Land grants in the Swan River Colony

Land Grants In The Swan River Colony

Land grants in the Swan River Colony

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The Swan River Colony, established in June 1829, was the only British colony in Australia established on the basis of land grants to settlers. Under the conditions stipulated by the Colonial Office, settlers would be granted land in proportion to the value of assets and labour that they brought to the colony. To ensure "productive" use of land, settlers were not given full title to their grants until they had been sufficiently "improved". The system of land grants continued until 1832, after which crown land was disposed of by sale at auction.

Land grants for settlers

Under the initial land grant conditions, settlers were granted 40 acres (162,000 m²) of land for every £3 of assets invested in the colony. Assessment of the value of assets was left to the discretion of the authorities, whose valuations were inaccurate and inconsistent. One settler observed a tendency to overvalue cattle while undervaluing general cargo, and Statham (1981) cites an example where two rabbits entitled a settler to a grant of 200 acres (809,000 m²).

For the purposes of assessing land entitlements, assets had to be physical capital applicable to land use; money was not assessed. In consequence, many settlers maximised their land entitlements by arriving with large amounts of expensive capital but very little cash. This gross overcapitalisation caused the financial ruin of many early emigrants, and had a lasting deleterious effect on the colony's economy. Moreover,...
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