gahetNA in the National Archives

Church initiative

Biographical history of the archive creator: 

More than 50% of the Dutch emigrants to Australia were church members. On arrival in Australia, they discovered that, except for schools, there were very few church-affiliated organisations and that they had to find a place of worship within Australian structures or set up organisations and societies of their own.

Published letter from C. Bregman
Published letter from C. Bregman, one of the spiritual advisors on board the Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd passenger ship Sibajak

The Catholic church in Australia put pressure on Catholic immigrants to fit into the existing structures. It was reluctant to allow Dutch priests to counsel Dutch Catholic immigrants and local ecclesiastical authorities strictly monitored their activities. One of the most well-known Dutch priests to offer assistance to Dutch immigrants after their arrival was Father Maas. He worked primarily with farmers and helped them to find accommodation for a year and a half with Australian farmers so they could learn the language and become familiar with agriculture in the new country. With the knowledge they acquired, they could begin to establish independent lives.

Maas also helped other Catholic immigrants. In 1951, he opened a house near Melbourne for young single men, which could accommodate 60 residents. It was the initial reception point for more than 3,000 men and continued to operate until 1973. Starting in 1969, Catholic immigrants received support from the Catholic Dutch Migrant Association which had branches in the large cities and used social workers to assist new arrivals.

Some of the immigrants who were members of the Orthodox Calvinist Church were not drawn to the Australian churches and chose to set up their own institutions instead. Churches (known as ‘Reformed Churches’) and schools were established in several locations in the country and the Orthodox Calvinist Church in the Netherlands sent pastors to provide support.

The Dutch Reformed Church advised immigrants to join the Presbyterian Church of Australia. Starting in 1951, Dutch pastors were employed in Presbyterian churches and gave sermons in Dutch. Ever since 1954, Sydney has had a Dutch congregation within the Presbyterian Church with its own board of elders, roll of membership and monthly newsletter.

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