The rehabilitation of returned servicemen posed enormous problems. Many returned servicemen required medical attention, others could not follow their pre-war occupations due to health issues, and many had had no training in skilled work before they enlisted. Many returned with the strong hope of settling on the land.
The States and Commonwealth combined in a land settlement scheme financed by the Commonwealth and controlled by the States, who were to obtain the necessary land. The settler was given money for equipment, but had to pay back this sum plus the purchase price of the land, plus interest. Although the scheme was launched with enthusiasm, it was to prove disastrous for many settlers.
At Campbelltown, the dairy farming estate known as “Cransley”, owned by Mr Thomas Houghton, was purchased by the government, and was cut into 36 poultry farms and two administration blocks. Each farm was of an average area of 7 acres, and included a three bedroom weatherboard house, feed shed, egg packing and incubator shed, and brooder. A basic flock of laying hens and fertile eggs was provided. The principal thoroughfare was appropriately named Waminda Avenue – ‘Waminda’ meaning comrade.
Soldiers desiring priority in the selection of the blocks had to apply in writing to the Director of Soldiers’ Settlement Lands. The soldiers and their families began to move into their farms in about June 1919, but through bad organisation, many did not receive their breeding stock until after the end of the breeding season. Another setback was a defect in the design of one of the incubators. The initial years were hard and although the farmers got over the worst part of the season in September 1921, the winter of 1922 brought them down so much that they had to ask for assistance, which although it was given, was not sufficient. The inexperienced farmers were not prepared for the setback. In 1922 an enquiry was held into the Settlement, which found that Government mismanagement had not helped, nor the fact that this class of farming did not suit this part of the country. Although the men were “triers” their initiative was not encouraged, and during the Depression years, many farmers were forced to give up their holdings, and have their places taken by more returned men, or take up other jobs and run their farms as a sideline.
A few were successful despite the odds, (see blog about Cransley and Bill Price), and in fact continued to flourish as poultry farms up until the land was released for residential development in 1959.
In 1960, the Campbelltown Ingleburn News headlined “The end of an era”, with the closing down of the last poultry farm in the Soldiers’ Settlement.
Written by Claire Lynch
Sources: Local History Pamphlet Files, Campbelltown Library