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Author: Public Record Office Victoria
One of Victoria’s most important military collections is now available to the public for the first time online, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Special Minister of State, Shaun Leane, unveiled an important new website for historical and family research today.
Battle to Farm enables the public access to nearly 10,000 government records on the Victorian Soldier Settlement Scheme. The scheme helped settle thousands of returned World War One soldiers on farming land across Victoria through government leases, drastically transforming the landscape of regional Victoria.
The great debate
Over the years there has been great debate as to the success or failure of the settlement scheme as ex-soldiers were entering farming life in a difficult economic climate as the world descended into the Depression.
Over 50 per cent of those allocated blocks left the scheme. Many were unable to cover their debts when food prices plummeted, while others accused the government of leasing blocks that were too small. Through these resources, we can see not only the land allocated to each settler, but the hardships they faced.
Making these records public
Searchable by soldier name and geographic location, the new website developed by Public Record Office Victoria is an extraordinary achievement, making public for the first time one of Victoria’s important military collections.
The website features digitised soldier settlement records, letters from the soldiers about their farming life, video interviews of people who grew up on settlement blocks, photographs, and a guide to understanding the records.
Shedding light on the lives of the settlers
Parliamentary Secretary to the Special Minister of State, Shaun Leane said that Battle to Farm allows us to learn about the experience these soldiers went through and to better understand this important chapter of Victorian history.
“Between 1918 and 1934, 11,639 returned servicemen were allocated blocks of land under Victoria’s soldier settlement scheme – more than 80 volunteers have spent two years digitising these records to bring us this important resource in time for the ANZAC Centenary.”
Director and Keeper of Public Records, Justine Heazlewood said that the goal of the project is to make these records more accessible to all Victorians.
“We’re thrilled to launch this great resource so the public can access their ancestor’s records easily and the public have an insight into the challenges soldiers faced on their return to Australia.”
For more information visit soldiersettlement.prov.vic.gov.au
Battle to Farm is a Public Record Office Victoria website, funded by the Veterans’ Branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet as part of the Centenary of Anzac commemorations. The project was supported by Monash University, the ANZAC Commemorative Committee, Beaufort Historical Society, Stanhope Historical Society, Gippsland Historical Society, and more than 80 volunteers.