However, it was never intended to take land alienated by free grant or purchase. The legislation did not attack property rights. What it did was to say that when leases of Crown land expired under existing legislation the land should be made available to others who wished to establish themselves on the land.
To ensure that all those who wished to settle could, a maximum limit was placed on the size of blocks. Those with most capital would not be able to take huge tracts and thereby exclude others with small means. Competition for good portions would not depend on wealth, but was to be decided by lot.
It is also clear that while the purported objective was to establish a yeomanry of small self-sufficient landowners, the ordinary worker was in no position to afford the land available for selection, given the economic size and the costs involved, unless very hard working and frugal, or lucky on the goldfields.
The free selection legislation resulted in war between selectors and squatters, giving opportunities to rogues who stooped to false accusations, intimidation, and blackmail of selectors and squatters alike. Practices such as dummying and peacocking were widespread. In the end, the poor land and climate meant that most small selectors failed, although there were successes in some districts. Huge parts of Australia were permanently alienated from the Crown, ending up in the hands of squatters, large scale selectors and financial institutions.
The next part is about Who held the land ?
Back to the Hammell Home Page
©   Sid Hammell 1991: last updated November 2004
Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org