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Victoria – Before Torrens

Posted on: June 25 2020

Before Victoria was a Colony in its own right, Port Phillip (Victoria) was a province of the Colony of New South Wales. ^

With the spread of the squatters seeking out unoccupied lands and settling new grazing runs, especially with a river frontage, this pattern was happening unchecked without official permission and not officially recognised by a Crown Land grant (sale) or a legal title. Squatter’s land grab was the first stage of the process of the development of our land laws and customs which preceded government control. That’s when land was selected and taken possession of by the first comer on the old principle of Roman Law. quod nullius est occupanti conceditur, which, according to some political philosophers, marks the origin of what is now known as absolute private property in land. *

If first come, best dressed is the first stage (that is, free-selection-before-survey men); the second stage is land administration controls by the British Government in Australia. Here’s an extract from “A History of The Port Phillip District” by A.G.L. Shaw

        But the absence of villages had not interfered with the pastoral expansion which the squatting system made so easy. This had developed from the Crown Lands Encroachment Act, passed in 1833, when Bourke was concerned that intruders or trespassers were occupying unsold Crown land. He admitted that some of the “most influential and unexceptional colonists” were “squatting” on stations in the interior and he did not want to stop them using remote places as stock stations, but he’s afraid that if they were not checked they might in time claim that uncontested occupation gave them a right to remain in possession. He was also worried about the “improper people” living there including escaped convicts and their emancipist friends. So the Act authorised him to appoint Commissioners who would keep a register of all occupants and at the same time protect the Aborigines, settle disputes, arrest absconders and generally keep order. To meet the expense involved he would have liked to have charged a small rent, but he was afraid that the wealthy squatters would resist this, however vocal they might be at the moment in wanting government to attend to their complaints against their poorer neighbours. Eventually they might agree, but until they did he thought it’d be quite hopeless to try to collect any charge against the general will.

So there you have it. The first Register of Land Occupants – in Australia – 1833 – and further legislation followed 1836 … pastoral leases etc; and, don’t forget the legal principles of adverse possession

^ The Separation of NSW and Victoria occurred on 1 July 1851 the date the Legislative Council of the newly created colony of Victoria was established.

* source. Land Tenure in The Colony of Victoria by John Quick 1888

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