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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Brooke, Hon. John Henry

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Brooke, Hon. John Henry, who was Commissioner of Crown Lands in Victoria under the Heales administration from Nov. 1860 to Nov. 1861, will long be remembered in connection with the land system of that colony. In 1857, as a member of the Assembly, he was prominent in opposition to the Haines Land Bill, which proposed giving annual licences to the squatters. On his own accession to office he, in conjunction with his colleagues Mr. J. M. Grant and Mr. Ireland, the Attorney-General, brought into operation the famous licences to occupy the waste lands of the Crown, which formed the basis of popular settlement for cultivation purposes on the public lands of Victoria. The scheme was formulated by a mere Gazette notice, the issue of which was formally censured by the Legislative Council. As the result of a dissolution of the Assembly Mr. Brooke's policy was approved by the country, and formed the subject of express eulogy in the Governor's opening speech to the new Parliament in August 1861. The occupation licences were approved by the new Assembly and again condemned by the Council, who denounced the introduction of the new departure by a mere departmental regulation as a breach of the principles of responsible government. The Governor regretted the disapprobation of the Council, but when they entreated that the legality of the licences might be tested in the Supreme Court, replied that his advisers were "satisfied of their legality." Mr. Brooke subsequently left Victoria, and is now a resident in Japan.