November 2, 2016
On 25 October 1616, Dutch mariner Dirk Hartog, commanding the Eendracht, made landfall on an island just off the Western Australian coast. He then famously nailed a pewter plate to a post before sailing north, charting the coast as he went.
In so doing, Dirk Hartog became the second Dutchman to walk on Australian shores, after the arrival of Willem Janszoon in 1606. Together they were the first recorded Europeans to come upon a new land.
These early journeys marked the beginning of engagement between the world’s oldest living culture, Aboriginal Australians, and the new seafaring merchants of Europe.
Within just 30 years, Dutch navigators (particularly Abel Tasman) had mapped nearly half the continent they called New Holland.
To celebrate 400 years of shared history, Australia welcomes the arrival of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, together with government ministers and a delegation of more than 90 Dutch companies representing sectors from agriculture and horticulture to logistics, health, sports and smart cities.
Our shared history is given greater meaning by a heritage of common values. The Netherlands was an early pioneer of democracy and liberalism on the European continent. It remains a consistent and powerful advocate for these values today. These same principles shaped the life of a young Australian nation in the early 20th century. Today, our shared interests have been solidified through the signing of the Declaration on a Strategic Dialogue.
Australia and the Netherlands are like-minded and outspoken champions for democracy and the rule of law. Whether fighting alongside each other in military operations or pursuing justice for the victims of the downing of flight MH17, we are willing to stand up for our beliefs and values. The Netherlands and Australia also work side-by-side in the United Nations and other international forums such as the Global Counter Terrorism Forum to counter terrorism and the threat of foreign fighters.
Our people-to-people links are growing ever closer. Nearly 400,000 Australians claim Dutch heritage, and Australian commercial, artistic, academic and sporting life has been immeasurably enriched by their contribution. Australians are studying in increasing numbers at Dutch universities and working for Netherlands-based companies and international bodies. The New Holland Scholarship Australia, that will be launched this week, shall enable students from both countries to study abroad and immerse themselves in the culture of each nation.
We are strongly connected across the science and research sectors, working together on a wide array of endeavours, from leading medical research projects to peering into deep space with our collaboration on the Square Kilometre Array telescope.
Our enduring commercial links have helped build both nations. Today, our relationship is buoyed by Dutch expertise in infrastructure, banking and water management and Australian leadership in mining, tourism and education.
Two-way trade and Dutch investment in Australia – by the likes of Shell, Unilever, ING, Rabobank and many others from diverse sectors – has nurtured both Australia’s commercial development and Dutch corporate success. These businesses share their state-of-the-art and sustainable production methods that foster growth and innovation in our economies. Few appreciate that the Netherlands is the fourth largest foreign investor in Australia and the Netherlands is a top 10 investment destination for Australians. We are heavily invested in each other’s success.
This year we celebrate the man and the nation that quite literally put Australia on the map. While Dutch navigators and cartographers drew Australia into the pages of the modern world, it is our shared values and common interests that sustain our relationship today. Dirk Hartog’s pewter plate may today be a fragile relic, but the friendship between our countries has never been stronger or brighter.