Monday, January 30, 2006

Netherlands - Australia 1606 - 2006

In March 1606 the ‘Duyfken’, a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), chanced upon unknown land south of Java. Captain Willem Janszoon sent his men ashore to explore the area. On the map that Captain Janszoon presented to his superiors on his return he referred to the newly discovered area as a part of New Guinea. However, it was not an unknown part of New Guinea he had discovered, but the coast of Queensland in Australia. He was therefore the first European, as far as has been recorded, who made contacts with this new continent.

The landing of the Duyfken marked the beginning of a long relationship between the Netherlands and Australia. From 1606 to 1770 some 30 other Dutch ships followed the Duyfken’s example. These all landed on the north, south and west coasts of Australia. Through these explorations the VOC contributed greatly to the mapping of the sixth continent. Not only several geographical names, such as Cape Keerweer, Rottnest Island and Duyfken Point, serve as reminders of the early presence of the Dutch in Australia, but also the wrecks of the four VOC ships that sunk along the coast of Australia. The Batavia, that perished on the West Coast of Australia in 1628, is probably the most infamous of these four ships.

The year 2006 marks the 400th anniversary of the start of the relationship between Australia and the Netherlands. In 2006, both countries will celebrate this friendship. The special nature of the relationship that the two countries have shared in the past, and share now, is a good reason to do so. In both countries a programme of activities is under preparation. The programme will contain several exhibitions, symposia, and exchanges in the fields of sports, culture and science. Through these activities the relationship between Australia and the Netherlands will be further intensified for the future.