Sir Robert Richard Torrens

3rd Premier of South Australia

Irish-born Robert Richard Torrens, South Australia’s third premier, revolutionised the system of lands titles transfer in the colony. He arrived in South Australia in 1840, and became collector of customs, then rapidly advanced into the Legislative Council, to become Colonial Treasurer and Registrar-General of Deeds in 1852. He saw first-hand the need for reform to the process, and borrowed from ship administration, land transfer principles used in Europe and the work of fellow colonists to develop his new system of registration. Torrens’ Real Property Act, whereby every transfer of real estate was to be registered with the government, came into law in 1858, despite its detractors, who were mainly lawyers. Torrens lectured on his system throughout Australia and Britain, and even ran from office in England to further advance ‘the Cause’, although it failed to take hold there. He never returned to South Australia, and died in England in 1884.

‘[There is] advantage to be gained by rendering land as readily and as cheaply available as merchandise for the purpose of raising money by sale or on credit'.

South Australian Register, 1858