Mapping Australia: Heritage

An introduction to the shared past of Australia and the Netherlands.

The connection between The Netherlands and Australia goes back more than 400 years. The strong historical ties have resulted in many interest groups and countless shared cultural heritage activities. To assist professionals, policy makers and volunteers to increase the visibility, accessibility and coherence of their respective activities, this database of projects and stakeholders involved has been established. The ultimate aim is to increase cooperation between the stakeholders and to create more synergy between the cultural heritage projects in Australia and the Netherlands.

After the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the first contact (1606-2006), there was another quad-centenary, that of the first contact with West-Australia (1616-2016), in 2016. 2012 marked the 300th anniversary of the wrecking of the merchant ship the Zuytdorp (1712-2012), on the West Australian coast.

A Shared History of Australia and the Netherlands

The Dutch-Australian shared cultural heritage goes back to the era of the Dutch East India company (VOC), in which the Dutch seafarers Willem Janszoon and Dirk Hartog were the first Europeans to make a recorded landfall on Australian soil, in respectively the north coast (1606) and west coast (1616) of the Australian continent. In the following years, Dutch seafarers such as Abel Tasman (1644) and Willem de Vlamingh (1696) mapped a large part of the continent.

In 1606 the Dutch East India Company vessel Duyfken went to explore the northeast coast of the then unfamiliar continent Australia. In the years after the expedition of the Duyfken many other visits followed. Most of them were involuntary confrontations with the Australian westcoast of VOC ships traveling along the so-called Brouwer-route from the Cape of Good Hope to Batavia. This resulted in at least four shipwrecks. The sites of these shipwrecks have been explored in the 20th century which has resulted in a large collection of artefacts.

During World War II, the Netherlands and Australia were close allies. As part of the allied opposition to Japan, the Royal Netherlands and East Indies Forces operated from Australia. After the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia) fell to the Japanese, both soldiers and refugees fled to Australia. On 3 March 1942 a number of ‘flying boats’ that flew Dutch evacuees to the port of Broome, Western Australia, were bombarded by Japanese naval forces and many of them were killed. The wrecks of the aircrafts are still in the sea.

Many Dutch migrants moved to Australia in the 1950s and the early 1960s.The close ties that the Netherlands has developed with Australia also abound through the history of migration in the 20th century. Many Dutch migrants moved to Australia after World War II, when the Netherlands government actively encouraged emigration to relieve housing shortages and economic distress. Today about 370.000 Australian residents are of Dutch origin.