The Group Settlement scheme
started in 1921 and ran until 1930. The idea originated from
Sir. James Mitchell
(Premier) and was supposed to open up the south west and develop much needed
The state was spending huge sums of money importing food and needed to better
supply its own needs and reduce the trade imbalance.
Britain, with a surplus of unskilled, mostly unemployed
labour was keen to unload the unemployed and happily participated in the scheme
advertising the idea and even assisting with paid passages for migrants.
Group settlements started around the
Manjimup area and spread to
Margaret River and
Groups of up to 20 men (working under a foreman) were sent into the bush to
clear campsites and make rough dwellings for families that would later follow.
Up to 160 acres was provided free of charge (except for surveying fees) to
settlers who then worked as part of the group clearing and fencing land for a
Much like the original advertising for the initial settlement on the Swan River,
the group settlement scheme was promoted in England with somewhat less than
accurate descriptions. Thousands applied to join the scheme and were to come out
and live in corrugated iron shacks that were freezing in winter and boiling in
Many people could not stand the conditions and simply
walked away. 3,399 had arrived by 1924 but 1,172 had given up and left.
By the late 1920s over 8 million pounds had been sunk into the scheme but it had
been badly managed from the start. Eventually it became too much of a drain on
the state's resources and was abandoned in 1930.
Following is a description of the scheme that
comes from Manjimup.
"The Group Settlement Scheme was set up by the West Australian Government after
World War I to resettle returned soldiers and immigrants. Part of the idea was
to give Western Australia's rural economy a boost by opening up more land for
Twenty families of Group 10 settled near One Tree Bridge. They lived in rough
temporary huts provided by the Government until 25 acres of each family's
ballot-allocated 100 acres was partially cleared. Then they could move to their
respective blocks and get down to the serious business of farming.
Clearing took 6 months, the bush was thick and the trees enormous. Most of the
group settlers had no experience of farming and very little bushcraft. With only
crosscut saws and axes they were faced with clearing some of the worlds biggest
trees from their land.
Many group settlers left, unable to handle the conditions and meet the
repayments on their land and equipment and the loans they had to take out to buy
stores. Those that stayed the longest scratched out a living from dairy produce
as they struggled to clear enough of their land to farm.
The great depression of the 1930s heralded the end of most of the Groupies. The
price of butterfat collapsed and the main source of income disappeared."
When the Group Settlement Scheme
was finally wound up, the state had lost close to 3 million pounds. Although
seen as a failure it paved the way for much of
the abandoned land to be taken up again at the end of
World War Two.
Following is a map of the group settlements in the
Margaret River area. (courtesy Margaret River & Districts Historical Society)