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in 19th-century Australian history, an illegal occupier of crown grazing land beyond the prescribed limits of settlement. The inroad of squatters contributed to the growth of the country's wool industry and to the development of a powerful social class in Australian life. By the late 1840s the authorities recognized the economic good derived from the squatters' activity and issued them leases for their sheep runs and tenure extending as long as 14 years. By this time the squatters had a hold on the land; many had become wealthy grandees.