Out there she is moored, the Duyfken. Of course, it is a replica, or rather a reconstruction.[i] Nevertheless thousands of people come on board, to relive the past. The past, by its very nature, is gone. The past is invisible. What are visible are traces. The objects we preserve and exhibit, the monuments we view, the Duyfken we visit – they derive their significance from the invisible. They are what the Polish-French historian Krzysztof Pomian has called semiophores, carriers of meaning.[ii] The recognition of the bond between an object and the invisible makes that object into a semiophore. The semiophore gets its meaning by the definition of the invisible to which the semiophore refers.[iii] The Duyfken refers to things invisible: not only to the invisible past, but also to what I would call the historical sensation, which is a sensation in the present.
But not only the Duyfken is a semiophore: all the records, charts, and other artefacts which were created during and after the voyage of 1606, are semiophores. The land retains traces too, which are part of Australia’s national heritage: the fort of the Batavia survivors on West Wallabi Island, WA, the shipwrecks and other archaeological remains, the rocks and rivers charted and named by the Dutch seafarers, to name but a few.[iv] Even the human body embodies traces of the Dutch! The magnificent book The Dutch Down Under 1606-2006, co-ordinated by Dr. Nonja Peters, contains a fascinating chapter by Rupert Gerritsen, secretary of the National Steering Committee of Australia on the Map, which presents the evidence of cohabitation between Indigenous and Dutch people in Western Australia: there are indigenous bodies affected by genetic factors introduced by Dutch mariners and passengers marooned in the 17th century.[v]
The Duyfken expedition has left only traces.[vi] Commanding the ship were schipper Willem Jansz and the supercargo (the merchant) Jan Lodewijksz van Rosingeyn. By the way, Jansz and Lodewijksz are patronymics (meaning: son of Jan, son of Lodewijk), not a surname as Van Rosingeyn or Tasman. They did record the journey in the ship’s logbook, in charts and in their report to the directors of the VOC, the Dutch United East India Company in Amsterdam and their representative in the East Indies. We do not have the original records, but only references to their contents in later reports and sailing instructions. The cartographer of the VOC in Amsterdam drew the discoveries of the Duyfken on his maps; one of them was later to serve Abel Tasman on his voyage.[vii] In 1623 another VOC schipper, Jan Carstensz, sailed with the Pera along the Queensland coast. He evidently had a copy of the report of the Duyfken on board. And in 1644, when Abel Tasman received his instructions to explore the south-land, they contained references to the Duyfken expedition and the chart made of that voyage.
John Saris, an agent of the British East India Company, who was in Bantam, Java, recorded the departure of the Duyfken on 18 November 1605, and the arrival back in Bantam. Saris learned from an indigenous sailor from Banda about the Duyken’s landing: “in sending their men on shoare to intreate of Trade, there was nine of them killed by the Heathens, which are man-eaters; so they were constrained to returne, finding no good to be done there…”. It is not quite clear from Saris’ account where the killing took place, but presumably only one was killed on Cape York Peninsula and eight on the coast of New Guinea[viii]. The Duyfken crew did not notice the opening we now call Torres Strait, believing that they still sailed along the New Guinea coast while, in fact, they had encountered the Queensland coast, on the west side of Cape York Peninsula at the Pennefather River: “one of the most significant historical sites in Australia. It is the place where, in 1606, the Indigenous people of the Australian continent probably first sighted Europeans.”[ix] We do not know the exact date, but it was between January and March 1606.[x]
From there they sailed into what is now Albatross Bay and Archer Bay, charting along the coast and naming several rivers. The Duyfken turned back at Keerweer. This is by many Anglophone writers translated as Turn again, but a more appropriate translation that is currently used is: Turn around (even today many a dead-end street in the Netherlands is called: keerweer).[xi] From Cape Keerweer – where they did not go ashore – they sailed north along the coast passing what are now Prince of Wales Island and the smaller islands to the north. Near Mulgrave and Banks islands, the Duyfken shaped her course westward to New Guinea and then to Banda, their point of departure.
