|Description of this GroupDescription of this Group|
Scope of the Group
The Lands group has encompassed the following functions: survey and mapping from 1851 to 1983; sale, occupation and management of crown lands from 1853 to 1983; closer settlement from 1898 to 1982; soldier settlement from 1917 to 1983; assisted immigration from 1906 to 1918; Labour Bureau from 1912 to 1918; Aborigines from 1856 to 1860; land tax from 1884 to 1903; state forests and nurseries prior to 1875 and in the 1890's; the destruction of vermin and noxious weeds from 1880 to 1983; the Royal Botanic Gardens from 1868 to 1869 and from 1874 to 1983 and the National Herbarium from 1925 to 1983; cemeteries from 1873 to 1888 and the Port Phillip Authority from 1966 to 1973 and from 1981 to 1983.
Functional and Agency Groupings 1851-1855
In 1851 the Port Phillip District was separated from New South Wales and the self-governing colony of Victoria established. The Lieutenant Governor (later Governor) remained head of Government until the proclamation of the new constitution conferring full responsible government in November 1855 (see VRG 17 Executive for details).
During the years 1851 to 1855 chief executive authority rested with the Governor advised by the Executive Council. The main departments of government were those of the Colonial Secretary (VRG 16) and the principal colonial officials or principal officers of government, including the Treasurer, Auditor-General, Surveyor-General, Collector of Customs (later the Commissioner of Trade and Customs), and Postmaster-General. The Colonial Secretary was the chief official and all other colonial officials communicated with the Lieutenant-Governor (later Governor) via his Office.
A number of ministerial groups covering the responsibilities of the principal colonial officials have been dated from 1851. They are:
Group Responsibilities 1851
VRG 18 Lands Survey and Mapping
VRG 19 Law Crown-Solicitor's Services
VRG 21 Postmaster-General Post Offices
VRG 22 Trade and Customs Trade, Customs, Ports and Harbours
VRG 23 Treasurer Finance and Revenue Collection
All other functions - census and statistics, health, immigration, police and prison administration, the "protection" of Aborigines, education, goldfields administration, public works and buildings, roads and bridges, and the management and sale of crown lands (until 1853) - and the responsible agencies have been included in the Colonial Secretary's Group (VRG 16), unless an agency clearly belongs to one of the categories covered by the non-ministerial groups - VRG 3 Armed Forces, VRG 4 Courts, VRG 5 Cemeteries, VRG 8 Health and Welfare Agencies, VRG 9 Prisons and Youth Training Centres, VRG 10 Police, VRG 12 Municipalities, VRG 24 Educational Institutions, and VRG 27 District Land Offices. The Auditor-General's Group (VRG 15) has also been dated from 1851. As the entire business of the colony was conducted either directly or indirectly through the Colonial Secretary, the Colonial Secretary's records reflect not only the functions of the Colonial Secretary but also those of other colonial officials.
The executive arm of government was not during this period subject to parliamentary control. The principal officers of government were appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor (later Governor) and were responsible through him to the British administration. Government nominees to the Legislative Council and Executive Councillors were appointed from their ranks, but their executive positions as colonial officials were not dependent on their retaining their seats in Parliament (then the Legislative Council only), as was the case after 1855. The Surveyor-General was a member of the Legislative Council (VA 471) from 1851 to 1855.
Ministerial appointees after 1855 were for a time also effectively heads of their Departments and it was not until the 1880's that public service structures as we know them today began to emerge. However after 1855 the chief colonial officials or principal officers of government can be considered to have achieved Ministerial status and their executive positions (as Ministers and Executive Councillors) were dependent on their retaining their seat in Parliament and the support of the majority in the Lower House.
Ministerial Responsibilities 1851-1855
From 1851 to 1855 the Surveyor General was responsible for the conduct of all surveys and the preparation and publication of plans. Prior to separation, surveyors had received instructions from the Surveyor General's Department of New South Wales and had been employed within the Port Phillip Branch of that Department (VA 943).
