Crown Lands Commissioners In Moreton Bay (1842-1859)
Dr Margaret Shield, Visiting Fellow 2017/2018


The men chosen to represent the New South Wales Government in the newly settled areas came from diverse backgrounds and were given wide-ranging administrative and judicial powers yet they received no preparation for the role of Crown Lands Commissioner. It is not surprising that some acted in an arbitrary and, at times, irrational manner but most were well chosen and largely successful.[1]

Their letters reveal how they adapted to their new environment and dealt with the daily challenges they faced, particularly in their dealings with the Indigenous people, in ensuring the safety of settlers and in establishing government services. Their regular reports provided vital information to the New South Wales government regarding the topography of the country, the suitability of land for pastoral or agricultural purposes, the activities of the Border Police Force, the establishment of pastoral runs and the future requirements for government infrastructure.

It was these early government officers who oversaw the orderly settlement of the land, established permanent settlements, explored new pastoral lands, pioneered new travel routes, introduced legal and administrative systems and established essential government services.

As the first government officials appointed to the new Pastoral Districts surrounding Moreton Bay, Crown Lands Commissioners had an enduring impact on regional areas in what later became the colony of Queensland.


Early photograph of the town of Maryborough, Queensland 1864 State Library of Queensland Image No: 35111


[1] Martin, A. Public Servants and Patronage: The Foundation and Rise of the New South Wales Public Service, 1786-1859, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1983.