What is Australia’s Best Invention?

3 May 2021

Australians are an innovative bunch. The cochlear implant and wi-fi technology are just two Aussie inventions that have changed the fabric of the world and the lives of billions but what is the most important invention for Australians? Torrens Title We’ll have to go back in time to answer this question. 

History of Property Ownership before Torrens Title: An example

In 1827, after the death of his wife, Nicholas Devine signs over all of his land to one of his convict servants, Bernard Rochford. After Devine’s death in 1839 Rochford begin to sell off large tracts of the 210 acre land around modern-day Newtown and Erskineville. John Devine, a blood relative from Ireland claimed to be the rightful heir of the estate and contested the will between Nicholas Devine and Bernard Rochford on three grounds:

  • Nicholas was of unsound mind, having possible brain damage from a bushranger attack and robbery coupled with old age. He was unable to dress himself and drooled incessantly.
  • The will was a forgery, names were misspelt and one of the signatories was not in Australia at the time of signing the will.
  • Rochford was a convict who could not buy, sell, own or inherit property.

Despite this overwhelming evidence, John Devine lost the case. Upon appeal in court, John Devine lost it again. It was the largest civil court case in Australia and John Devine ended up settling for an undisclosed amount.

Problems like this were common under the old English land law system, where a deed to ownership of land must be proven through an unbroken chain of evidence to establish its validity often from the crown grant. This was a slow and costly process and adverse claims upon property were common. It was quite feasible that your hard-earned property could literally be taken from underneath you.

Torrens Title

In 1858, Sir Robert Richard Torrens created a system of ownership through title registration. The main object of the Torrens Title System is to make the register conclusive. Once your name is registered on the Torrens Title register, you become the owner of the property to the exclusion of all others. You, therefore, obtain ‘title by registration’, which is a pivotal concept of Torrens Title. The indefeasibility principle of Torrens Title which is at the heart of its foundation prevents such adverse claims, as the validity of title to land is based upon registration of title in a central system.

This indefeasibility principle provides Australians with undefeatable ownership in land in perpetuity. It provides comfort in the security that you can legally exclude others from your property. This is the basis of wealth creation in Australia and why Australia edges out other OECD countries in wealth indexes

Wealth in Australia

In the 2018 Global Wealth Report. Australia’s median wealth was the highest in the world per adult (US$191,453). Australia’s average wealth per adult of US$411,060 is the second highest in the world after Switzerland. The composition of household wealth is predominantly held in non-financial assets. These include real estate which typically averaged $US304,500 and forms 60 per cent of gross household assets.

There has been no other Australian invention that has impacted more Australian lives as much as Torrens Title

Alexander Gibson

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