Prior to separation, the sale, occupation and management of crown lands had been the responsibility of the Superintendent (VRG 11) and the Commissioners of Crown Lands (VRG 27). In 1851 responsibility for the sale and management of crown land and for the Commissioners was assumed by the Colonial Secretary (VRG 16). In 1853, F A Powlett was appointed Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands and became responsible for the newly established Crown Lands Department (VA 2878) and for the Commissioners of Crown Lands.
With the achievement of responsible government in 1855, the Surveyor General became the Minister responsible for all matters concerning the survey, sale, exploration, occupation and management of crown lands. Subsequently, in March 1857, the title of the Minister became Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey.
Board of Land and Works
In 1857 the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) was established, the powers of the Surveyor General/Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey and the Commissioner of Public Works were vested in the Board and by Letters Patent dated 28 April 1857, these two positions were abolished. Although by the end of 1858, a Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey and a Commissioner of Public Works had been reappointed to the Ministry, statutory responsibility for the functions they administered remained with the Board of Land and Works until its abolition in 1964. The Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey was the President of the Board of Land and Works.
The Board of Land and Works had been established because it was considered that the administration of public lands and public works would be more effectually and economically managed if it were consolidated and placed under one head. The departments of the Civil Service which had been under the control of the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey and the Commissioner of Public Works, together with the Central Roads Board which was disbanded on 1 January 1858, were to have been administratively integrated. However, while the extent of integration following the establishment of the Board in 1857 is uncertain, it is clear that from the re-appointment of the Commissioners of Crown Lands and Survey and Public Works in 1858, the sub departments for which they were responsible were administratively separate. The Civil Service Commission of 1859/60 noted that ".... although the Board nominally remains, a return has practically been made to the former system of two separate departments, each under the direction of a Responsible Minister".
At those meetings of the Board held to determine land and survey or roads and bridges matters, the President (Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey) presided, whilst the Vice President (Commissioner of Public Works) presided when public works or railway matters were to be discussed. With the appointment of a Commissioner of Railways and Roads in 1861, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey ceased to be responsible for the administration of the Department of Roads and Bridges (VA 2964).
Following the abolition of the Board of Land and Works in 1964, the Minister of Lands assumed statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the survey, sale and management of crown lands other than the acquisition of land for educational purposes, responsibility for which was vested in the Minister of Education.
Major Functions of the Lands Portfolio
The primary responsibilities of this portfolio were:
Survey and Mapping
The Surveyor General was responsible for the conduct of cadastral surveys to establish property boundaries; maintenance of parish plans recording allocation of property; the conduct of geodetic and trigonometric surveys which formed the basis of all subsequent cadastral and topographic (mapping) surveys; implementation of the topographic survey programme which in later years was carried out in close liaison with Commonwealth, civil and army organisations in conformity with the decisions of the National Mapping Council and conduct of surveys on behalf of the Housing Commission. Under the provisions of the Survey Co-ordination Act 1940 the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey became responsible for the co-ordination of all survey and mapping activities undertaken by government departments and statutory authorities; for the maintenance of a Central Plan Register; for the establishment of a Central Plan Office and for the establishment of a survey network which would facilitate the inter-relation of all surveys and mapping in one basic survey system. The Minister was also responsible for state aerial photography, the sale of maps, plans and photographs and for management of the Central Microfilm Bureau. Both the Surveyors Board and the Place Names Committee were responsible to the Minister of Lands.
Until 1870, the Commissioner for Crown Lands and Survey had been responsible for the Observatory which then became a responsibility of the Chief Secretary (VRG 26).
By 1855 the Geological Survey had been associated with the administration of public lands. It remained within the Lands portfolio until 1858 when responsibility was transferred to the Chief Secretary (VRG 26). In 1861 responsibility was transferred to the Commissioner of Mines (VRG 30) but in 1862 when the Postmaster General became responsible for the Department of Mines, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey assumed responsibility for both mining and geological surveyors until 1864 and 1867 respectively, when responsibility was resumed by the Minister of Mines. From 1856 the Surveyor General had been responsible for the survey of proposed lines of railway. This function was transferred to the Commissioner of Public Works in 1858.
