Centenary Celebrations of Discovery of Australia / 400 jaar ontdekking van
Australie in 2006
In 2006, it will be 400 years ago that the large landmass that mathematicians and cartographers
had speculated about was finally discovered by Dutch crew on Duyfken. There are indications Egyptians inhabited the south
land thousands of years ago. Sumerian and Maya descriptions of a lost land in the ocean
have been found. On Crates' map of the world, Australia is named 'Antoecie' as on the Grek map by Eratosthenese in 239 BC. Scientists in the late
middle ages argued that there
must be a southern landmass to counterbalance the Northern known world. The discovery of
the America's had suggested their must be a landmass south of Euro-Asia, but until 400
years there was no proof.
However, in 1606 they proved to be right when Dutch VOC
seafarers made a landing,
and 300 kilometres of coastline was chartered. It was the Duyfken, with a crew of 20
captained by Willem Janszoon who discovered Terra Australis or the South Lands for
the western civilisation.
Dirk Hartog charted the West Australian coast, in 1616. He left the pewter
Dirk Hartog Island at Shark Bay and using the information from these two, subsequent
explorers like Abel Tasman and James Cooke charted other coasts of Australia.
Since Cooke had the good fortune of sailing up the east coast with its many inlets and
harbours, the British got the best cards for settling the land.
The earliest white settlers recorded were Wouter Loos and Jan Pelgrom de Bye,
young mutineers from the Batavia shipwreck who were abandoned the on the WA coast.
The Batavia had been on its way to Indonesia, and using the prevailing western winds had
straddled too far south, and had bumped into the reefs along the WA coast. The crew decided to take over the ship from its captain, and set camp on the nearby Abrolhos Island. The captain and first officers were dumped in a rowing boat.
Instead of succumbing, they managed to row an epic distance north towards Batavia town,
and mount a rescue party to reclaim the ship and its passengers and goods.
On return they found that the crew had killed, raped many of the passengers, and with the
help of soldiers the crewmen were killed, hung or imprisoned. The VOC had severe penalties against mutineers.
As other VOC ships also used the Western Winds to head for Batavia quickly,
navigation was not overly accurate still, more VOC ships saw the WA coast. In 1656 the
Gilt Dragon ran aground on a reef just south of ledge point, and 68 survivors were forced
to make home on the WA coast. Others joined them from the Zuytdorp when it ran
aground in 1712. There are indications from early discoverers , tales in aboriginal history,
and navigation markings on rocks near Palm Valley (central Australia) that suggest these
white immigrants may have mixed and influenced local aboriginal tribes. A Scottish
traveller's log reports of seeing white aborigines, and aborigines wearing white round
fluffy collars around their necks (in the way of Dutch fashion at that time).
Serious research by the Bush Tucker man into these allegations
convinced him that
although direct physical evidence has not been found, the tales appear true. He also
concluded that decent anthropological/ archeological research into these traces has not
yet been done.
As late as 1829, 200 years after the Batavia tragedy, James
Stirling sailed up the Swan
River to establish a regular WA pioneer colony. Despite the English domination in
Australian history books, Western Australia has 154 years more European history than
NSW on the east coast.
In many ways, the discovery is historical: few countries have ben linked throughout history for
such a longtime as Australia and the Netherlands. In addition to historical and business ties,
social and cultural ties abound through the many thousands of immigrants now. It is estimated
that currrently one quarter of a million Australians have Dutch blood in them.
Another aspect of the discovery refers to the tremendous impact of white culture on ancient
aboriginal culture. Early contact with the Dutch seafares appears to have been friendly in
WA (as oppose to encounters further north in Cape Keerweer where aboriginal
people forced the Dutch to turn round) and the intriguing story of white-aboriginals and
aboriginals wearing Dutch clothing keeps cropping up.
There is a persist rumour of a Dutch royal coming to visit WA, and indications are Prins Alexander and wife will be attending.
Murdoch University is collaborating in obtaining oral history from the Nyunga people.
Financial support is sought to preserve as much as possible in view of the age of Nyunga elders and the size of the tribe.
Several Dutch ships have been forced to land on WA coasts, from Vergulde
Draeck, Witte Valk, Sardam, Zeewijck en Zuijtdorp. A period of unwritten WA
history is going to be made.
Activities in the Netherlans: for a full list visit Nederland-Australie2006.nl for exhibitions, a Congres on Dutch migration in march, etc. Details: Bureau Nederland-Australie, Groot Hertoginnenlaan 27, 2517 The Hague 31-70 360 7594 email@example.com
In Australia, the Dutch embassey coordinates activities: 120 Empire Circuit, Yarralumla ACT 2600, Canbera 61 2 622 094 00 firstname.lastname@example.org
The VOC Historical Society in WA is looked for partners to celebrate and commemorate the European discovery in 2006. Its intention is to set up activities, foster bonds and initiate joint activities in order to make Dutch and Australian citizens aware of the discovery 400 years ago.
Wouldn't it be good to
Contact: Tom Vandervelt, secretary VOC SOC, 17a Queens Rd, Mt Pleasant 6153 WA Australia (tel ... 93 16 8204)