Welcome to the Land Services GroupLand Services Group
SA Government logo.  Link to Ministers' web site Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure - Link to home page

    Home > Public > Education - Careers > Documentary Movies

Robert Richard Torrens was the son of one of the founding fathers of the colony of South Australia, Colonel Robert Torrens. He was responsible for the introduction and early implementation of the Torrens Title system of land registration, still used in many parts of the world.

Robert Richard Torrens was educated at Trinity College in his native Dublin where he graduated with a Masters of Art. He then went to London where he was trained as the Collector of Customs for the colony of South Australia. On taking up the post of Collector, Torrens soon became known for his violent and impetuous nature.

Once he angrily seized a French whaling ship, the Ville de Bordeaux, which had disobeyed his instructions. This highhanded action caused a great disturbance and ultimately cost the British Government £ 4,000 in compensation money, about $60,000 today. Torrens violently attacked the editor, George Stevenson, for lampooning him in his newspaper. This ended in court cases and Torrens had to pay heavily. However, Torrens capacity to fight and to lead were to find an outlet in his efforts to solve the problems connected with the buying and selling of land.

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

The 1857 elections were drawing near and Torrens was standing for parliament. He made land title reform the main electoral issue. When the results were announced to the citizens of Adelaide, Torrens headed the polls and so Robert Richard Torrens became a member of South Australia’s first elected parliament. Torrens first introduced his Bill to reform land titles in May of 1857 and after much debated and opposition it came to the final vote in December. The Bill was passed by parliament and there was much rejoicing by the citizens of Adelaide and so on 27 January 1858 the Real Property Act became law.  

Torrens returned to Dublin and after went to England where he was knighted for his life long work dedicated to reforming systems for the people. For these benefits Australia and the world have much to thank Robert Richard Torrens.

Email the Web Administrator
URL: http://www.landservices.sa.gov.au
Last Modified: 13/04/2010 11:30:24 AM
Go To Top Go To Top
Back Top