In 1887 responsibility for the Draughting Branch (Land Titles) was transferred to Attorney General (VRG 19) who was responsible for the Office of the Registrar General and Office of Titles (VA 862).
Crown Lands Administration
The Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey and subsequently the Minister of Lands were responsible for all aspects of crown land administration including regulation of the alienation of crown land by auction and selection; settlement of disputes regarding alienation and occupation; issue of occupation licences and leases and ensuring compliance with the conditions of such licences and leases; issue of Deeds of Grant for alienated land and for reserves granted for public purposes such as schools and churches; issue of licences for pastoral occupation and determination of rents; control and management of public parks, reserves and commons, alpine resorts and the Buchan Caves Reserve and prevention of the unauthorised use or occupation of crown lands.
The Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey had been responsible for the issue of mining leases for metals and minerals other than gold (subsequently known as mineral leases) and water right licences but in 1865, responsibility for both was transferred to the Minister of Mines (VRG 30). In 1928, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey assumed responsibility for authorizing the occupation of unused roads and water frontages which had previously been administered by the Commissioner of Public Works (VRG 28).
The acquisition of land for the purpose of closer settlement was first authorised under the provisions of the Land Act 1898 (No.1602). The object of this and subsequent legislation had been to transform large estates into closely settled communities engaged in agriculture.
The Board of Land and Works (VA 744) was authorised to acquire land and then make it available as farm allotments, agricultural labourers' allotments and workmen's home allotments under the terms of conditional purchase leases. Certain residence and improvement conditions applied and on payment of the balance of the purchase money, lessees obtained a Crown grant.
Subsequent legislation provided for the granting of advances to lessees to assist them to erect the required dwellings and outbuildings and for other approved purposes. Lessees were later eligible to apply for advances under the Seed Advances Acts, Wire Netting Act and Advances to Settlers Act 1923.
Later legislation also authorised the various closer settlement authorities to acquire land either compulsorily or by agreement; to dispose of unalienated and unoccupied crown land including any swamp or reclaimed crown land and to acquire land held under lease from the Crown. The authorities were also authorised to set aside land for townships and reserves and to sell land as sites for churches, schools, public halls, cemeteries, recreation reserves and for other purposes.
In 1913, under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act 1912 (No.2438), the Minister of Water Supply became responsible for closer settlement on irrigable lands situated within an Irrigation and Water Supply District as defined under the provisions of the Water Act 1905. The State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723) administered this function until 1933, when, with the establishment of the Closer Settlement Commission (VA 2268), responsibility was returned to the Board of Land and Works (VA 744).
In 1922 under the provisions of the Empire Settlement Act 1922 and the associated Commonwealth and State Agreement, the State became responsible for the settlement of British immigrants on the land and this function was administered by the Closer Settlement Board (VA 2266).
Closer settlement was administered by the following agencies within the Lands group:
1898 - 1905 Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538)
1905 - 1933 Closer Settlement Board (previously known as the Lands Purchase and Management Board) (VA 2266)
1933 - 1938 Closer Settlement Commission (VA 2268)
1938 - 1982 Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538)
Further information about the administration of this function may be obtained from the Inventory of Series entries for these agencies.
In 1982, under the provisions of the Closer Settlement (Winding-up) Act (No.9798), all legislation authorising closer settlement and advances to farmers was repealed.
In 1917 the Discharged Soldiers' Settlement Act (No.2916) made provision for the Lands Purchase and Management Board, subsequently the Closer Settlement Board (VA 2266), to reserve areas for selection by discharged soldiers under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act (No.2629). In addition, the Act conferred upon the Board the power to make special provisions for the settlement of discharged soldiers.
Under the same legislation the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723), and thus the Minister of Water Supply, acquired control of soldier settlement on irrigable lands until 1933 when all land settlement functions passed to the Closer Settlement Commission (VA 2268).
Responsibility for soldier settlement functions continued in the closer settlement agencies, the Closer Settlement Board (VA 2266) and the Closer Settlement Commission (VA 2268), until 1938 when direct control of the administration of all land settlement functions returned to the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538).
