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The province of South Australia was created by an act of the British parliament in 1834. Two years later a group of colonists, under Governor Hindmarsh, arrived from England.

From the beginning there were land troubles, blocks that had been sold were not available when the colonists arrived. The survey plan was lagging as, Colonel Light, the surveyor was short of staff and equipment. With the arrival of fresh immigrants land was in demand.  

Many colonists subdivided their blocks hoping to make large profits. Properties changed hands often, each time land was sold a deed of conveyance had to be prepared. South Australia had inherited the English Common Law system by which records of land transactions such as; deeds, mortgages and leases accumulated. All these were needed to prove ownership or title to the land. A good title depended on the succession of indisputable documents, if a deed was missing the title was in doubt.  

The buyer’s solicitor had to examine all documents to guard against fraud or error. This examination was time consuming and expensive. Solicitor’s bills often amounted to more than the cost of the land. Moreover, the examination was not certain as some documents were unreadable and others could not be found at all. If a person turned up with a better claim the buyer could lose his or her money and the property.  

In the 1850s hundreds of miners were returning to South Australia from the Victorian gold fields, they too wanted to buy land and the demand increased. By this time, of the 40,000 properties in the colony more than half of the original deeds were lost and 5,000 titles were unsatisfactory.  

In 1852 Robert Richard Torrens was made Colonial Treasurer and Registrar General. As Registrar General he found the need for reforming the system of land conveyancing acutely urgent.  He had the idea of using the same method in transferring land that was used in the selling of ships. Here a single document gave continuing proof of ownership.

So Torrens and several colleagues set about changing the system and on 27 January 1858 the Real Property Act became law and the Torrens Title system was adopted. All land granted by the crown from 1 st July 1858 has automatically been under the system, land that had been granted before that date can be brought under the Real Property Act.

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Last Modified: 13/04/2010 11:30:18 AM
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