins (volume 1). University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-284-X.
  • Stannage, C.T. (ed) (1981). A New History of Western Australia. University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands. ISBN 0-85564-181-9. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  • Gregory, Jenny; Gothard, Jan, eds. (1999). Historical Encyclopaedia of Western Australia. University of Western Australia Press.

Further reading

  • Burton, L.C. (1996). Barefoot in the Creek: A Group Settlement Childhood in Margaret River. Nedlands, W.A.: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 1875560831.
  • Cresswell, Gail J. (2003). The Light of Leeuwin: The Augusta-Margaret River Shire History (new ed.). Margaret River, W.A.: Augusta-Margaret River Shire History Group. ISBN 0731694449.
  • M.R.H. Southcombe (1988). To call our own: pioneering the group settlements. Hesperian press. ISBN 0-85905-119-6.
  • Wiltshire, Trea (2000). Margaret River. Australian Wine Regions series. Singapore: R. Ian Lloyd Productions. ISBN 9810426747.

External links

  • Group Settlement Scheme
  • Group Settlement