At the mouth of the Batavia River – probably the modern Wenlock River – Willem Jansz met some Aboriginals who attacked the boat and killed one of the crew with a spear. The incident is related by Jan Carstensz who visited the Gulf 17 years after the Duyfken. Carstensz also noted in his journal that the black men he encountered were “acquainted with muskets, of which they would seem to have experienced the fatal effect when in 1606 the men of the Duyfken made a landing here.”[xii]
Carstensz explored the Southland further in 1623 with the ships the Pera and the Arnhem. On 17th April he set foot near Mitchell River, exploring inland and finding “a flat and fine country with few trees, good soil for planting and sowing, but but as far as we could see and observe with no fresh water at all.”[xiii] In the Edward river area[xiv] they encountered people who were “so forward and so bold that they grasped the muskets of our men and … they wanted to have all they saw; so that they were enticed with some iron and beads.”[xv] Apparently the Aboriginals were not afraid of the white men. Their trust, however, was soon dealt with a heavy blow, by the sailors catching one Aboriginal, to bring him to Batavia (Jakarta) so that he could inform the Council of the Indies of the customs, policies and the quality of the land. This seizure led the following day to a party of more than 200 Aboriginals trying to surprise the Dutch crew. When the crew fired two shots, the people fled. The very number of Aboriginals is remarkable, when one knows that James Cook never saw more than thirty Aboriginals at any one time, and that Dampier considered forty a great number.[xvi] And indeed, the coastal area of Cape York Peninsula was (even in recent times) quite densely populated.[xvii]
Later Carstensz caught another Aboriginal and was amazed by his skills. The two Aboriginals were brought to Amboina, one died there after some time; the other was taken by Carstensz to Batavia.[xviii] The VOC was eager to catch natives – preferably boys and girls – who (as one instruction reads) might be raised in Batavia and be used later in the newly charted lands, as interpreter and guide. In 1636, however, the VOC instructed the schipper “You will not carry off with you any natives against their will, but if a small number of them should be found willing to come hither of their own accord, you will grant them passage.”[xix]
Carstensz sailed further south, to the river which he named Statenrivier in honour of the States General of the Netherlands. On that spot Carstensz nailed a wooden tablet to a tree, mentioning his arrival on 24 April 1623.
Returning along the same route, Carstenz charted the coast, naming the rivers: Nassau, Vereenichde River, Coen River (now known as the Archer River), the Carpentier river (the modern Wenlock River[xx]) and river Van Speult (named after the governor of Ambon, Herman van Speult, who had ordered the expedition; possibly the present Jardine River).
The Dutch went exploring the interior several times, searching for fresh water, digging pits – unsuccessfully until on 1 May one of their pits yielded water. It might be the pit which still figures in the oral tradition of the Aboriginals. Thirty years ago Peter Sutton recorded a story, told in Wik-Ngatharra by Jack Spear Karntin, mentioning a well, at Wuypanga (north of Cape Keerweer) which the Dutchmen left behind: “It was they who dug it out. Black people never dug it out.”[xxi] This pit (if it can be found) might even give Queensland precedence over Western Australia in having on its territory “the oldest structure built by Europeans on the Australian continent”, as they claim over there for the two ruined ‘huts’ on West Wallabi Island of 1629, which were, on 6 April of this year, put in 26th place on the National Heritage List.
Several times there was a skirmish with the Aboriginals, who tried to prevent the Dutch from landing: on 7th May 1623 more than 100 people, some of them with their faces painted red, and others white. Five days later, at modern Port Musgrave, the crew was met by some 200 Aboriginals “making a violent clamour and noise, also threatened to throw their arrows.”[xxii] The Dutch fired one or two shots, wounding one Aboriginal who died in the boat returning to the main ship. In his net the Dutch found a piece of metal which Carstensz believed he had got from the men of the Duyfken, who had landed here 17 years before.
In his journal Carstensz noted every detail, for example about the expert way of throwing a spear, using what we know is a woomera. The crew collected a number of weapons “as a novelty”. However, Carstensz did not make any distinction between the Aboriginals of different clans. He could not have done so, because he did not know their language, his Dutch or Malay being to the ears of the people near Cape Keerweer /Wik-Waya/ – that is, “language-bad” or “language-difficult.”[xxiii] “If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.”[xxiv] Note that only recently the biblical barbarian was replaced by: foreigner.
Carstensz summed up his findings: the land “is a barren and arid tract, without any fruit-trees, and producing nothing fit for the use of man … The natives are in general barbarian[xxv], all resembling each other in shape and features … they are utterly unacquainted with gold, silver, tin, iron, lead and copper, nor do they know anything about nutmegs, cloves and pepper, all of which spices we repeatedly showed them without their evincing any signs of recognising or valuing the same; from all which together with the rest of our observations it may safely be concluded that they are poor and miserable people[xxvi], caring mainly for bits of iron and strings of beads…”[xxvii] Heeres, in his 1899 edition and translation of the Dutch documents, reads: abject wretches, for the Dutch “arme en miserabel menschen”, the usual reference at that time to personae miserabiles, the poor, sick and destitute people whom had to be assisted as cases for charity.[xxviii] I agree with Evan McHugh that there is “a sense that the Dutch were quite shocked by the condition of the Aboriginal people they encountered, which they took to be a strong indication of the quality of the country that sustained them.”[xxix] It could also be the other way round, as Peter Sutton suggested: the Dutch “denial of the existence of useful natural resources in the new land was something of a rationalisation of their fear of Aboriginals.”[xxx] In fact one of the very resources Carstenszoon was seeking, sandalwood, was later found in abundance only thirty or so kilometres inland of the Gulf coast and successfully harvested by Europeans and Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Weipa missions for trade with China in the early twentieth century.[xxxi]
