This project is the result of my own work. Material from the published or unpublished work of others which is referred to in this project has been credited to the author within the project.
Early Dutch explorers were no strangers to the distant south lands of Australia. The sea worthy Dutch vessel ‘Duyfken’ carried explorer Willem Jansz to the shores of Cape York Peninsula 146 years before Captain Cook claimed the country for Britain and George III (Murdoch, 1974). Whilst profoundly contributing to the cartography of Australia’s coastline in the 17th Century, it was during the mass migration period of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s that Dutch people discovered Australia for themselves as its new hopeful inhabitants.
The influx of people into the country was the realisation of the Australian government’s migration policy, which sought to populate the country. Politicians and citizens feared the over representation of people from surrounding Asian countries within the population and after world war II urged to defend its shores against them, whilst filling positions in its struggling labour market. The Great Depression and the end of World War Two distinguished a struggle for Australia to entice new British migrants to its shores, a task deemed necessary in order to uphold its ‘Immigration Restriction Act’ and ‘White Australia Policy’. In an effort to maintain popular ideals, the recruitment search was widened to include Northern Europeans, such as the Dutch, to be its new potential migrants.
The decision was made at an opportune time, the Netherlands was suffering its own ill effects after World War II and German occupation. Characteristically a small country in its geography, and statistically showing the highest birth rate in Europe (Bell, 1981) the Netherlands had a severe housing crises and rising unemployment. The solution was an agreement signed in 1946 between the Australian Government and the ‘Netherlands Immigration Foundation’. In 1951 immigration was further enhanced by both governments signing the Netherlands-Australian Migration Agreement (NAMA) which increased each party’s responsibilities in providing assistance to new migrants (Velthuis, 2005). The number of Dutch migrants in Australia peaked in the 1961 Census at 102 134 (Peters, 2001). According to Schindlmayr (1996), 125 000 Dutch citizens arrived in Australia between 1947 and 1996.
In 1996 New South Wales was home to 24.4% of the Dutch population, the second highest of any state in Australia after Victoria. The biggest concentration being in Sydney (59.9%) followed by Wollongong (7.4%) and Newcastle (3.2%) (Velthuis, 2001). Cities such as Wollongong, within the Illawarra region of New South Wales, were popular places of settlement for post war migrants, as they provided a means of employment in establishments such as the Australian Iron and Steelworks. Between 1947 and 1961 the population in Wollongong nearly doubled, the Dutch community being one of the highest representatives among these (Thom, 2008).
The aim of this project is to develop an understanding of the Dutch community within Australia, with particular focus on the Illawarra region in New South Wales. The project aims to communicate information and exhibit items that tell the story of Dutch immigrants and what it was like for them to settle in the Illawarra.
This project has two objectives:
- To develop an online museum that acts as a resource to communicate, educate, share and exhibit items relating to post-war Dutch migration and the ways in which the Dutch community has helped shape NSW and the Illawarra region as a Multicultural society.
- To promote the significant contribution of Dutch migrants in the place-making of the Illawarra region.
This project is very important for the following reasons:
- Whilst the contribution of post-war migrants of some ethnic communities in the Illawarra region, such as the Italian and Greek, are very prominently represented in the community through business ownership, politics and annual festivals- the exposure of the Dutch communities influence has slowly diminished from the attention of the public eye.
- The generation associated with the largest migration boom in the 1940, 50’s and 60’s is ageing and there is a need to communicate their heritage and promote their culture within the next generations, to prolong its existence and prevent its disappearance.
- Due to the success of Dutch migrants in merging into Australian society, many have forgotten or undervalued their Dutch heritage. In some instances second or third generation Dutch-Australian’s know very little about their migrant past, their Dutch culture and the experiences of those that came before them.
- By presenting an Online Museum in the form of a blog it becomes accessible to all generations, community groups, and is non-exclusive. According to Kelly (2009), social media is a very effective tool used by museums to generate audience interest as a resource for learning as they help create an environment that encourages exploration and enable meaning to be constructed by choice, challenge, control and collaboration leading to self discovery.