In 1946 the Soldier Settlement Commission (VA 2270) was established under the auspices of the State/Commonwealth Agreement for the repatriation of returned servicemen/women (Act No.5170). The Commission reported to the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey (VRG 18) and subsequently to the Minister of Soldier Settlement (VRG 18).
Under s.14 of the Act the Commission was empowered to appoint its own employees who were not subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act. However s.15 enabled the Commission to make use of the services of the officers of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538). When this occurred, departmental expenses were recouped from the Soldier Settlement Account (see Annual Report 1966). Other statutory authorities, including the Housing Commission (VA 508), Country Roads Board (VA 722) and State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (VA 723) were empowered to undertake work for the Soldier Settlement Commission under s.11 (2) of the Soldier Settlement Act 1946.
In 1962 the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission (VA 2273) was established and assumed responsibility for the functions of the former Soldier Settlement Commission and the former Rural Finance Corporation (VA 2272). In 1977 the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission (VA 2273) became the Rural Finance Commission (VA 1073) with continued responsibility for the administration of soldier settlement legislation. In 1983 the Rural Finance Commission (VA 1073) became the responsibility of the Minister for Agriculture (VRG 34).
Assisted immigration had been negligible in the period from 1873 to 1882 and non existent from 1883 until 1906 when, under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act, 1906 (No.2067) portions of estates could be reserved for immigrants. Prior to 1873 administration of assisted immigration and nomination schemes had been the responsibility of the Commissioner of Trade and Customs (see VRG 22). By 1912 an Immigration and Labour Bureau had been established and the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey became responsible for the administration of the nomination scheme; provision of reception and initial settlement and employment services for immigrants and co-ordination of overseas promotion and emigration assistance. In 1918 responsibility for these functions was transferred to the Minister of Labour (VRG 42).
Under the provisions of the Empire Settlement Act 1922 a number of agreements were made between the Imperial, Commonwealth and State Governments to encourage British residents to migrate to Victoria. A Minister of Immigration (VRG 44) was appointed in 1923 and became responsible for the administration of the State's obligations under this Act and the associated agreements, but from 1923 to 1927 operational responsibility was exercised by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) within the Lands portfolio.
For a brief history of the administration of immigration from 1836 to 1983, see VRG 68 Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
In 1912 a Labour Bureau was established and the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey thus became responsible for assisting the unemployed to find work. Most were engaged for railway construction and maintenance work or other public works, but the Bureau was also responsible for supplying farm labour and for providing travel assistance to those who had secured employment for themselves in country districts. In 1918 responsibility for this function was assumed by the Minister of Labour (VRG 42).
In 1856 responsibility for the Guardian of Aborigines (VA 513) was transferred from the Chief Secretary to the Surveyor General and subsequently to the Board of Land and Works. The Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey remained responsible for the "protection of Aborigines" until 1860 when the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines (VA 514) was established and responsibility for this function was resumed by the Chief Secretary (VRG 26).
Note: For a brief history of the administration of policy and programs relating to Aborigines in Victoria, see VRG 58 Aboriginal Affairs.
The Land Tax Act 1877 was initially administered by the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) although the Secretary of Lands acted as the Registrar of Land Tax from 1877. In 1884 responsibility for the administration of this function was transferred to the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey until 1903 when responsibility was assumed by the Treasurer (VRG 23).
Although a Minister of Agriculture had been appointed in 1872, the Department of Agriculture (VA 618) was effectively a sub-department of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) until 1882. At that time the chief concerns of the Department were the control of stock diseases; the eradication of vegetation and vine diseases; the destruction of infected stock and the granting of compensation to owners.
State Forests and Nurseries
Responsibility for this function was shared by a number of portfolios until 1909 when the Minister of Forests assumed responsibility for the Department of State Forests (Forests Commission) (VA 534). Until that time, responsibility had been exercised thus:
Prior to 1875, Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey
1875-1890 Minister for Agriculture (VRG 34)
1890-1891 Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey
1891-1893 Minister of Mines (VRG 30)
1893-1899 Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey
1899-1900 Minister for Forests
1900-1903 Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey
1903-1904 Minister of Agriculture
1904-1909 Minister of Mines and Forests
For convenience each of the Ministers responsible for forests from 1900 to 1909 has been placed in the Forests Group (VRG 41) for the period of their responsibility for this function.
