November 18, 2019
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Soldier Settlement

Bill Rowe: The Government decided after World
War I that they would settle soldiers back on the land. And some were settled on… dairy farms and
some were on wheat properties out west of Red Cliffs here and it was on pretty poor
country, mallee country that they’d cleared and lots and lots of those chaps, they cleared
their own land with teams of horses and tore the mallee stumps out of the ground and planted
the wheat and lots of the men weren’t really suited to the country life and farm life and
some of them didn’t even plant up their property, you know, or take up crop off it. Some of them weren’t capable or they had serious
health problems to stop them from working. They had it pretty hard and it was pretty
hot here. But as I said, they made three or four allocations
and by the time they’d made three or four allocations of property, there were about
700 properties here through the Soldier Settlement Commission and that was at the time the biggest
soldiers’ settlement area in the whole of Australia and probably the world, returned
soldiers from the First World War. But they weren’t acknowledged after the First
World War of having these problems and they played up a fair bit in this district and
they were committing suicide and it was just sort of a thing that I accepted when I was
a kid and I never thought about it and sort of took it in the… Gave it the consideration that it deserved
that these chaps had a war neurosis and wasn’t being acknowledged. For instance when I was probably about five
or six, I was staying with my grandfather out on his property out near the pumping station
and it wasn’t unusual to hear shotguns go off and I heard this shotgun go off and the
next day my grandfather told me that a chap about two blocks away had shot himself, you
know, with a… And so, this was something that was going
on in this district that as a lad, I took as a normal thing and yet it wasn’t. It was a pretty terrible thing in retrospect
when I think about it now.

Tony wyaad