A compendium of Group Settlements around the Denmark area from 1922-1930 is currently being compiled. Discusses why, how and by whom the scheme was implemented. Group Settlements included are numbers 41 and 42 (Carmarthen), 58 and 111 (Harewood), 92 and 102 (Somerset Hill), 93 (West Denmark), 95 and 110 (Kentdale), 101 (Mt Lindesay), 113 (Kwilalup and Parry’s Inlet), 114 (Styx River), 116 (Tingledale), 138, (off Settlers Boundary Road, now privately owned), 139 (Hazelwood).
Included in the compendium, are details of Denmark Group Settlers in alphabetical order, Group Settlers in group order, ships that brought Denmark Group Settlers to Australia, foremen on groups, teachers in group schools, excerpts from Government records (personal details, valuations and improvements), some personal records kept by Group Settlers, maps of individual Group Settlements and some pictures of Group Settlement buildings.
Group Settlement in Denmark 1922–1930
The Group Settlement scheme was initiated by Sir James Mitchell, Premier of Western Australia, and was jointly financed by State, Commonwealth and Imperial governments. There were 15 Group Settlements in Denmark, spread between the present town and the Valley of the Giants, west of Bow Bridge.
The settlers were mostly migrants recruited from England and they were promised a free grant of about 160 acres of land if they cleared the land for production. In addition, a cottage, sheds, stock and plant were offered as payment over a 30 year period.
The groups comprised of about 20 families each. For subsistence wages, the men worked in groups clearing about 25 acres on each block in the group. Once the blocks were partly cleared, the settlers would move onto their blocks and begin preparing their land for pasture and crops. The Government provided materials for fencing and clearing, which was capitalised against the farm. Cows, horses, fertiliser and implements were added to the settlers’ debt.
The scheme failed due to inadequate planning, rushed procedures, unfair expectations, inexperienced farmers, unsuitable land, poor transport, isolation, a harsh environment and the cattle wasting disease. This left many debts to both the settlers’ and to the three governments involved.
After several inquiries into Group Settlement in the 1920s and the early 1930s, agreements were made to write off large portions of the debt. In 1930/31, settlers were given the opportunity to acquire freehold on their properties, when the Agricultural Bank took over management of the scheme and the loans. Settlers now repaid their debt to the bank.