Meanwhile the Arnhem had gone its own way, exploring the west coast of what later was named the Gulf of Carpentaria, charting north-eastern Arnhem Land, the Wessel islands and possibly Groote Eylandt.[xxxii] Neither the Arnhem, nor the Pera, and the Duyfken charted the southern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria. This was done in 1644 by the famous Abel Tasman, who two years earlier had sailed along south Australia, naming Van Diemen’s Island, what is now Tasmania. In his 1644 voyage Tasman charted the whole of the Gulf and the remainder of the north-west coast of what we now know as the Northern Territory. No journal of this expedition has survived. However, there are some maps which are evidently based on Tasman’s records. One of these is the so-called Bonaparte map, in the Mitchell Library in Sydney – both in its original form and reproduced in marble on the floor of the entrance hall. Recent research suggests that the Bonaparte map was compiled in Batavia under the direction of Isaac Gilsemans, the merchant travelling with Tasman, and done so before early 1647.[xxxiii]It is a copy of “one of the most famous and most beautiful maps ever executed by a Dutch cartographer.”[xxxiv]
Maps and charts, I said earlier, are semiophores, traces of an invisible past. They were essential tools for the VOC, both for the schippers and the Directors.[xxxv] Each ship was supplied with some 30 to 50 parchment maps, with globes and navigation instructions, totalling some 200 to 300 guilders per ship. Over 4 700 ships were equipped by the VOC during the course of its existence. After each journey logs and maps had to be delivered at the East India House in Amsterdam – today the seat of my university’s Faculty of Social Sciences. You can still visit the boardroom of the VOC, the walls adorned with replicas of the maps and paintings which formerly surrounded the VOC Directors. Elsewhere, in the navigation room, all the maps to be taken aboard were inventoried and kept ready. The ships’ logs and the maps that formed part of the reports from Asia were kept in the records room.
What is left of the immense VOC archives, created between 1602 and 1795? Many of the records were destroyed in the nineteenth century. What we have in The Netherlands, in the National Archives, is only a small part (even then some 1300 metres of shelving) of the total amount. But VOC records can also be found in Jakarta, Cape Town, Chennai (Madras), Colombo, Kuala Lumpur, London and Paris, totalling 4 kilometres. These records often fill the hiatus in the Dutch archives. The records kept in The Netherlands, on the other hand, form a unique source for the study of the history of the countries in the large area navigated and controlled by the VOC: they often contain information that cannot be found in the countries concerned. This is truly a common archival heritage. UNESCO has registered this common heritage as Memory of the World, the only item registered on a joint nomination by five countries. A large project has been set up to preserve all the VOC archives in the world, to connect and to describe all components of the VOC archives in a detailed “super inventory”, accessible on the Internet.
The VOC instructed the captains to keep a careful record or daily journal so “that we may get full information of all your doings and experiences, and the Company obtain due and perfect knowledge of the situation and natural features of these regions, in return for the heavy expenses to which she is put by this expedition.”[xxxvi] The VOC clearly regarded information-gathering and recordkeeping as a substantial trade-off.[xxxvii] The captains also had to furnish “fresh material for the correction of the charts now in use, and perhaps also of the courses to be kept.”[xxxviii] The records were a tool for knowledge management, enlarging and enhancing the knowledge base of the Company.
This knowledge basis was one of the VOC’s assets, to be kept secret from competitors, especially the British and the French. However, VOC records found their way abroad or into private hands. VOC Directors had copies of journals and maps made for private use, foreign agents acquired valuable information, profiting from the open information society that was the Dutch Republic. The official VOC map maker – nearly always a member of the Blaeu family – traded at the same time in private business, selling his hand-drawn and engraved maps on the open market. Not only the VOC headquarters were adorned with maps: it became a fashion for Dutch burghers to decorate their houses with maps, as we can see on paintings by Vermeer and others. Moreover, wealthy merchants started to collect maps and curiosities from abroad, to have the world, so to say, in their hands.[xxxix]
It is therefore no wonder that the maps made on board of the Duyfken, the Arnhem, and the Pera as well as during Tasman’s first voyage, all copied around 1670 together with other VOC maps[xl], ended up in private hands, in the collection of the 17th century Amsterdam lawyer Laurens van der Hem. His entire collection of 46 volumes of maps was bought at auction by Prince Eugene of Savoie; his heir sold the maps to the Imperial Library in Vienna.[xli] There the maps were discovered in the 1920s.[xlii] Recently the Van der Hem collection was registered in UNESCO’s Memory of the World register. The Duyfken map thus is part of the memory of the world. It shows for the first time “an actual part of Australia … as a result of observation,” as the renowned expert on the mapping of Australia Günter Schilder wrote.[xliii]
We no longer regard maps as a mirror of nature, but as cultural texts shaped by their political and social context. Maps are indeed semiophores, “sophisticated artefacts, to be read as much for what they reveal of the cultures that produce them as of the geographical information they represent.”[xliv] As Simon Ryan has written with regard to the 19th century explorers of Australia, the explorer does not just describe new land that he sees, and his journal is not a fresh and innocent transcription of the natural world: the “construction in the journals of what is seen by the explorers is generated by already existing cultural formation.”[xlv] And what was that formation in which the 17th century Dutch explorers operated? Manning Clark sardonically writes: the Dutch endeavours were motivated by “their insatiable covetousness.”[xlvi] Mapping for Money is the befitting title of the authoritative book on VOC mapmaking, written by Kees Zandvliet. Making a profit, was the rationale of the VOC: by buying and selling gold, silver, tin, iron, lead and copper, nutmegs, cloves and pepper. Exploring foreign lands was primarily done to discover faster and safer sailing routes and to find new possibilities for trading, for making money. The Dutch were traders, no colonizers.[xlvii] This does not mean that the Dutch did not celebrate their supremacy. Only a few years after Tasman’s second voyage, the city of Amsterdam built a new city hall, today’s Royal Palace. In the large Burgerzaal – the heart of the city hall – a world map and a celestial hemisphere were inlaid in the floor in marble and copper. It proudly displayed – as it displays today – New Holland, showing the coasts and rivers charted by the Duyfken, by Carstensz, Tasman and others. By going through the hall, the Amsterdam burghers were effectively walking on heaven and the earth.[xlviii] Mapping for money, yes, but also mapping for memory, the maps being visual markers of the Dutch endeavours all over the world.
