Part 5: Key Legislation for Land Selections since 1860, summarised

Land Selection & Pastoral Leases Lease Records – Series 14033 (LAN/AG) and 14050 (LAN/DF) at Queensland State Archives

This series of land blogs was developed from research done by historian Ruth Kerr.


Land was open to selection at the fixed price of one £1 per acre in agricultural reserves on the shores of navigable waters of Moreton Bay, Wide Bay, Port Curtis and Keppel Bay. (s.20)

The farms were to be not less than 40 acres and not more than 320 acres. (s.13)

Section 22 provided for land to be sold at £1 per acre (up to 640 acres) for mining purposes (other than coal or gold).


This act provided for selection of land I specified agricultural reserves.

Land was to be for sale at £1 per acre. Six months residence was mandatory and improvements including one sixth of the area to be cultivated and fencing constructed were essential before a certificate of fulfillment of conditions could be issued.


Any lands in a settled district and not under pastoral lease shall be available for selection as agricultural or pastoral class of land.

Any lands in unsettled areas and not under pastoral lease shall be available for selection as second class pastoral land.

Land was proclaimed in the Queensland Government Gazette as open to selection.

Land Agents were to be appointed in districts where land was open for selection. (s.33)

Section 14 provided for pastoralists to make pre-emptive selections of land from the pastoral lease (within 12 months of notice of resumption of the pastoral lease) at the rate of one acre for each ten shillings of improvements. As this was before proclamation of land open for selection pastoralists were able to secure land along creek and river banks and beside railways.

Selectors paid annual rent to pay off the price of the land set by government.

Agricultural land could be freeholded in three years if conditions were fulfilled and the balance of the rents was paid.

Selections could not be transferred until after certificate of Fulfillment of Conditions was obtained.

There were maximum areas which selectors could hold in the colony – 640 acres of agricultural land, 2560 acres of first class pastoral land, and 7680 acres second class pastoral land.

Creditors could not obtain control of unfreeholded selections. (s.60)

Section 68 provided for improvements to be accounted for instead of cultivation on selections taken up under the Agricultural Reserves Act 1863 or the Leasing Act 1866.

  • Agricultural, first class pastoral and second class pastoral.
  • Sugar and Coffee selections. (s.65)
  • Agricultural Farms – land within Agricultural Reserves selected under s.12 of under Crown Lands Alienation Act 1860 could be brought under the 1868 act if applied for within six months of assent to the 1868 act.


QSA, Digital Image ID 5470: Application by Nicolaus Joseph Kessels to lease lands before survey, 22 July 1878

The major change to land selection brought by this act was that the classification of lands was abolished and land was then priced according to the demand for land in various areas of Queensland. Block sizes were reduced. The ballot process was utilized to deal with competition. The government became more rigorous on occupancy requirements. Efforts to reduce ‘dummying’ by pastoralists were unsuccessful.

  • Leased lands before survey
  • Conditional (conditional purchase)
  • Homestead


This was a watershed act – often called the ‘Dutton Act’ after the Minister for Lands. WC Hume, surveyor and Land Commissioner on the Darling Downs, became Under Secretary for Lands in 1884. It was believed that his recommendations became the basis for the new act. Pre-emptive purchases by pastoralists were abolished. Selection before survey was permitted in some cases. Agricultural Farms and Grazing Farms were defined as the forms of land selection. Up to 1280 acres could be selected as an Agricultural Farm and purchased (freeholded) after five years and the fulfillment of the residence requirements and investment in improvements. Up to 20,000 acres could be selected as a Grazing Farm and held under lease for 30 years. Rents were varied over time after assessment of the selection. The larger areas allowable were due to the land being much further from settled areas and towns and because the land type was likely to be less fertile and watered. The Land Board was formed and became active in determining the annual rents and determination of lands for selection. The powers of the Land Board in respect of selections were declaration of agricultural areas on resumed runs and assess rents every five years for selections.

Criticism of the Land Board was a strong reason for the Royal Commission into Land Settlement generally.

The resulting Crown Lands Act 1897 renamed the Land Board as the Land Court and appeals were permissible. District Land Commissioners continued to deal with applications for selection, forfeitures, rent assessments and reports of fulfillment of conditions.


The act preserved all the rights under the 1884 act.

The enveloping drought meant that much pastoral land leased under the 1869 Pastoral Leases Act was deserted, but some occupation continued in informal ways.

No ‘pre-emptive’ rights provided for under previous acts were continued.

Grazing Homesteads were to be in 20,000 acre blocks.

Specific selection types were introduced for land infested by prickly pear. A specific act, Prickly Pear Selection Act 1901 was introduced to deal with this form of selection.

Mortgages and transfers were restricted.

Leases were to be for 14, 21 or 28 years.

A ballot system was introduced to manage competition for land and land available for selection was to be published by a schedule.

LAND ACT 1902:

The act dealt mainly with pastoral lease land which had been severely affected by the Federation drought. It was really a relief act to assist landholders affected by the drought.

Married women were given the right to hold a Grazing Homestead in their own right, after five years of the lease had elapsed.

Section 29 provided for ringbarking to be defined as an improvement.

Section 33 allowed a freeholder to select land adjacent to their property and not have to meet the residential requirement.

Under section 40 farmers could apply for an extension of a Grazing Farm lease if the land was not required for agricultural purposes.

Pastoral lessees were empowered to select Grazing Farms or Agricultural lease on their own pastoral leases.


This act related to re-purchased estates or land opened for selection by groups. They were numerous across the state. The first legislation on the point was the Queensland Agricultural Lands Purchase Act 1894. The government purchased land from pastoral lessees and then opened the land for selection for family agricultural farms. Many of the estates came out of large successful pastoral holdings where the owner was prepared to sell in the 1890s depression. The land was approved by the Land Board (renamed Court). The Land Board reported to the Minister on the fair value of the land to the owner, demand for land in the neighborhood, suitability of the land, permanency of water, probability of selection and absence of sufficient crown land in the area. The records of the selections are in the LAN/DF series (ID 14050).

QSA, Digital Image ID 2630: Land clearing, Beerburrum, December 1916

LAND ACT 1910:

This act was comprehensive and was a consolidation of previous land selection acts after obsolete provisions were repealed. The Minister recorded that it repealed 32 acts, 34 schedules and 734 clauses, including the New South Wales acts of 1836, 1854 and 1858 except for titling provisions. Pre-existing rights under the 1884 and 1897 acts were brought forward.

Agricultural Farms selected under earlier acts were brought under the 1910 act.

The maximum area for a selection was increased to 2560 acres and Agricultural Homesteads were to be a maximum of 320 acres. Prickly Pear selections were to be a maximum of 2560 acres. Agricultural selections taken up by members of Groups were to be a maximum of 320 acres.

Time allocated for clearing of land and time to pay rents could be varied.

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4 Responses


    Good afternoon
    My name is Julie and I am researching my grandfather, David Donohue (also known as O’Donohue) who I believe settled on the Darling Downs with his family not long after arriving here in 1879
    What more information is available about this?

    Many thanks
    Julie Holtam

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