Jozef Jacob (Joop) van der Laan was a Dutch journalist born in Assen, in 1886. Coming from a family of butchers, Joop ventured into journalism and began his career as a volunteer at the local newspaper, the Asser Courant. Driven by his adventurous spirit, he embarked on a world tour, documenting his experiences in a diary that later formed the basis of his newspaper articles.

After his travels, Joop returned to the Netherlands and resumed working at the Asser Courant. However, in 1911, he set off for Medan in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) to become the Editor in Chief of the Deli Courant, a position he held for over two decades. During his time in Sumatra, he met Maria Lydia Frey, whom he married in Tokyo, Japan, in 1917.

In 1936, Joop relocated to the Netherlands with his wife and two daughters but continued his journalism career. Recognising the growing threat of Nazi Germany, he became an outspoken critic, tirelessly warning the public about the danger. Fearing for his safety as a Jewish individual, Joop made the difficult decision to leave his family behind and escape to London on the eve of the Dutch forces’ surrender.

Joop van der Laan with his daughter, Elizabeth, and his grand children John (in his mother’s arms), Theodore (Ted) and Lis, Botanic Garden Sydney, August 1951

In London, Joop found employment with the Netherlands National News Agency (ANP), regularly spoke on Free Dutch Radio, and contributed articles to the London-based weekly newspaper Vrij Nederland. In 1946, he and his wife returned to the Netherlands briefly before traveling to Australia in May 1947, where Joop assumed the role of press officer at the Dutch Embassy in Melbourne. Later, he served as an officer for Press and Cultural affairs with the Dutch Consular Service in Sydney.

Joop’s experiences as an immigrant in Australia led him to write a book about the country, which was published in 1950, showcasing his ability to adapt and create a new life. After returning to the Netherlands in 1951, Joop became the Managing Director of the Dutch publishing house Koch & Knuttel in Gouda. He eventually retired around 1964. Together with his wife he moved to a retirement home at Bilthoven in 1967 and he died on 11 December 1981.

Throughout his life, Joop van der Laan received recognition for his contributions, including being appointed as an officer of the Order of Oranje-Nassau

His granddaughter (the author of the story of Joop van der Laan) Lis Drew-Wynberg emigrated with her parents to Australia. Both her parents were born in Indonesia. Her parents met in London and were married in 1944.Lis was born in England (1945) and went with her parents to the Netherlands in 1946. They emigrated to Australia in 1951.

Book: Australië, land van vele mogelijkheden

Jozef Jacob van der Laan, Australië, land van vele mogelijkheden. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Holland, 1950. (Australia, land of many possibilities). With a foreword by the then Minister for Immigration (later Prime Minister) Harold Holt,

National Library of Australia