Mapping for memory entailed that the land had to be made readable in the “trading gaze”, by naming land, rivers, and capes. The VOC instructions read: “To all the places which you will touch at, you will give names, befitting to the nature of the place, either using the names of the United Provinces and the cities situated therein, or any other worthy names.”[xlix] Some of these names still survive. Cape Keerweer is an old name (the Wik peoples call it Thew-en, sometimes Kep Kwiwi[l]), as are Arnhem Land and the Houtman rocks. The Yupungathi people, living at Mapoon but with traditional ties to the Pennefather River, sometimes refer to themselves generally as Conn River people. The Coen River in Archer Bay was named by Carstensz in 1623 after the VOC Governor General in Batavia. Later, Matthew Flinders unknowingly transferred the name Coen River he saw on his chart with the Dutch discoveries[li], to what has been known as the Pennefather River since 1894 (the name Coen River appeared, however, on the British Admiralty Chart until the 1960s!).[lii] Duyfken Point and Pera Head are not originally Dutch, but another two of Matthew Flinders’ “many tributes by way of nomenclature which he paid to the Dutch contribution to the charting of Australia.”[liii]
I referred earlier to the oral history of the Wik Aboriginal Peoples of Cape Keerweer. They have an intense interest in history, while making the past consistent with an idealized present in their stories.[liv] They “frequently tell the story of how they repulsed the Dutch, and it is a story told with passion.”[lv] The origin of that story, according to Peter Sutton, may have been a missionary referring to the historical account of John Saris who, as I mentioned, reported about nine Dutchmen having been killed by the heathens.[lvi] Sutton concluded recently that a conflict which occurred somewhere around 1900 has become amalgamated with the historical record of 17th century Dutch exploration. But the main issue the story tells is that two Aboriginal women were detained aboard a Dutch boat for too long. This is not related in any of the VOC documents seen to date, but that is no reason for refutation. In the collective memory of the Wik people they forced a European retreat. And we, today, will not deny that living memory, just as professional history, is a social construction of the past, to fit within the framework of the present.
Memory, as philosopher James Booth states in his recent book Communities of Memory, “memory is centered on an absence, tries to make it present, and in this effort answers the call of the trace.”[lvii] Traces are markers pointing to “a past that dwells in the hollows of the forgotten.”[lviii] I call these traces “memory texts” in any form, be it a map, a story, a landscape or a building or a monument, or a ritual, a performance or a commemoration, like this year’s celebration Australia on the Map 1606-2006. [lix] You and I participate and share these memory texts, feeling that “the call of the trace” makes the absent past present.
However, as Peter Reynders, chairman of the National Steering Committee of Australia on the Map 1606-2006, affirms: “Different people have different perceptions…they want to focus on different historical truths or myths.”
A memory text is nearly always a space of contestation: different people attach different meanings to the same semiophore, they remember the same event differently. The Australian collective memory of the Vietnam War is shared by people who have not experienced the war or the anti-war movement, and even those who did take part remember other events. Their memories differ according to the nature of the social frameworks in which they function. This has led Ann Curthoys (ANU) to state “particular social groups are constructing different ‘Vietnams’ ”[lx], just as different people (re)construct a different Holocaust.[lxi] To a large extent these differences originate from differences in mediation, which transforms the ‘historical’ Vietnam War and the ‘historical’ Holocaust’ into a represented and symbolic Vietnam War and Holocaust.[lxii] Accordingly, the ‘historical’ Duyfken voyage has been transformed and different groups will attach a different meaning to the Duyfken semiophore. It is therefore understandable that people fill the ‘container’ of the 1606-2006 commemoration with different stories, employing the past to imagine the present. For Peter Henneken, chairman of the Queensland Australia on the Map 1606-2006 committee, it “provides a time to reflect on our heritage, embrace our Indigenous beginnings and celebrate our multi-cultural history and present-day society.” For Prime Minister John Howard: “This 400th Anniversary of Dutch-Australian contact provides an opportunity to reflect on the strong ties between the Netherlands and Australia. Today we honour all those who explored our coast and helped us create our nation.” It is a text fit for any of the monuments which have been erected in the past months: from Canberra to Seabird, WA, plaques were unveiled, and we still have some months before the 1606-2006 celebrations come to a close.
