Dutch-Australian Shared Cultural Heritage

The historical ties that bind the Netherlands and Australia date back to the early 17th century, when Dutch VOC ships were the first to map and chart the Australian continent.

Maritime, Migrant, Military and Mercantile heritage

In 2016 we marked the 400th anniversary of the landing of Dutch captain Dirk Hartog on the westcoast of Australia in 1616. This historical event occurred 10 years after the first documented contact with the indigenous people of Australia by Dutch captain Willem Janszoon with his VOC vessel Duyfken in 1606.

The connection between our countries, further intensified by other Dutch explorers such as Abel Tasman and Willem de Vlamingh, became stronger over time as Australia welcomed many Dutch migrants, especially in the aftermath of World War II, a war that strengthened the ties between our countries through our military alliance. With the waves of migration after that war, thousands of Dutch men, women and children became part of the Australian society, many of them starting up business and consequently leaving traces of mercantile heritage.

The Dutch Diplomatic missions in Australia commit themselves to the sustainable preservation and promotion of this Dutch-Australian heritage, gathered together as the so-called 4 M’s: Maritime, Migrant, Military and Mercantile heritage.

The embassy's Shared Cultural Heritage programme is part of the International Cultural Policy Framework for 2017-2020, see Beleidskader Internationaal Cultuurbeleid 2017-2020 (in Dutch).

Shared Maritime Heritage

Dutch seafarers Willem Janszoon was the first European to make a recorded landfall on Australian soil in 1606. In the following years, Dutch seafarers such as Dirk Hartog (1616), Abel Tasman (1644) and Willem de Vlamingh (1696) further explored the Australian coast and mapped large parts of the continent.

Some encounters turned out to be more faithful than others. Along with the wrecks of the Batavia, Vergulde Draeck, Zuytdorp and Zeewijk, the reminders of the shared maritime history of Australia and The Netherlands are scattered all over the Australian continent, as is shown by the many Dutch names on the map of Australia; Tasmania, Zuytdorp Cliffs, Dorre Eiland, Cape Leeuwin, Schouten Eiland, Houtman Abrolhos, Swan River and the village of Zeehan.

None other than Captain Cook himself confirmed the importance of the early explorations of the Australian continent by the Dutch. On 22 August 1770 he wrote in his journal: “I therefore may find no more upon the Eastern coast of New Holland and on the Western side I can make no new discovery, the honour of which belongs to the Dutch navigators.”


In the 1950s and 1960s four wrecks of the Dutch East India Company were discovered and excavated just off the Western Australian coast: Batavia, Vergulde Draeck, Zuytdorp and Zeewijk. In 1972 these excavations led to the ‘Agreement between the Netherlands and Australia Concerning Old Dutch Shipwrecks’ (ANCODS). Under this agreement the wrecks and artefacts belonging to them were divided between Australia and the Netherlands. On the occasion of the 400 years of bilateral relationship between Australia and the Netherlands, the Netherlands gave its share of the treasure to Australia. The relics were repatriated to Australia in November 2010. In 2011 the entire collection, documented and photographed, was made available online, in the ‘ ANCODS Collection Database’.

South Land to New Holland

The online exhibition 'South Land to New Holland: Dutch Charting of Australia 1606–1756' celebrates early Dutch exploration of the Australian coast, drawing on the rare maps and other resources from the collections of Australia's National, State and Territory libraries.

Shared Migrant Heritage

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.

Dutch–Australian connections

The National Archives of Australia published an article by Dr Nonja Peters (Director of the Migration, Ethnicity, Refugees and Citizenship Research Unit, Curtin University of Technology) on the history of the Dutch in Australia (1606–2006). Read the article here on the website of the National Archives of Australia.

See also 'Dutch Migration to Australia', Immigration Discovery Centre, Museum Victoria.

Shared Military Heritage

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. In March 2017 the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the strafing of Broome was held in Western Australia.

Allies in adversity, Australia and the Dutch in the Pacific War

For more information, please visit the website of the Australian War Memorial, where the online exhibition Allies in Adversity focuses on on the Dutch–Australian experience of the war in the Pacific, 1941–45.


