Group Settlement Scheme
The Western Australian Government, wanting to attract migrants into the
country areas during the 1920's, set up the Group Settlement Scheme. The aim of the scheme was to open the
sparsely populated and uncleared land of the State's South-West , to migrants from Europe and essentially, Britain.
Sir James Mitchell, the then Premier of Western Australia, had become increasingly concerned about
the enormous amount being spent on the importing of food supplies from the eastern states of Australia and was keen
to develop the State's primary industries in order to create a more self sufficient State. The Premier however need
a greater workforce to achieve this goal and requested the help of the British Government.
The British Government who were facing their own problems, with
increasing dole queues following the end of World War I, saw this idea as a positive solution to their
country's unemployment crisis and began an advertising campaign for "families to start a new life in the
paradise of Western Australia". The British Government paid for over 6,000 family passages to Western
Australia. Little did the unskilled migrants know of the hardships they would endure apon arrival in the harsh
The felling of the tall timbers was often done with inadequate equipment such as hand saws and
axes. Many of the migrants, lured to Western Australian with the offer of free land, had never even worked a day on
a farm let alone chopped a tree.
The scheme required settlers to work co-operatively in clearing blocks for farm land. Working in
groups of twenty men or more they were paid by the government to work 8 hour days for six days of the week,
clearing 160 acre (64ha) blocks. In reward for their labour they were given (through a ballot system) a cleared
block of land.
Group Settlement Scheme began in 1921 and by the following year, over 1000 settlers (mainly
British) had moved into the district with the offer of free land. They first moved into the areas of Karridale,
Kudardup, Nuralingup, Forest Grove, Cowaramup, Rosa Brook, Witchcliffe and later Margaret River. With a growing population a number of schools were established to support the
Group Settlements, they were Forest Grove, Rosa Brook, Rosa Glen, Osmington, Kudarup, Glenarty, McLeod’s Creek
School and Nillup.
The Scheme, though a social and economic disaster for the State, helped open up agricultural land
in the south-west and put Margaret River on the map.The Scheme, unfortunately, was to be a social and economic
disaster for the State.