What can the Netherlands offer Australia?  Discussing a possible additional function for DACC

Photo: Klaas Woldring: King Willem Alexander in Sydney November 2016 with a group of Dutch organisations representatives.

In this guest post by Klaas Woldring, Ph. D. who is secretary of the Dutch Australian Cultural Centre Ltd. (DACC) in Smithfield, Sydney, Australia, he discusses a possible additional function for the DACC and what the Netherlands could mean for Australia.

In recent commemorations about the Netherlands in Australia, in 2006 and 2016, understandably there was a heavy concentration on the several landings by VOC ships on the Australian coast and the extensive mapping of that coast during the entire 17th century.

The DACC contributed actively to these activities by means of map and heritage item exhibitions, adding thereby to its initial functions of establishing and maintaining an archive, reference library and attractive, educational heritage centre at the back – Holland House, also known as ’t Winkeltje, Smithfield. We also distributed much promotional information much of it provided by the Dutch Embassy and the Australia on the Map Committee. These tasks have been undertaken almost exclusively by volunteers, supported by fairly small numbers of members and, financially, by small donations.

It has occurred to me recently that we could add a new function to this by purchasing, collecting and possibly selling new books about the Netherlands today concentrating on services, expertise and products that would be of interest to Australians generally.

In other words we may consider becoming an Information Centre for that particular purpose as well, a function that is actually covered by our original Mission Statement. Our request for providing some initial funding for this purpose to the Embassy could not be met because the Embassy is of the view that the rules of Shared Heritage, Grants projects do not provide for such funding. Hopefully, this may change in the future.

Such literature, all in English of course and to be targeted very carefully, would provide up to date relevant information about the Netherlands rather than just Dutch/Australian historic interests in the region, mostly relating to the 17th century. As an example:

  • Dutch business interests in Australia and South East Asian region
  • Dutch products and services in demand or to be promoted in Australia
  • Special Dutch expertise and services, private and public, that would be of interest to Australians
  • Dutch expertise in water management such as the Delta Project, river flows and management, also harbour management
  • The threat of drought or urban water shortages in Australia, always present of course, could be reduced considerably by more effective water conservation and/or transport.
  • Dutch experiences with earth gas exploration are conceivably useful for irresponsible fracking exercises
  • Dutch expertise in solar energy is demonstrated here in car races year after year
  • Great advances in climate change approaches which the Dutch Professor Rob Roggema (UTS) recently very well explained in the Cleveringa lecture in Sydney.  The clever management of heavy city traffic in the Netherlands (Randstad) was demonstrated also by him as well.
  • The showmanship and entertainment professionalism of Andre Rieu, also widely acclaimed elsewhere in the world, e.g. the US, UK, Brazil and Australia
  • The fantastic variety of tulips developed and exported to many places in the world, including Canberra
  • Dutch soccer coaches that could be of vital interest to Australian soccer, already proven earlier.
  • There is considerable interest here in the Dutch prison system, e.g. Professor Tony Vinson.
  • There is also great interest here in the Dutch approach to euthanasia. Andrew Denton, a great supporter, has recently studied that in the Netherlands.
  • Books in English about the use of marihuana in the Netherlands would be a real bonus for a Dutch Information Centre in Australia.
  • When it comes to politics the Dutch could provide tremendously important input in Australian society by informing them about a much better electoral system than the single-member-electoral district system inherited from the British, the basic cause of Australia’s adversarial parliamentary system that so many people now rightly complain about.
  • The writings of the celebrated Dutch-American political science Professor Arendt Lijphart would be particularly useful for the locals here. Dutch (and European) alternatives to the Westminster system of recruiting Ministerial competence would be another benefit in the area of governance.
  • The Dutch tripartite system of industrial relations and the Dutch Workplace Relations and Participation system as well the New Act on Work and Security (2014) would be particularly useful information for Australia.
  • When it come to cycling, the Dutch have a wealth of  experience, models, cycles paths, their role in traffic, etc.
  • Even as regards the history of the 17th century we could mention e.g. Simon Schama’s exhaustive study, in English, of the Golden Age and Amsterdam.

Such books should also be available for both lending and selling.

We are not just talking about Sharing Cultural History but also about the business interests that the Dutch Government and Dutch corporations are certainly entirely familiar with – and wish to promote. Australia could use more of that information here, in English, and we could supply that.

Our Centre could be further developed into an Information Centre about the Netherlands preferably positioned in the centre of Sydney. I would think that while providing information of this kind is perhaps a limited function of the Embassy and the Consulates, it could be promoted much more effectively and permanently by a Dutch Information and Heritage Centre. The members of Dutch Link would also be served by that expansion.

Australians are really MUCH more interested in what the Netherlands has to offer NOW than what happened in the 17th century.

While they politely participate in commemorations, like the one last year and in 2006, they don’t really like all that much that the Dutch were here 160 years before James Cook, and actually mapped much of the Coastline long before Matthew Flinders. They say, we developed the continent and you stuck to your interests in the Indies as there were no spices to be found here. We should reflect on that reality. Plugging that too much may not serve Dutch and Dutch Australian interests all that well.

Guest post by: Klaas Woldring, Ph. D., Secretary Dutch Australian Cultural Centre Ltd., Smithfield, Sydney.

 

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