Monuments here in Brisbane, at the corner of George and Alice streets, and one in front of the Dutch Club in Richlands, recognize not the Duyfken Dutch, but the men and women from the Netherlands and the Netherlands East-Indies who joined the people of Australia in the defence of their country during the Pacific War. The monuments do not have a meaning of their own: they are semiophores, pointing to the invisible. For some they will have meaning – but not the same meaning for everyone -, for most people it is just a stone with a plaque, like tombstones in a graveyard of people unknown to you, or the plaques in the Freedom Wall, that moving fusion of private and public memories.
Memories do not need official monuments, but can be attached to any place. Any place can be a lieu de mémoire, a site of memory or rather of different memories. Take, for example the Yungaba immigration hostel at Kangaroo Point: comparable to New York’s Ellis Island it was the main gate through which thousands of Dutch, Polish and other immigrants arrived in Queensland. The place is filled with the silent memories of all those newcomers. Another example is Camp Columbia in Wacol.[lxiii] A huge area covered with memories. American veterans will remember their stay there during WWII, will perhaps remember the conflicts between black and white soldiers; other memories are evoked in the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Museum; many Australians conscripted into the Army, were trained at Wacol and have their memories of that time; the barracks served as a holding camp for displaced persons after WWII, then from 1951 to 1987 as a migrant centre. But during WWII Camp Columbia was also the seat of the Netherlands-Indies administration in exile and the headquarters of the Netherlands-Indies armed forces. In those days the camp housed 2000 people, most of them forming the administrative backbone for preparing for the return of Dutch control over the Dutch East Indies. “The complex, labour-intensive activity going on at headquarters and Camp Columbia” seemed to most Australians and many Dutch military to be “out of proportion to the number of Dutch personnel in the front line…This had a very damaging effect on the good reputation hitherto enjoyed by the Dutch in Australia,” according to a Dutch government-sponsored publication of 1988.[lxiv] In Brisbane many Dutch people could afford higher housing rents and a more affluent lifestyle, and, “in their temporary accommodation under the gum trees, all kinds of colonials waited impatiently to regain possession of their plantations and mines and resume their prewar routine.”[lxv] As Van der Plas, the right hand of the Netherlands East Indies Lieutenant Governor General remarked in 1943: the Dutch exile’s little world in Brisbane still holds “the old colonial delusions of grandeur, which are painfully ridiculous in the light of the position we occupy here.”[lxvi] All this did not contribute to the locals’ appreciation of the Dutch invasion of Queensland. On an individual level, however, there are mostly sweet memories, not least for those Queenslanders who married a Dutch person.[lxvii]
Many coming from the Netherlands Indies to Australia must have had a difficult time, especially immediately after the war.[lxviii] As Robert Menzies said in parliament in 1947: “Australia has virtually been at war with the Dutch for two years, except for the shooting”.[lxix] At the time Menzies was leader of the opposition, criticizing Chifley whose policy with regard to Indonesian self-government displayed a bias against the Dutch. Chifley’s prejudice was fuelled by the trade union boycott of Dutch shipping, which hit Brisbane and other Australian ports in September 1945.[lxx] The boycott, inspired by the Indonesian Political Exiles’ Association in Mackay and the Brisbane based Central Committee for Indonesian Independence (CENKIM), but organized by the communist-led Waterside Workers Federation and Seamens’ Union, lasted effectively for three years. The boycott and its contribution to the Indonesian independence have left their traces in many individual and family memories, as well as in the societal memories both here, in Indonesia and in the Netherlands. One such trace in the public domain is the film made by Joris Ivens in Australia in 1946 about the boycott and the Indonesians’ struggle for independence: Indonesia calling. The film – an icon in film history, part re-enactment part documentary – did more than support the Indonesian cause: it presented the Australian audience with a vision of a new social organization underpinned by citizenship and not race. It is impossible to discount the significance of the Ivens film’s contribution to Australia’s national narrative.[lxxi]
The climax of the break in relations between Australia and the Netherlands came in 1947, when Australia requested the UN Security Council to intervene in the Dutch-Indonesian hostilities – the first time in history that the Security Council was asked for intervention.[lxxii] However, as David Lee, Director of the Historical Publications and Information Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in a recent paper concludes, “Many Australians, including the mainstream media and the Opposition, deplored Australian policy to the Dutch. If the [Liberal and Country Party] Opposition had been in power at the time, the story of Australian-Dutch relations, and of Australian-Indonesian relations, would have been very different.” [lxxiii]
