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Stories Of World War One Soldier Settlers Come To Life

08 April 2015

One of Victoria’s most important military collections will be made public for the first time, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Special Minister of State, Shaun Leane, unveiled an important new website for historical and family research.

Battle to Farm enables the public to access 10,000 government records on the Victorian Soldier Settlement Scheme. The scheme helped settle thousands of returned World War One soldiers on farming land across Victoria through government leases, drastically transforming the landscape of regional Victoria.

Over the years there has been great debate as to the success or failure of the settlement scheme as ex-soldiers were entering farming life in a difficult economic climate as the world descended into the Depression.

Over 50 per cent of those allocated blocks left the scheme. Many were unable to cover their debts when food prices plummeted, while others accused the government of leasing blocks that were too small. Through these resources, we can see not only the land allocated to each settler, but the hardships they faced.

Searchable by soldier name and geographic location, the new website developed by Public Record Office Victoria is an extraordinary achievement, making public for the first time one of Victoria’s important military collections.

The website features digitised soldier settlement records, letters from the soldiers about their farming life, video interviews of people who grew up on settlement blocks, photographs and a guide to understanding the records.

For more information visit soldiersettlement.prov.vic.gov.auExternal Link

Quotes attributable to Parliamentary Secretary to the Special Minister of State, Shaun Leane

“Battle to Farm allows us to learn about the experience these soldiers went through and to better understand this important chapter of Victorian history”

“Between 1918 and 1934, 11,639 returned servicemen were allocated blocks of land under Victoria’s soldier settlement scheme – more than 80 volunteers have spent two years digitising these records to bring us this important resource in time for the ANZAC Centenary”

Quotes attributable to Public Record Office Victoria Director and Keeper of Public Records, Justine Heazlewood

“Our goal at Public Record Office Victoria is to make the state archives accessible to the people of Victoria.”

“We’re thrilled to launch this great resource so the public can access their ancestor’s records easily and the public have an insight into the challenges soldiers faced on their return to Australia.”

Quotes attributable to daughter of Beaufort Soldier Settler, James Henderson, Shirley Boyle

“The returned soldiers like my father lived close to one another and developed new regional communities.”

“Known as the soldier settlers, we lived like a village, meeting up at weekends on ponies and bikes. We had a lot of fun and grew up well.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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