Dutch settlers in South Australia.

Although the Dutch seem to be the first to have discovered Australia, including parts of Tasmania and South Australia, they have never made a great impact as a group of settlers. As there was never any real religious persecution or high unemployment in Holland, there never was the kind of mass immigration by the Dutch similar to that of the Irish, Germans, Cornish or Italians. This does certainly not mean that they have not made a contribution to South Australia. As individuals many have made an impressive and lasting contribution to their adopted country.

After the initial discovery of the north coast of Australia in 1606 by Willem Janszoon, captain of the Duyfken, it was not until 1622 that the Governor General of Dutch East Indie, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, made plans and gave instructions for a thorough investigation of the South Land. He wanted ‘to ascertaining as much of the situation and nature of these regions as God Almighty shall vouchsafe to allow’.

All of this has been strongly denied by George Collingridge who wrote extensively about the discovery of Australia. His best known book, published in 1895, was The Discovery of Australia…. In it he strongly argued that it was the Portuguese who discovered Australia. In fact it could have been anyone, except the Dutch, whose claim and evidence he almost ridiculed. As late as 1916 he stood by his convictions by demeaning some of the Dutch discoveries in Western Australia. After 1917 his writings came under attack, particularly by Professor Arnold Wood of the University of Sydney.

In 1627 parts of the south coast were discovered and mapped. Early that year the crew of the Gulden Zeepaerdt, under the command of Francois Thijssen, sighted the most southerly part of the continent, which was already known as New Holland, and sailed east as far as present day Ceduna. On board was Pieter Nuyts(Nuijts) who was on his way to Batavia to work for the Dutch East Indies Company. Later it was Governor Anthonio van Diemen who sent Abel Tasman for some further investigations.

The land charted by Thijssen was named Pieter Nuytsland and two of the islands St Peter and St Francis. Later, both the French and English navigators, including Matthew Flinders, praised the accuracy of the Dutch mapping, the first of any part of the southern coast. They are now the oldest place names in South Australia. Apart from being the first to discover and map Australia, the Dutch were also the first to transport their convicts to the Australian mainland. In 1629 Wouter Loos and Jan Pellegrimsz de Beye were put ashore in Western Australia for their part in the murders of the passengers of the wrecked Batavia.

There may also have been some survivors of shipwrecks who settled in Australia. In 1834 the English newspaper, The Leeds Mercury reported on 25 February that a secret English expedition to Australia in 1832, led by Lieutenant Nixon, had discovered a small group of 300 white people, descendants of Dutch survivors from shipwrecks of the late 1600s. The story was later reported again in the Perth Gazette of 1837.

In 1848 A.C. Gregory wrote in his journal that he had explored the country where the Dutchmen had landed and found a tribe whose character differed considerably from the average Aborigine. ‘Their colour was neither black nor copper, but that peculiar colour that prevails with a mixture of European blood’. He also noted that agricultural science had made some progress among them as they never dug a yam without planting the crown back into the soil.

On 1 August 1711 the VOC ship Zuytdorp left Holland for Batavia with a load of silver coins. It arrived at Capetown in 1712 and was later wrecked on the Western Australian coast. The surviving crew members could have made it to shore and may have intermarried with the local Aborigines. In 1834 Aborigines told a local farmer about a wreck and coins on the beach. The wreck was eventually located in 1927, including many of its coins. Recently DNA testing has been carried out to establish if there is a possible link with the crew and the local Aborigines.

Daisy Bates also noted that some Aborigines had distinctly Dutch traces. To her there was no mistaking about their flat heavy Dutch face, curly hair and heavy stocky build. More recently Les Hiddens, of Bush Tucker Man fame, gave it some publicity in his ABC programme ‘The Dutch Settlement’. Lately the VOC Historical Society, formed in 2000, has been working with the Nanda Indigenous people of Western Australia in an effort to find out if a genetic link with the Dutch can be established.

Not finding anything of their liking or to trade, most of the Dutch soon lost interest in New Holland and very few thought of colonising it or establishing a small foothold or port. However on 20 May 1717, Jean Pierre Purry, who had been working for the Dutch East Indie Company, VOC or Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie, tried to convince the Governor of Batavia that a colony should be established in Nuytsland. He came up with several good reasons but was unsuccessful. When back in Holland he put together a small book on the subject, which was published in Amsterdam in 1718. Although unsuccessful once again the ideas were not forgotten altogether.

