Building blocks of settlement: Italians in the Riverland, South Australia
O'Connor, Desmond John
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The Riverland region is situated approximately 200 km. north-east of Adelaide and consists of a strip of land on either side of the River Murray from the South Australian-Victorian border westwards to the town of Morgan. Covering more than 20,000 sq. km., it encompasses the seven local government areas of Barmera, Berri, Loxton, Morgan, Paringa, Renmark and Waikerie. The region was first identified as an area of primary production in 1887 when two Canadian brothers, George and William Chaffey, were granted a licence to occupy 101,700 hectares of land at Renmark in order to establish an irrigated horticultural scheme. After World War 1, the SA Government made available new irrigation blocks at Renmark and other localities in the Riverland area to assist the resettlement of more than a thousand returned soldiers. A similar scheme operated in New South Wales, where returned servicemen were offered blocks in Leeton and Griffith, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. The period after World War 2 saw further settlement of returned soldiers on fruit blocks in the Riverland and new irrigation areas were developed to cater for this growth. In the 1950s and 1960s large numbers of migrants, especially Greeks and Italians, settled in the area, often buying the blocks of retiring first world war soldier-settlers. Today the Riverland is among South Australia’s strongest regional economies.