The history of Red Cliffs is the story of the largest soldier settlement scheme ever undertaken in Australia . It began in 1918 just as the first Australian Diggers were being repatriated after WW1.
Mr A S Kenyon, an engineer (and later a Commissioner) of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, submitted a report to the Commission on the practicability and cost of development of 10,000 acres of Murray River frontage land under irrigation. In his report Kenyon estimated total cost at £44 ($88) per acre, included in that figure was the cost of farm establishment as well as water supply works.
He considered that the settlers themselves should do all the necessary clearing and land preparation and build the distributary irrigation channels. He envisaged that the Commission would establish its own nursery, raising vine plants for sale to the settlers. This proved later on, to be one of the most spectacular aspects of the scheme, as millions of cuttings had to be provided.
First men into Red Cliffs area when settlement was under discussion were the surveyors, Thompson Brothers and foreman, Fitzsimmons. The first camp for 25 men was established by Jim Bailey in April 1920 and they started with one case of shovels, one case of axes and later got a second-hand tree puller and some mattocks. Within a short time Bailey was in charge of about 800 men made up of approximately 30 gangs.
What hopes and ambitions filled the hearts and minds of the returned diggers, who fresh from winning a war had now won an allocation of about 15 to 16 acres of Pine, Belah or Mallee covered earth. By December 1920, approximately 5,000 acres had been cleared and subdivided into 295 blocks out of a total of 700 blocks by 1923-24.
To find out how they cleared the tough Mallee scrub go to the Big Lizzie link.