Destruction of Vermin and Noxious Weeds
With the passing of the Rabbit Suppression Act 1880, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey, together with municipal councils became responsible for the extermination of rabbits. Subsequently the Commissioner/Minister became responsible for the control and destruction of proclaimed vermin and noxious weeds; the payment of subsidies to municipalities; the conduct of scientific research work to assist the control of vermin and noxious weeds; the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Board and the Keith Turnbull Research Institute.
In 1928 the Commissioner assumed responsibility for wire netting advances which assisted land owners to construct vermin proof fences, a function previously administered by the Commissioner of Public Works (VRG 28).
Responsibility for the destruction of vermin in forests was transferred to the Minister of Forests (VRG 41) in 1932 and in 1943 this Minister also assumed responsibility for the destruction of noxious weeds in forests.
Royal Botanic Gardens/National Herbarium
The Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey/Minister of Lands exercised responsibility for the Royal Botanic Gardens from 1868 to 1869 and from 1874 to 1983, for the Government Botanist from 1868 to 1869 and for the National Herbarium from 1925 to 1983.
Under the provisions of the Cemeteries Act trustees of public cemeteries were to be appointed by the Governor-in-Council. The Trustees were responsible for the establishment and management of public cemeteries, the collection of fees, expenditure of government subsidies including fencing grants and the making of rules and regulations for the administration of cemeteries.
By 1864 and until August 1873, the Commissioner of Public Works (VRG 28) and the Public Works Department (VA 669) were responsible for the administration of cemeteries including the appointment of trustees and approval of regulations and fees. From 1873 until 1888 the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey (VRG 18) and the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) were responsible and in 1888 the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) and the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) assumed responsibility. The Public Works Department (VA 669) however continued to be responsible for the allocation of fencing grants.
In 1890, under the provisions of the Public Health Act 1889 (No.1044), the Minister of Health (VRG 39) and the Department of Public Health (VA 2904) became responsible for the management of cemeteries and responsibility has remained within the health portfolio.
Coastal Management/Port Phillip Authority
The Minister for Lands was initially responsible for the Port Phillip Authority (VA 1102) which was established in 1966 to co-ordinate the development and preservation of existing beaches, the prevention of deterioration of the foreshore and the improvement of facilities in the Port Phillip Area comprising Port Phillip Bay and adjacent areas in Bass Strait between the Barwon River and Cape Schank. Responsibility for the Authority was transferred to the Minister for Conservation (VRG 55 in 1973 and resumed by the Minister for Lands in 1981. The Minister was also responsible for the Coastal Management and Co-ordination Committee which had been established under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 to advise the Minister on matters relating to land reserved for the protection of the coastline.
Appointment of a Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands
In 1983 a Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands (VRG 75) was appointed to co-ordinate the administration of all matters relating to the management and use of public lands and to better co-ordinate these responsibilities with conservation requirements.
Responsibility for survey and mapping, crown lands administration and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Herbarium was transferred to the new Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands (VRG 75) while responsibility for the Port Phillip Authority and the Coastal Management and Co-ordination Committee was transferred to the Minister for Planning and Environment (VRG 65). Responsibility for the Rural Finance Commission and Soldier Settlement was transferred to the Minister for Agriculture (VRG 34).
Location of Records
While there are substantial holdings for the period from 1851 to 1904, holdings for subsequent years are weak for the period from 1904 to 1959 and very poor for later years. Many records remain outside the custody of the PRO.
For records relating to the administration of crown land see also VRG 27 District Land Offices. Researchers are also advised to consult the List of Holdings, 2nd edition 1985, sections 3.6.2 to 3.6.7 (crown lands, closer settlement, survey and mapping) 3.6.21 (closer settlement, soldier settlement) 3.18.4 (survey and mapping, Aborigines) 3.2.1. (agriculture).
Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey 1857-1964
Minister of Lands 1964-1983
Minister of Soldier Settlement 1947-1982