From the Netherlands to Australia
The end of the Second World War saw a sharp increase in Dutch emigration to Australia. Poor economic prospects for many people in the post-war Netherlands were a powerful incentive to build a future somewhere else and because of the shortage of agricultural and metal industry workers it was experiencing at the time, Australia seemed an attractive possibility. At the same time, faced with agricultural problems and increasing demographic pressures in the Netherlands, the Dutch government decided actively to promote emigration as a solution.
The one hundred thousandth Dutch emigrant departs for Australia, September 1958
In order to channel emigration, many public and private institutions were active as registration centres for future emigrants, emigration centres in fact, and also provided information about potential countries of destination. As some were church-affiliated, they also offered information about the status of religion in the countries which would be the emigrants’ new home.
After the emigrant had registered at one of the centres, an interview was held and a medical examination conducted at the immigration office. Once approval for migration had been issued, the trip could be booked – not a simple matter in the late 1940s because a serious shortage of passenger ships sometimes forced the would-be emigrant to wait months before being able to leave. The journey to Australia by ship often took more than a month, but the introduction of airline service In the early 1950s cut it down to only 74 hours.
Once the migrants arrived in Australia, several forms of assistance were available. Some immigrants were housed in reception camps set up by the Australian government and committees were created in the 1950s to promote integration. In addition to the government, Dutch churches played an important role in welcoming the immigrants by providing shelter and setting up a social network.
The effects of Dutch migration to Australia can still be felt. There are many Dutch associations and a Dutch-language newspaper continues to be published. The Dutch have remained a tightly knit community, especially in the large cities.