King and Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands visit the National Archives of Australia

Welcome speech

David Fricker
Director-General, National Archives of Australia

National Archives of Australia, Parkes, ACT

2 November 2016

  • Your Majesty King Willem-Alexander
  • Your Majesty Queen Máxima
  • Your Excellency Mr Bert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Your Excellency Ms Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
  • Your Excellency Mr Jan Versteeg, Grand Master of the House of His Majesty the King
  • Major-General Hans van der Louw, Adjutant-General of His Majesty the King
  • Your Excellency Ms Erica Schouten, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Australia
  • Senator Zed Seselja, representing the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia
  • Dr Denver Beanland, Chair, National Archives of Australia Advisory Council
  • Distinguished guests.

It is my great honour to welcome you the National Archives of Australia.

And on this occasion that celebrates the enduring connection between the people of Australia and the Netherlands, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I also pay my respects to their elders past and present.

The National Archives of Australia is the institution entrusted with memory of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The billions of documents, photographs, sounds, and moving images that we preserve constitute the evidence and memory of our nation’s deeds since our federation at the beginning of last century.

And within our Archives we hold the records of individuals – the achievements great and small of the people that have built the nation – the people that have shaped the landscape, the cities and the culture that is modern Australia.

And, Your Majesties, a very important part of that Australian story is also a Dutch story!

In 1616 Dirk Hartog made landfall on the Island that now bears his name, inscribing the famous pewter dish that is the oldest record of European landfall in Australia. And in the 400 years since that historic event, the Dutch influence has been a powerful ingredient in Australia's multicultural mix.

Of course we have dropped the name of 'New Holland' (sorry about that!) but there is still a distinctly Dutch flavour to be found here.

In recent times, between 1951 and 1970, about 160,000 Dutch nationals migrated to Australia in the largest period of Dutch immigration in Australia's history facilitated by the Netherlands Australia Migration Agreement and Allied Ex-Servicemen's Schemes.

Many ships were chartered for the purpose, including the Groote Beer, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Nelly, Sibajak, Skaubryn and Waterman, and some KLM Airlines flights were also specially chartered to carry migrants from the Netherlands to their new homes in Australia.

Today there are close to 95,000 residents in Australia who were born in the Netherlands and an estimated 300,000 Australians who claim Dutch ancestry.

Their contribution to Australia has been extraordinary. In infrastructure, science, sport, politics and culture so much of what we now accept and treasure as "Australian" was brought here in the minds and hearts of those brave, optimistic and hardworking individuals and families that made the long trip from the Netherlands to start a new life in Australia.

In a few minutes you will be meeting some of those extraordinary people.

And here, in the National Archives of Australia, we are committed to preserving this memory. And not simply as boxes of papers on a shelf – we are always looking to the future, seizing the wonderful opportunities of digital technology to bring these records to life, to ensure that this "living memory" not only shows us our past, but more importantly will be carried with us into the future to ensure the relations between our nations continue to flourish.

Your Highness, in your speeches to the European Parliament, United Nations and other fora you remind us that the world and its peoples are interconnected and the fortunes of nations depend on how we interact.

As you will see, the interactions between Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands have been very fruitful indeed and we can be proud of our shared history preserved in the records of the National Archives.

I can confidently say that the prosperity that Australia enjoys today is, in no small part, thanks to the Netherlands and its people.

And not only can I say that, but here at the Archives we have the records that prove it!

Once again, I welcome your Majesties to the National Archives of Australia and I invite you now to meet some of the people that represent our shared history.

Thank you.

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