When the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay, seventy years later in 1788, it brought convicts of some forty different nationalities, including Dutch. It was Dutch Captain Detmer Smit, of the Waaksamheyd, who brought the first news of the Mutiny on the Bounty to Governor Philip in Sydney. Some of the first escaped convicts from Sydney, including Mary Bryant, were later taken on Dutch ships on the way to England to face the hangman.

When the first official settlers arrived on Kangaroo Island in 1836 they found among its residents also a Dutchman by the name of Jacob Seaman who had been there since 1832 and remained until his death in 1846.

When the Skjold arrived on 28 October 1841 with a large number of Lutheran migrants, August Weinert from Holland was amongst them. His small son Johann Ernestine Weinert had died during the trip on 28 August and was buried at sea. Reinder Eppes van de Molen, born in 1824, settled in Hahndorf in the 1850s and had later a street named after him.

In March 1855 Dutchman Jan Vannick was found not guilty in the Victorian Supreme Court for his part in the Ballarat Eureka affair.

The Dutch may not have been interested in establishing permanent settlements in Australia, they certainly did not waste time trading once it was settled by white colonists. As early as 1853 Dutch ships, among them the Neerlands Koenig and the Drie Vrienden, called at Port Adelaide to deliver goods for a thirsty population. By 1870 the Dutch rulers of present day Indonesia had hopes of encouraging trade with Australia while at the same time discouraging emigration from the Indies to Australia. The slave trade and ‘disguised slave trade’ in the form of coolies or indentured workers for the pearl industry and other employment in the north was also frowned upon by the Dutch.

In 1862, Irish born Bishop Dr Geoghegan went back to Europe in an effort to obtain a number of good Catholic Priests for his Adelaide Diocese. With the help of the Archbishop of Utrecht he was able to secure three Dutch Priests who were willing to do some missionary work in South Australia. They were Theodorus Bongaerts, Charles van der Heijden and Englebertus van Dieren.

Obbe Wassenaar, seaman, arrived on the Elphinstone in 1863 and settled at Port Adelaide. Two other early Dutch settlers, living in Adelaide in 1870, were Rev A.T. Boas and C.L. Klisser. Both came originally from Amsterdam. Abraham Tobias Boas, born on 25 November 1842, arrived in South Australia in February 1870. Within a year of his arrival, a new Synagogue was opened in Rundle Street. Among the first to be married there were Boas and Elizabeth Solomon. Boas worked hard for the Jewish congregation and as a mark of recognition for his more than fifty years of work was given the status of Rabbi in 1921. He died on 20 February 1923.

During the 1850s several Dutch ships were involved in bringing Chinese gold seekers to Robe.

Roy Rene

Jumping ship was a much-used way to start a new life in South Australia. A good number of Dutch sailors did just that. A Dutchman by the name of John Brown, (Jan de Bruin?), was contracted to ship as able seaman on the Cambalu bound for Liverpool in 1854. After having received his advance note of Seven Pounds from the Shipping Office at Port Adelaide, he cashed it at the Port Hotel and absconded. He was arrested four months later in Currie Street. In 1861 Henry Kramer, aged 19, deserted the Luisa and Jan Jacobs the Tubal Cain. Jan van Ooran, born in Veendam in 1872, jumped ship in Fremantle in 1890. Within a year he had made his way to Adelaide where he married in November 1891.

When the Dutch war ship Djambi visited Adelaide in April 1863, The Register published an article headed ‘What Australia owes to Holland’. It told of the brave and enterprising ancestors who discovered Australia and named it New Holland. Before the ship left Captain Van Rees gave a party which was attended by the South Australian Governor. Unfortunately when Dutch ships visited Port Adelaide, her sailors were not always on their best behaviour either. In March 1864, Captain Hoogenstraaten of the Dutch ship Baron van Pallandt van Roosendaal, had a notice placed in the local papers that he would not be answerable for any debt contracted by his crew. When the Dutch Fleet visited Australia in 1910 a large number of sailors jumped ship and at least twelve of them later settled in Adelaide.

