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Private initiatives

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Between the First and the Second World War, Dutch people interested in emigrating gradually began to organise, and the Orthodox Calvinist and Catholic Churches created the first emigration associations. After the Second World War, emigration committees and services were formed – at first, mostly by farmers’ associations. Other associations of workers, tradespeople, women, employers and employees followed. Forces were joined and ultimately coalesced into three large emigration centres, each with its own registration offices: the Protestant Emigration Centre in 1938, the Catholic Emigration Office in 1949 and the General Emigration Office in 1952. The latter was a federation of twelve, then thirteen, civil-society organisations which included the Reformed Emigration Committee , the Jewish Social Work Foundation, the Emigration of Repatriates from Indonesia Office and the humanist organisation ‘Mankind and the World’. In the mid-1950s,the Orthodox Calvinist Office for the Assistance of Emigrants and the Netherlands-South Africa Association were recognised as registration bodies. The Dutch Women’s Committee was the national umbrella organ for promoting the general interests of women emigrants. The priority of all the organisations was to offer the emigrants spiritual and practical assistance and after-care. The limits of their influence on emigration policy and its implementation were set out in the 1952 Emigration Agencies Act.

Information booklets
Information booklets for the Dutch emigrant

The Dutch government saw emigration primarily as a solution to its employment problem and was mainly concerned with the broader national interest. However the private, frequently church-based, emigration agencies also sought to motivate as many people as possible to make the great crossing. Along with idealistic and missionary motives, financial considerations came into play because every emigrant paid a percentage of the government grant he received to the emigration centre. The private organisations claimed that, unlike the government, they tailored their work to their members’ individual requirements and gave special priority to spiritual care of both single emigrants and emigrant families. The centres provided the potential emigrant with general and church-related information about the country of destination – mostly in the form of advice about which church he might join. Some centres also considered this as a factor when placing the emigrant. Women were advised how to cope with isolation and how to give religious instruction to their children when there was no church nearby. The churches also sent out Dutch clergy to welcome the Dutch emigrants and offer them spiritual guidance.

The Dutch Reformed Church used the Reformed Emigration Committee, which was established in 1949 and was affiliated with the General Emigration Office, to distance itself expressly from denomination-based thinking, and advised its members to join the Presbyterian Church of Australia. Forming separate Dutch communities was discouraged not only because it would hinder integration but also because the Dutch Reformed Church did not want to see social and religious denominational divisions like those in the Netherlands exported to Australia. In those years, Australian society was working hard to assimilate all immigrants and thus was opposed to denominationalism. Dutch clergy were sent to Australia to assist the immigrants in every way. They were called to the Presbyterian Church of Australia and required to hold services in both English and Dutch. The Roman Catholic Church followed the same model. Catholic Dutch emigrants had to register at an existing parish near where they lived. At least fifty Dutch priests worked in Australia, of whom Father Leo Maas was the most well known. The Orthodox Calvinist Church also sent out pastors but they were more inclined to set up their own Dutch congregations and schools.

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