On August 17th 1943 at a meeting in the Dutch officers’ mess in the Mornington hotel, Gregory Terrace, the Nederlandse Vereniging (Dutch Society) was founded. Its mission was: to care for all possible Dutch social interests related to the war.[lxxiv] The 220 members of the association organized charities, helped people with finding housing, organized English language courses for Indonesian seamen, etc. The Dutch Society (terminated in 1946) was the first of the associations to be founded in Australia by Dutch people or for Dutch people. Today there are more than 25 Dutch clubs and organisations in Queensland.This number reflects the spectacular increase of Dutch Australians, mainly due to the large-scale emigration from The Netherlands between 1951 and 1970. There were, of course, Dutch immigrants before: the Australian census of 1933 counted 1274 people of Dutch descent; by 1947 the number had grown to 2174, in 1954 52 035, in 1961 the peak was reached with 102 134. Today there are 270 000 Australians who claim Dutch ancestry, out of which 95 000 Netherlands-born residents.[lxxv] A great deal of the book The Dutch Down Under 1606-2006 deals with the social history of the Dutch Australians. One of the chapters concerns Dutch communal life in Victoria. That chapter, written by Henk Overberg, opens with “Saying that 95 000 Dutch-born persons reside within Australia is not the same thing as saying that there is a Dutch community in Australia.”[lxxvi] A community, I may add, is different from the group of members of an association or club. Both the communal group and the community are “communities of memory”.[lxxvii]
Collective identity is based on the elective processes of memory, so that a given group recognises itself through its memory of a common past.[lxxviii] That common past, sustained through time into the present, is what gives continuity, cohesion and coherence to a community. To be a community, a family, a religious or ethnic community involves an embeddedness in its past and, consequently, in the memory texts through which that past is mediated. Those memory texts are semiophores with a meaning dear to a specific community in a specific time, and they presuppose or assign “an obligatory identification or reidentification.”[lxxix] This will also contribute to marking the limits to other groups and their members. We have to be aware of the fact that this “dual process of inclusion and exclusion”[lxxx] may lead to intolerance, discrimination, cleansing and usurpation. Semiophores can be used as props or weapons in these processes. On the other hand, we are all at the same time members of different groups, partly overlapping and we belong to different communities whose memory texts may also overlap. In the parade on ANZAC day groups of veterans born outside Australia march proudly with their national flag but sharing an archetypal Australian commemoration. Such sharing is, I believe, at the heart of multiculturalism Australian style. It says, to quote French philosopher Jacques Derrida, both
what it is possible up to a point to have in common, and it takes into account dissociations, singularities, diffractions, the fact that several people or groups can, in places, cities or non-cities … have access to the same programs.[lxxxi]
Aboriginal people and other Australians share and shield – with the Dutch – and others the traces of their common past, sharing a joint heritage of memory texts: the memory of their worlds, of the world.
But this memory needs a place, it needs to be stored somewhere.[lxxxii] Out of the many storage places you will permit me – on this evening organized by the Queensland State Archives – to single out the archive. As Derrida affirms
the archive does not consist simply in remembering, in living memory, in anamnesis; but in consigning, in inscribing a trace in some external location – there is no archive without some location, that is, some space outside. Archive is not a living memory. It’s a location…
Type into any search engine the term ‘archives’ and it will yield millions of hits, most of which are no archives in the archivists’ terminology, but which are an expression of the value society attaches to keeping account of its present for its future.[lxxxiii] Almost everybody is an archivist, as is shown by the popularity of maintaining digital photo albums and scrapbooks on the web and facilities like the Internet Archive, which stimulates music fans to upload the music they taped during concerts. Such archives are a storage of information to be retrieved when you need it: a backup that saves what may be of value in the future.
People apparently value archives as a store of collected memories and as a trustworthy source to learn about the past. Archives are a trusted repository located somewhere, as a place, but increasingly as an interactive space where you are your own archivist, using interactively new types of personalization and customization tools.[lxxxiv] Archival institutions are being redesigned as a public sphere where individual, organizational and collective memories and stories are experienced, exchanged, and enriched, increasingly in digital form.
Digitization can be understood as the digital reproduction of analogue information, for example a paper record which is scanned. But digitization also refers to ‘digital-born’ records. How do we transmit these digital records – authentic evidence of human activity and experience – through time?[lxxxv] In a digital world an original does no longer exist because, intrinsically, each representation (on a medium, a screen or as a print-out) is constructed by the operating system and the application software. There is an analogy here with the Duyfken of today: it is not the original, but a “look-alike” constructed by intelligently applying software: shipbuilding skills and data from the archives.
These archives have lasted for 400 years, the shipbuilders could use pictures, journals, maps and charts centuries old. But how are we going to reconstruct the digital email of the premier, the electronic medical file, the digital maps and drawings of Queensland buildings, the immigrant’s file – not over 400 years, but in 5 or 10 years from now? Have you ever tried to retrieve and re-use data from your first computer? Access to digital records through time necessitates preservation of the bits and bytes, and migrating them to ever renewing software platforms. But these are relatively simple – albeit expensive and recurring – IT operations. Essential however is a form of information management – digital records management – that ensures that digital records are created, maintained and kept accessible in such a way that the transactions between government and citizens are accountable over time, that the authenticity and integrity of the record of what you as a citizen have provided to government – and what your government did in return – are preserved for as long you, your descendants and your government may need that evidence.