Shared Cultural Heritage

Shared Cultural Heritage | publications

Over the past years, the Netherlands Embassy has been involved in the publishing of several booklets on Dutch-Australian Cultural Heritage. Topics include the Japanese Air Raid on Broome, the wrecking of the Zuytdorp, the first contact established between Indigenous Australians and Europeans by the Duyfken, stories about the Early Encounters with Australian shores and Jan Vennik: The Dutchman at Eureka.

Broome 3 March - 1942 - 3 March 2012

In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Japanese Air Raid on Broome, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in conjunction with the Western Australian Museum, published the booklet ‘Broome: 3 March 1942 – 3 March 2012’. The Booklet contains a selection of bundled articles by several authors and aims to illustrate what happened in Broome on that fatal day, 3 March 1942, as well as provide an overview of the context of the Australian – Dutch alliance during WWII.
This booklet can be downloaded from our website in PDF format, you can find the document at the end of this page.

Zuytdorp 1712-2012

Zuytdorp 1712-2012 was published by Geraldton Newspapers Pty Ltd in 2012 with support the the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The booklet was presented on the occasion of the commemoration of 300th anniversary of the wreck of Zuytdorp and was written and compiled by Gary Warner, with the valued assistance of Dr Michael 'Mack' McCarthy.

This booklet can be downloaded from our website in PDF format, you can find the document at the end of this page.

The Duyfken | Unveiling of the First Contact Memorial

The Dutch VOC ship the Duyfken constituted the first documented contact between Indigenous Australians and Europeans in 1606. On the occasion of the unveiling of the First Contact Memorial, the Netherlands Embassy produced a booklet about the story of the journey of the Duyfken and the historical meeting in Mapoon. Dutch ambassador Annemieke Ruigrok, (now former) Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley and Mayor of Mapoon Peter Guivarra have written contributions, amongst others. The book was co-authored and edited by Rupert Gerritsen.

Because the first edition was very well received, a second edition has been launched in June 2015. This second edition complements and updates the first booklet with a revised and updated version of the contribution by Geoff Wharton, which now includes an account and photograph of the unveiling ceremony. In addition, the design of the booklet has been completely upgraded by the Western Australian Museum in Perth.
The booklets can be downloaded from our website in PDF format, you can find the documents at the end of this page.

Early Encounters with Australian Shores | Rupert Gerritsen

‘Early Encounters with Australian Shores’ is a collection of short stories written by the late Rupert Gerritsen (1953-2013). The booklet was published in 2015 by Australia On The Map with the support of the Netherlands Embassy. This booklet brings together a selection of stories about Australia’s early, and neglected, maritime history. Rupert Gerritsen elaborates on already well known subjects such as the arrival of the Duyfken and the tragedy of the Batavia – but also presents lesser known stories such as the miraculous survival of the Dutch party searching for the crew of the Vergulde Draeck.
Copies of ‘Early Encounters with Australian Shores’ are available for free and can be ordered with Australia on the Map. To order a booklet, visit: www.australiaonthemap.org.au

Jan Vennik: The Dutchman at Eureka | Yvon Davis

Jan Vennik: The Dutchman at Eureka is a 48-page booklet written by Yvon Davis, former SBS Radio broadcaster. This publication was supported with a Shared Cultural Heritage contribution from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Canberra.

Yvon Davis tells the story of a Dutchman who was present in the vicinity of the Eureka Stockade on 3 December 1854, before he was arrested and charged with treason together with 12 others. This book explores whether Jan Vennik was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, where he came from, and where he went after his acquittal on all charges at the Eureka Trials in early 1855.
Copies of 'Jan Vennik: The Dutchman at Eureka' are available from bookshops across Ballarat. RRP $14,95.
For more information, contact Yvon Davis via yvondavis@gmail.com

How to order
Broome | Zuytdorp | Duyfken

Are you interested in receiving an original copy ?

The Broome, Zuytdorp en Duyfken booklets are available for free and can be collected at the Embassy during general opening hours. You can also receive a copy of the Broome or the Zuytdorp booklets by mail, free of charge (within Australia).

To receive a copy of the Duyfken (second edition) by mail, please send the Embassy a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). You will then receive your copy of “The Duyfken” within 2 weeks. Below you will find an indication of the required postage fee for delivery within Australia. 1 book: $2.10 |  2-3 books: $3.50

For further questions, please contact the Embassy via can-pcz@minbuza.nl