Land Grants in Western Australia

Most of the new immigrants were attracted to Western Australia by the prospects of obtaining large estates; they knew how valuable land was in the well settled countries of Europe, and, when they heard of square miles in Australia to be had for a few pounds, they were captivated by the notion of so easily becoming great landed proprietors. But the value of land depends upon surrounding circumstances, and ten acres in England may be worth more than the whole wilderness in Western Australia.

Payment in Land Grants

At that time foolish notions were in every quarter prevalent as to what could be done by means of land. The British Government thought it possible to make the colony self supporting by paying for everything with grants, which cost it nothing and yet were readily accepted by others as payment. Thus Governor Stirling, instead of his yearly salary, was to receive a hundred thousand acres and all the officials were to be paid in the same manner. The land was distributed in great quantities to people who had no intention of using it, but who expected that, by the progress of colonization, it would increase enormously in value, and might then be sold for splendid prices.

Offers For Land

To induce emigrants to bring with them useful property, the Government offered a bonus of 20 acres for every £3  worth of goods imported; and the colonists, quite unconscious of the future that lay before them, carried out great numbers of costly, though often unsuitable, articles, by means of which the desired grants were obtained. It was found difficult to transport this property to the town, and much of it was left to rot on the shore, where carriages, pianos and articles of rich furniture lay half buried in sand and exposed to the alternations of sun and rain.

Best Land Taken By officials

Splendid horses and cattle of the finest breed had been brought out, but they wandered useless into the bush. For, till the country was surveyed, nothing could be done in the way of agriculture; and, even after the surveys were completed, owing to a regulation that those whose grants exceeded a square mile should be allowed the first choice, all the sections nearest to the town of Perth, were obtained by officials and wealthy speculators, who had no intention of using them. Many of these people held a district almost as large as an English county,and, therefore, the lands remaining for selection by farmers and small purchasers were generally far in the interior. The sections were pointed out on the maps, but the places themselves had never been trodden by a white man's foot, and were held by tribes of hostile savages. Some, indeed, tried to settle upon these distant regions, but they were lonely and isolated, and many of them perished, wither from disease and hunger or by the spears of the natives.

Little Attempt at Agriculture

Yet there were very few who made any attempt at agriculture and the costly ploughs and implements that had been imported lay rusting on the beach. The horses and cattle died off, the sheep that had been introduced ar great expense were almost all killed through feeding on a poisonous plant, which grew in patches all over the country; and the men themselves were forced to loiter at Perth, consuming their provisions and chafing at their ruinous inaction.

 

History of Australia