Archival institutions all over the world have been in the business of preserving the traces of the past and ensuring that time present and time past will be accessible in time future. “It is imperative we ensure that history is accessible to future generations,” as Robert Schwarten, the Minister responsible for the State Archives, stated recently. But the challenge to the Queensland government is more than that! The Digital Archive which is being developed by the Queensland State Archives, and state-of-the-art policies for Electronic Records Management will ensure that within the social contract between government and citizen the digital record of that contract is kept authentic and accessible, in some cases even for as long as it has taken the Duyfken to return to the place of her first landing, 400 years ago.
[iii] Krzysztof Pomian, “Histoire culturelle, histoire des sémiophores”, in: J.P. Rioux and J.F. Sirinelli (eds.), Pour une histoire culturelle (Seuil, Paris 1996) 73-100, reprinted in: Krzysztof Pomian, Sur l’histoire (Gallimard, Paris 1999) 191-229.
[iv] From his exploration of the Swan river area in 1697 Willem de Vlamingh brought back to Holland botanic specimens “which may lie undiscovered in obscure places in modern herbaria”: Stephen D. Hopper, “South-western Australia, Cinderella of the world’s temperate floristic regions”, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 20/2 (May 2003) 101-126, here 105.
[v] Rupert Gerritsen, “The evidence for cohabitation between Indigenous Australians, marooned Dutch mariners and VOC passengers,” in: Nonja Peters (ed.), The Dutch down under, 1606-2006 (University of Western Australia Press, Crawley 2006) 38-55. Gerritsen also deals with linguistic and other sociocultural elements which would be traces of Dutch cohabitation. Gerritsen’s arguments with regard to the language have been refuted by Juliette Blevins:
[vi] Jan Ernst Heeres, The part borne by the Dutch in the discovery of Australia, 1606-1765 (Luzac, London 1899); Andrew Sharp, The discovery of Australia (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1963); Willem C.H. Robert, The Dutch explorations, 1605-1756, of the north and northwest coast of Australia: extracts from journals, log-books and other documents relating to these voyages (Philo Press, Amsterdam 1973); Günter Schilder, Australia unveiled: the share of the Dutch navigators in the discovery of Australia (Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam 1976); Peter Sigmond and Lous H. Zuiderbaan, Dutch discoveries of Australia: shipwrecks, treasures, and early voyages off the west coast (Rigby, Adelaide 1979); Edward Duyker, The Dutch in Australia (AE Press, Melbourne 1987); Günter Schilder, “New Holland: The Dutch Discoveries”, in: Glyndwr Williams and Alan Frost (eds.), Terra Australis to Australia (Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1988) 83-115; B.J. Slot, “Les Néerlandais et la fragmentation de la terre australe”, in: Découvertes européennes et nouvelle vision du monde (Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris 1994) 79-116; Henry van Zanden, 1606. Discovery of Australia (Rio Bay Enterprises, Perth 1997); James Henderson, Sent forth a dove. Discovery of the Duyfken (University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands 1999); Evan McHugh, 1606. An epic adventure (University of New South Wales Press, Sydney 2006).
[vii] F.C. Wieder, Tasman’s kaart van zijn Australische ontdekkingen 1644 “de Bonaparte-kaart”… (Martinus Nijhoff, ‘s-Gravenhage 1942); F.C. Wieder, Monumenta cartographica, vol. 5 (Nijhoff, The Hague 1933) 177.
[viii] Schilder, “New Holland”, 84. According to Henderson, 42, 44, one of the Duyfken crew was killed in the encounter on the Batavia River, perhaps three or more at Cape Keerweer and some more on the return voyage, on the coast of New Guinea. The first death is recorded by Carstensz (see below): Heeres, 42.
[ix] Geoff Wharton, “The Pennefather River: place of Australian national heritage”, in Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Inc., Gulf of Carpentaria Scientific Study report (Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, 2005) 35-91, here 35.
[xi] On the map of the Duyfken voyage the return route from Cape Keerweer is indicated as “weeromkeer”, which means: turn around, or return. Sutton suggests that keerweer might be a nautical term referring to a change in orientation of the coastline: Jack Spear Karntin and Peter Sutton, “Dutchmen at Cape Keerweer. Wik-ngatharra story”, in: Luise Hercus and Peter Sutton (eds.), This is what happened: historical narratives by Aborigines (Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra 1986) 82-107, here 105. The linguist Bruce Donaldson translates Keer-weer with Turnaround: Bruce Donaldson, “The Dutch contribution to the European discovery of Australia,” in Peters, 4-25, here 5. McHugh, 10 has: Turn-about.
