In the early 1920s and after WW1 many English born 2/4th Machine Gunners migrated to WA with their families as assisted migrants, taking up land with the Government Group Settlement Scheme in areas such as Denmark, Manjimup, Busselton, Northcliffe, etc. This was an attempt by our Government to further develop land and increase food production.
It also followed on from Soldier Settlement Scheme established immediately after WW1. It also targeted Western Australian citizens who were ineligible for the Soldier’s scheme.
As with any scheme, there were successful stories and many were not. Much depended on the land and location, services or facilities (mostly there were not and remoteness was a huge problem for families), sometimes luck, and most importantly weather and general economy.
Life was very much a challenge for many pioneer farmers who had to endure the Depression and Rabbits, particularly inland farming in WA. Many farmers who not with Group Settlements simply walked off their land. There is a substantial number of 2/4th Machine Gunners who left their farms.
The scheme was to provide 40-to-65-hectare (99-to-161-acre) land holdings which had to be cleared and intensively cultivated. Initially the scheme was supervised by experienced farmers to develop a self-sustaining dairy industry. The whole scheme was the idea of Premier Mitchell, who earned the nickname ‘Moo-Cow’ – he appeared to be obsessed with the dairy industry. The Nationalist and Country Parties considered ‘unlimited land resources for closer settlement’ the key to the state’s economic progress.
Below: succesful dairy farms
It was a challenging life for families – for migrants who were far from home and families. The isolation and remoteness from hospitals and essential services was confronting.
We acknowledge these early pioneers. It took courage, tenacity and resourcefulness to achieve what you did.
In particular, there were negative reports from the Northcliffe Group Settlement (as you can read below) where it seems land was unsuitable for such a scheme.
Families lived in tented homes for up to several years.
This however, was not uncommon throughout rural Australia where virgin properties were taken up by early pioneers.