2. Review of the Literature
2.1 General Overview
There is a large selection of literature available regarding the migration of Dutch people to Australia during the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Whilst the literature concerning the Dutch in New South Wales and the Illawarra is expanding, most is focussed on providing a national perspective. Information regarding a much smaller geographical area such as the Illawarra is more complete through extraction of information from the national perspective literature. The most inclusive and comprehensive overview on Dutch migrants in Australia are presented by Bell (1981), Duyker (1987), Jupp (2001), and Peters (2006). All discuss the motivations behind Dutch migration to Australia, the Dutch and Australian government influence on migration, settlement patterns, assimilation and migrant experiences. Further insight into patterns of migration within New South Wales is provided by Schindlmayr (2000) and a comprehensive thematic history of Dutch migrants in New South Wales is presented by Velthuis (2005). The differences in migrant expectations, perspectives and experiences on first arrival to Australia are explored in depth by Eysbertse and Eysbertse (1997) and Sluga (1998) and also provide insight into the types of accommodation that was used to house migrants. The Illawarra Heritage Migration project has led to the production of new literature on post-war migrants specifically within the Illawarra region. Fikkers (2010) has transcribed a number of interviews with Dutch people who migrated in the 1950’s and provides insight into their reasons for settling in the area as well as their experiences, places of work, types of accommodation and social organisations that have developed as a result. Walker (2007) provides an in depth thematic study into the types of accommodation for migrants in the Illawarra, whilst Thom (2008) explores the places of work for migrant women.
2.2 Reasons for Migration
The many reasons contributing to Dutch migration to Australia have been discussed commonly in the literature. Mitchell et al (1998) provides an in depth study of the Australian political climate post-1947 that led to the governments program of mass immigration. After World War Two people in the Netherlands experienced a number of issues including limited housing and unemployment. Peters (2006), Bell (1981) and Duyker (1987) all provide information on this topic, explaining the motives behind the Netherland government’s decision to encourage its people to migrate. The collapse of the Dutch East Indies also contributed largely to the Dutch migrant population in New South Wales. Information on the movement of refugees from the Dutch East Indies to Australia is discussed in de Jong (2002) and Peters (2006).
2.3 Expectations vs. Experience
The expectations and actual experiences of Dutch immigrants have been widely reported on in the literature. Many have utilised information gathered from interviews and questionnaires such as Bell (1981), Eysbertse and Eysbertse (1997), Sluga (1998), Peters (2006) and Fikkers (2010). Eysbertse and Eysbertse (1997) use the most comprehensive range of interviews allowing for a broader perspective on migrant expectations and experience. This makes room for the fact that every migrant is a unique individual. Many of the migrants in this case say that they were mislead by the Dutch government and the little information that they were offered gave an incorrect image of a utopian Australia. In their experience employment was difficult to find, accommodation on arrival was substandard and isolated, those that arrived in winter were bitterly cold and Australia was thirty years behind Holland in its development. Other migrants however, thoroughly enjoyed their stay at Australian migrant camps, found the Australian landscape to be very beautiful and still hold fond memories of their first experiences in Australia. Bell (1981), reports on only one migrant couple and their second generation daughter, relying on this to give an indication of the overall expectations and experiences of Dutch migrants. This is not as broad ranging as the many perspectives used in Eysbertse and Eysbertse (1997) however this method develops a deeper understanding of the interviewee’s, thus allowing a more solid context to be framed.
The ability of Dutch migrants to easily assimilate into the Australian way of life is a recurring theme within the literature. The swift language and behavioural change of Dutch migrants and the attitudes and expectations of both Dutch and Australian people is examined in Bell (1981), Duyker (1987), Jupp (2001), Velthuis (2005), and Peters (2006). Attitudes of the Dutch and Australian governments towards the issue of migrant assimilation are extensively discussed in Peters (2006). The literature highlights the fact that the Dutch were preferred due to their ability to assimilate well. A statistical analysis of the Netherlands born population in New South Wales based on data from the 1991 and 1996 Census in Schindlmayr (2000) gives a good indication of the level of assimilation of Dutch migrants into Australian society. It allows a comparison to be made between migrant groups and their use of the English language, and also includes second and third generation statistics. A personal account of experiences that led to migrants wanting to become ‘Australianised’ are expressed in Bell (1981) and Eysbertse and Eysbertse (1997). A thematic history illustrating the persuasiveness of past literature to label the Dutch as ‘the invisible migrant’ is presented by Velthuis (2005) and provides reasons as to why this has occurred.
