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European Settlement: Village Settlements on the River Murray

The South Australian government established the provisions for the founding of communal settlements, known as village settlements, in a part of the Crown Lands Amendment Act in 1893. Thirteen village settlements were eventually founded in South Australia. Of these, eleven were on the River Murray - they were Lyrup, Waikerie, Holder, Pyap, Kingston, Gillen, New Era, Moorook, Murtho, Ramco and New Residence. The village settlements scheme was created in response to the economic depression that had hit South Australia and the other Australian colonies after a series of major strikes in the early 1890s and the bank crash of 1893. Socialist ideas became popular and utopian schemes were appealing to the unemployed and those who were struggling to make ends meet. One such plan was the establishment of the socialist colony in Paraguay, South America by William Lane and his 'New Australia' movement. In December 1893, 199 settlers left Adelaide for the settlement.

In this climate, South Australian Premier Charles Cameron Kingston and his government introduced the village settlement scheme which would settle unemployed people from Adelaide on the land. It was hoped that those living in village settlements would become self-supporting. The initiative was well received by many unemployed. The village settlements were to work on communalistic principles and the concept of share and share alike was foremost.

The main guidelines for the establishment of village settlements were:

  • Twenty or more people could form a village association, the members of which would live communally and be governed by approved rules, signed by each member.
  • These rules would administer the division of labour amongst the villagers; the distribution of profits and the regulation of industry and trade including the payment into the village fund any earnings by all villagers; the expulsion of villagers and the settlement of disputes.
  • The association was to pay annual rent to the government, but rent for the first year of settlement was waived.
  • The association was expected to make improvements to the land over the first ten years of settlement
  • Coupons rather than a monetary system would be used within the settlements
  • An advance was given to each settler by the government, with the first instalment of the repayment to be paid within three years.

The Crown Lands Amendment Act including the provisions for village settlements was introduced to parliament on 8 August 1893 and given assent on 23 December the same year.

Early days of settlement
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Village settlements
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Further Reading


Early years of the South Australian village settlements: Kingston-on-Murray, Pyap, Moorook, New Residence, from 1894,[Loxton, SA: N. Schulz?], 1994. (Berri, SA: JC Irving)

Glenie, Pat and Brian. Murtho village settlement, 1894-1900: new Australia on the Murray, Renmark, SA: [P & B Glenie, 1994]

Jones, Alan. Lyrup village: a century of association 1894-1994, Lyrup, SA: Lyrup Village Centenary Committee, 1994

Mack, David. The village settlements on the River Murray in South Australia, 1894-1909: a chronicle of communal life and hardship, [Somerton, SA: DB Mack, 1994]

Mack, David. Irrigation settlement: some historic aspects in South Australia on the River Murray 1838-1978, [Cobdogla, SA: Cobdogla Steam Friends Society, [2003]

Nunn, Jean. History of Waikerie: gateway to the Riverland, [Waikerie, SA]: Waikerie Historical Society, 1994

Wachtel, Joan. Moorook: bend in the river, [Hawthorndene] SA: Investigator Press, 1982

Woods, Richard Vynne. The Birks Murtho letters 1894-1900: hardship and happiness for two families on the River Murray, [Kangarilla, SA: RV Woods, 1994]


The Observer, 23 March 1895, pp. 42, 43 & 44 [inspection by a ministerial party, one year after beginning of scheme]

The Observer, 16 May 1896, p. 29, columns A, B & C [Village settlement expert, Samuel McIntosh's first report]


Atlas of South Australia 1986: Rural developments 1890-1920

Flinders Ranges Research: Village settlements



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