Of Dutch background, Harry van der Sluice was born in Adelaide in 1892. He became much better known as Roy Rene and later formed the comedy duo of Stiffy and Mo. He was also well known for his distinctive black and white face makeup.

One of the best known and most important Dutch immigrant to arrive in Australia was Guillaume Daniel Delprat. Born in Delft on 1 September 1856, Delprat worked in several countries on large engineering projects and mines. He spoke several languages and was soon recognised as one of the world’s best mining experts. In June 1898 Delprat, his wife Henrietta and their children, arrived in Australia to work for BHP. In 1899 he became General Manager and his most important contribution to BHP, Australia and the mining industry was his pioneering of the flotation process of sulphide ore separation.

Under Delprat production was doubled and later he became involved with the Port Pirie smelters, the Iron Knob railway and the Newcastle Steelworks. Delprat’s youngest daughter, Francisca Adriana ‘Paquita’ married Sir Douglas Mawson. In 1942 Lady Mawson was instrumental in establishing the Dutch club Oranje. Both Mawson and Paquita are buried at the St Judes Cemetery Brighton.

Settlement of Dutch immigrants in South Australia has been limited, both in size and nature. There have never been Dutch community groups in urban or rural areas as the majority of them have integrated readily with the host community and most speak the English language fluently after a relatively short time.

In 1947 there were only 86 Dutch South Australians. But after the Second World War, as a result of the independence of Indonesia and the shortage of housing in Holland, migration from Holland increased markedly when more than 12,000 arrived. The majority of Dutch migrants settled in the eastern States but by 1961 there were 12,539 of them living in South Australia. Since then the number has steadily decreased as migration has virtually stopped due to the much better economic conditions in Holland. According to the census of 1991 there were 9,862 people living in South Australia of Dutch background. By the time of the 2006 census this had decreased to 7,789.

In an effort to attract more Dutch migrants the Australian and Dutch governments initiated the Australie Jongeren Programma (Australian Youth Programme). Under this scheme groups of young Dutch men and women, with a good working knowledge of English, were to work in Australia for a period of two years. At the end of this time, during which they had to save up for their return trip, they would go back to Holland and inform prospective emigrants, at official meetings, about conditions in Australia. Although most of them stayed in Adelaide a good number of them went north and worked in Leigh Creek.

Several of the men worked on the coalfield whereas all of the women worked as nurses in the local hospital. After having returned to Holland most of them came back to South Australia as immigrants themselves, followed by other Dutch migrants.

During the late 1950s the De Heer family migrated to Australia, after a short stay in Indonesia. Their son Rolf, film writer and director, born in 1951, worked for seven years at the ABC before attending the Australian TV and Radio School. His first feature film was Tail of a Tiger. Eventually Rolf settled in South Australia becoming one of Australia’s foremost film makers. Among some of his best known films are Bad Boy Bubby, Epsilon, Alien Visitor, Incident at Raven’s Gate, Dingo, The Quiet Room, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Dance me to my song and The Old Man who read Love Stories.

Among his latest efforts are the films The Tracker and Ten Canoes. The Tracker deals with a racist police officer hunting a fugitive Aborigine, starring David Gulpilil and Gary Sweet.

Among the Dutch migrants arriving in 1963 was Hero Nuuns. He became the elephant keeper at the Adelaide Zoo and for the next 25 years looked after Samorn. Today at the southern point of the Strzelecki track at Lyndhurst, surveyed in 1896, lives another Dutch born identity. Here well known self-taught Talc artist, poet, bush philosopher and supporter of the Australian Republic and a new flag for Australia, Cornelius Alferink has carved himself a place in outback art and modern history.

Because the Dutch assimilated readily they have become almost ‘invisible’ even though they once made up the third largest non-English speaking migrant group after the Italians and the Germans.

Although small in number, the skills and enterprise of the Dutch have made important contributions to South Australia and Australia in general. Alby Mangels certainly advertised Australia to the world. For many years there was the giant Philips Electrical Industries complex at Hendon. Port Stanvac harbour was developed by a Dutch company as was the dredging of the Whyalla Harbour.

The Dutch in South Australia