One of the reasons migrants were encouraged to Australia by its government was to help fill gaps in the unskilled labour market. An overview of the many places of employment for Dutch migrants in New South Wales is presented in Velthuis (2005) as well as a concise discussion of the findings of previous authors. Initially Dutch migrants found their first employment in fields such as construction and industry, Bell (1981), Stokvis (1985) and Duyker (1987) discuss the most common places of employment for Dutch migrants in Australia. Using demographic information regarding the Dutch population in Wollongong, Bell (1981) considers the Australian Iron and Steelworks to be one of the largest employers of Dutch migrants in the region. The personal experiences of some of the difficult challenges that many Dutch migrants faced in finding work is relayed in Duyker (1987), where six immigrant stories are presented illustrating the circumstances that led to their commencement in various types of employment. More firsthand accounts of personal experiences can be found in Fikkers (2010) where interviews with Dutch migrants living in the Illawarra recount memories of language and communication barriers. Other difficulties in finding work, such as non-recognition of overseas qualifications and the incorrect translation of trade certificates are also expressed in Eysbertse and Eysbertse (1997). A demographic profile of Netherlands born people in New South Wales presented by Schindlmayr (2000) provides a thorough statistical analysis of the occupations of first, second and third generation migrants. Velthuis (2005) presents a discussion on the findings of Schindlmayr, commenting that the Dutch migrants in New South Wales have worked hard to move up the socio-economic ladder, and nowadays many work in occupations requiring tertiary education and management skills. Information about Dutch migrant women and places of occupation in the Illawarra can be extracted from the thematic history presented by Thom (2008). Past newspaper articles and company biographies are examined to conclude that unemployment was high for women living in the Illawarra in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Generally migrant and Australian women found work in similar places, typically in clothing factories or in unskilled positions within the Port Kembla Steelworks.
On arrival to Australia a large majority of immigrants were placed in migrant reception centres across the country and in particular Victoria and New South Wales. Little has been published regarding those in New South Wales, however, an indication of their character, operation and sense of meaning for immigrants as the first arrival destination in Australia may be extracted from the wider literature. Through the expression of quotes gathered in interviews Eysbertse and Eysbertse (2007) a very detailed overview of the accommodation at migrant reception camp Bonegilla is provided from a Dutch perspective. Many describe being separated into men’s and women’s dormitories, the buildings were unlined army huts with very thin walls which often had holes in them. Despite the poor quality of the buildings there are reports in the literature that it was not a disaster for everybody, with some being very grateful as they had been unsuccessful at finding accommodation in the Netherlands. Literature regarding the negative impacts on migrants of Australia’s migrant reception camps and other first places of accommodation can be found in Sluga (1998), however this encompasses all migrants and is not Dutch specific. An introduction to the accommodation of immigrants arriving in the Illawarra post- World War Two is presented by Walker (2007), it is the most comprehensive literature found regarding migrant accommodation in the Illawarra. Walker (2007) discusses the housing shortages following World War Two and the conception of hostels built to alleviate these issues. Accommodation types such as tents, caravans, garages, flats or sheds were common in the Illawarra and the experiences of migrants who utilised these can be found in Fikkers (2010) and Peters (2006). On the World Wide Web the site at www.migrantweb.com is a forum that is contributed to by past immigrants to Australia. It provides a great insight into the experiences and memories of Fairy Meadow/Balgownie migrant hostel in the 1950’s through the sharing of photographs and comments posted by the migrants themselves.
2.7 Social Organisation
A good introduction to the variety of Dutch clubs in Australia is presented by the Federation of Netherlands Societies (1985), which lists the history, background and activities of its members. For insight into the mechanisms that led to the formation of the Dutch Australian Society Illawarra, Fikkers (2010) provides interviews with some of its founding members. The Dutch Australian Society also maintains a website that lists social events and provides information on its formation. Dutch artists, scientists and sports have been covered minimally by Duyker (1987), however a more comprehensive discussion on Dutch social life, customs, sport and recreation is presented in Velthuis (2005).
The amalgamation of interviews, surveys, statistical analysis and online forums have all provided a comprehensive insight into Dutch migration to New South Wales and the Illawarra in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Literature specific to the Illawarra is minimal; however the recent Illawarra Heritage Migration Project has made a number of positive contributions. Literature regarding the Dutch in Australia is widely available. Although many publications are decades old, those that contain interviews and memories of Dutch migrants remain relevant, as they are perspectives on a past that can never change.
3. Description of Approach
The following method of approach was used to complete the project:
- A search of the literature including books, reports, historic/present newspapers, thematic studies, and online materials such as websites, blogs and other social networking sites was undertaken to establish the feasibility of the aims and objectives within the subject topic. Assessment of the literature determined that there was a definite need for the project.
- Communication with members of the Dutch community in the Illawarra to research themes for the exhibition. Discussions took place with Bill Fikkers author of ‘Dutchies in the Illawarra’ and member of the Dutch Australian Society Illawarra. Also conversations occurred with other Dutch migrants whilst visiting the Dutch Australian Society Illawarra. Discussions with family members to gain an insight into their feelings on growing up as a migrant family in Wollongong.
- Utilised the Local Studies library at the Wollongong City Library to find exhibition items suitable for the online museum. Appendix 1 is an example of correspondence with the library providing permission to display historic images.
- Web research to discover the best approach for displaying and creating the museum online. The social networking site ‘Blogger’ was chosen as it was free to join and allows the user to publish material and design pages in a number of unique ways without needing to have a high computer technical proficiency. Blogger is easily accessible by the public and allows users to share information from the site with other social networking sites.