[xxxiii] Paul Brunton, “Abel Janszoon Tasman – Australian voyages, missing journals and perplexing charts”, Paper presented at a conference organised by the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney and Fremantle, May 2006; Grahame Anderson, The Merchant of the Zeehaen: Isaac Gilsemans and the Voyages of Abel Tasman (Te Papa Press, Wellington 2001); Carsten Berg Høgenhoff et al., Sweers Islands Unveiled (Høgenhoff Forlag, Oslo 2006) contains a detailed reconstruction of Tasman’s charting in 1644.
[xxxiv] Schilder, Australia unveiled, 148, 354, echoing Wieder, Tasman’s kaart, 62. Phyllis Mander-Jones, The Tasman map of 1644: historical note and description of the manuscript map in the Mitchell Library, Sydney (Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales, Sydney 1948).
[xxxv] C.J. Zandvliet, Mapping for money: maps, plans and topographic paintings and their role in Dutch overseas expansion during the 16th and 17th centuries (De Bataafsche Leeuw, Amsterdam 1998, 2nd ed. 2002).
[xl] Often referred to as “the Secret Atlas of the VOC”; this term was invented in the early 20th century by F.C. Wieder: Wieder, Tasman’s kaart, 100. Several (if not most) of these maps have been drawn by Johannes Vingboons, an artist commissioned to edit an atlas for the VOC in 1665-1667: B. J. Slot, Abel Tasman and the discovery of New Zealand (Cramwinckel, Amsterdam 1992) 93; Schilder, Australia unveiled, 144-147, 149.
[xlii] F.C. Wieder saw the maps first in 1920 and for the second time in 1931. He published several of the maps: F.C. Wieder, Monumenta cartographica, vol. 4 (Nijhoff, The Hague 1932), and vol. 5 (Nijhoff, The Hague 1933). Wieder was the first modern scholar to locate the landfall of the Duyfken: Monumenta Geographica, vol. 5, 176. Recently a new comprehensive edition of the Van der Hem-atlas has started: Peter van der Krogt and Erlend de Groot, The Atlas Blaeu-van der Hem of the Austrian National Library: volume V: Africa, Asia and America, including the ‘secret’ atlas of the Dutch East-India Company (VOC), descriptive catalogue of volumes 35-46 of the Atlas (HES & De Graaf Publishers, ‘t Goy-Houten 2005).
[xliii] Schilder, Australia unveiled, 44. The Eugene-map in Vienna and the Bonaparte-map in Sydney of Tasman’s voyage can be counted “among the most important maps in the history of Dutch navigation and exploration”: Schilder, Australia unveiled, 149.
[xlvii] “The Dutch had, of course, only been interested in Australia in so far as it might have something of mercantile value to offer them. Taking possession of newfound territories for the fatherland was never of concern to them…”: Donaldson, 23. Cf. Berg Høgenhoff, 4.
[l] Peter Sutton, “On the translatability of placenames in the Wik region, Cape York Peninsula”, in: Luise Hercus et al., The land is a map: placenames of indigenous origin in Australia (Pandanus Books, Canberra 2002) 75-85, here 78.
[liii] Paul Brunton, Foreword in Berg Høgenhoff, p. II. In 1957 at Duyfken Point a bronze plaque was put up, commemorating the Duyfken sighting in 1606: photo and text of the inscription in Wharton, 52-53.
[lx] Ann Curthoys, “ ‘Vietnam’: Public Memory of an Anti-War Movement”, in: Kate Darian-Smith and Paula Hamilton (eds.), Memory and history in twentieth-century Australia (Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1994) 114.
[lxiii]Noel Wallis, Tracing the historical significance of the Wacol army camp to the city of Brisbane (Brisbane 2003, with supplement). I thank dr. Wallis, president of the Richlands, Inala and Suburbs History Group, for being my guide in Wacol and for sharing the results of his research with me.
[lxxiii] David Lee, Alliance under Strain: Australia and the Netherlands, 1941-1947. Paper presented at the National Archives’ symposium: ‘The Dutch Down Under: Four centuries of Dutch-Australian relations’, The Hague, 30 March 2006.
[lxxviii] Michael Piggott, “Archives and memory”, in: Sue McKemmish, Michael Piggott, Barbara Reed and Frank Upward (eds.), Archives: Recordkeeping in Society (Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga 2005) 299-328.
[lxxx] Paula Hamilton, “The Knife Edge: Debates about Memory and History”, in: Kate Darian-Smith and Paula Hamilton (eds.), Memory and history in twentieth-century Australia (Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1994) 23.
[lxxxi] Derrida and Stiegler, 66. I have slightly changed the translation of the French: Jacques Derrida and Bernard Stiegler, Échographies de la télévision. Éntretiens filmés (Galilée and INA, Paris 1996) 78.
[lxxxii] Eric Ketelaar, ”Empowering Archives: What Society Expects of Archivists”, in: Susan Lloyd (ed.), Past Caring? What does Society Expect of Archivists? Proceedings of the Australian Society of Archivists Conference. Sydney 13-17 August 2002 (Canberra: Australian Society of Archivists 2002) 11-27.
Digital Era. Changing Professional Orientations (hier + jetzt, Verlag für Kultur und Geschichte, Baden 2006) 9-14.