- The overall look and design of the Online Museum was composed using a combination of text, video and images. Throughout the implementation of the project the website design was continuously changed and developed upon. The design focus was to place emphasis on the objects and provide a detailed background which would deliver a comprehensive story. Themes were employed to help disseminate the information into a logical order to assist in the story telling and break up the length of text. Themes included Australia’s Migration Scheme, The Dutch East Indies, Dutchies in Wollongong, Life in Corrimal, Accommodation, Assimilation, Churches, Clubs and Societies, Culture and Customs and Where are they now? Page design was kept simple with easily accessible headings at the top of the page that can be used as links to navigate through the online museum.
The Wandering Dutch project is effective in meeting its aim of creating an online museum to provide information, promote the place-making influence of post-war Dutch migrants in the Illawarra region and tell the story of what it was like for them to settle in the area.
The use of the internet social networking site ‘Blogger’, as the medium for which the chosen objects and associated information were displayed, has a number of key positive aspects. Digital media, in particular the internet and social networking sites, are rapidly growing as tools in modern museums communication belts. Employed across the world as a method in disseminating information, engaging the public in learning experiences, promoting and encouraging new custom, digital and social media has been recognised as the future for museums. Kelly (2009) argues that social media is an effective tool in order for museums to facilitate learning, as they help to create an environment that encourages exploration and enable meaning to be constructed through choice, challenge, control and collaboration.
The social networking site ‘Blogger’ was chosen as it is free, easy to use and is easily accessible to most people. A limitation in using a site like ‘Blogger’ is that the breadths of design capabilities are restricted to those that function within the network. In this instance however, the basic templates that were provided worked to the advantage of the user’s limitations, those being a restrained time frame, and basic technological skills. To design and create a website required a budget larger than was available for this project and also technological/design skills which were beyond the capabilities of the user within the timeframe of thirteen weeks.
The Online Museum could be improved with additional objects and more opportunity for user interaction with the site. The advantage of an Online Museum however, is that there is the always the opportunity to easily make new additions and expand on what has already been created.
The Dutch in Australia have made a significant impact on its development as a nation. Cities such as Wollongong that have had a large proportion of their population represented by Dutch migrants have benefitted the most from their influence. Undoubtedly the uniqueness of Dutch culture deserves to be recognised and celebrated along with the many other multicultural communities that inhabit the region. The ‘Wandering Dutch’ Online Museum has made a contribution towards promoting awareness of Dutch migrants in the Illawarra and encouraging second and third generation members of the community to learn about their heritage.
· Bell, J., 1981. Making Australian Society – The Dutch. Thomas Nelson Australia, West Melbourne.
· de Jong, L., 2002. The Collapse of a Colonial Society – The Dutch in Indonesia during the Second World War KITLV Press, Leiden.
· Duyker, E., 1987. The Dutch in Australia. AE Press, Melbourne.
· Eysbertse, M. and Eysbertse, D., 2006. ‘Bonegilla – Where Waters Meet, The Dutch Migrant Experience in Australia’ Erasmus Foundation, North Brighton, Vic.
· Fikkers, B., 2010. Dutchies in the Illawarra. Tarrawanna, NSW.
· Jupp, J. (ed), 2001. The Australian people: an encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
· Kelly, L. 2009. The Impact of Social Media on Museum Practice. Paper presented at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 20 October, 2009.
· Mitchell, C., Zappala, G. and Castles, S., 1998. Post 1947 migration to Australia and modes of socio-political mobilisation. University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW.
· Murdoch, P., 1974. Duyfken and the first discoveries of Australia. Antipodean Publishers, 22/3 Campbell Street, Artarmon, NSW.
· Peters, N., 2006. The Dutch Downunder 1606-2006. University of Western Australia Press, Crawley, WA.
· Schindlmayr, T., 2000. Community Profiles 1996 census – Netherlands Born. Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Belconnen, ACT.
· Stokvis, P., 1985. Nederland en de internationale migratie, 1815-1960. In: F. Van Halthoon. (ed). De Nederlandse samenleving sinds 1815. Wording en samenhang. Assen/ Maastricht, 1985. pp 71-92.
· Thom, L. 2008. The Places Migrant Women Found Work in Wollongong Illawarra Migration Heritage Project. http://www.mhpillwarra.com (Accessed: 15/09/10).
· Velthuis, K., 2005. The Dutch in NSW – a Thematic History.
http://www.heritage.nsw.gov.au/docs/thematichistory_dutch (Accessed: 15/09/10).
· Walker, M., 2007. First Accommodation for Migrants Arriving in Wollongong post World War Two Illawarra Migration Heritage Project. http://www.mhpillwarra.com (Accessed: 15/09/10).