Bridging the Distance | About
page-template-default,page,page-id-22051,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-2.4.1,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.7.4,vc_responsive

It was the grandparents of this generation
who took the brave step of leaving the Netherlands
behind to build a new life Australia


The year 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Dutchman Dirk Hartog’s first steps onto the shores of Western Australia. His steps were some of the first of a trail that followed, and have ultimately resulted in a longstanding Dutch presence in Australia. This early presence was further boosted by a massive influx of Dutch migrants from the 1950’s onwards.

The Bridging the Distance project builds on the current focus of shared history between the Netherlands and Australia subsequent to this special year. However, there is also an urgency in this project as it might spark an interest among the younger generations to discover their own family migration story before the first generation of Dutch migrants has disappeared.

Time is of the essence!

The project

The concept of Bridging the Distance is as simple as it is powerful. Over 300,000 Australians claimed Dutch ancestry at the last Census. Most of them however are younger generation migrants who feel completely Australian and maintain only a feeble connection to their ancestral roots. It was the (great-grand)parents of this generation who took the brave step of leaving everything behind to build a new life in Australia, a decision which had significant consequences for the lives of their families.

Pushed by a strong assimilation policy the Dutch migrants were quite eager to fit in and so raised their children accordingly. Consequently the Dutch in Australia quickly became known as the ‘invisible migrants’.

The third generation however seems to be more interested in their Dutch heritage than their parents ever were. The objective is to further strengthen this desire to discover more about their Dutch roots, bringing family history into living history and using online media platforms and the migration history archives to re-forge old connections with modern meaning.

Bridging the Distance sets the challenge to search for (second) cousins on the other side of the world, thereby harnessing this generation’s drive to connect (e.g. Facebook). The newly established connections will subsequently be recorded as double portraits/interviews, delivering stories of both the past and the present brought to life through the eyes of the third and second generation.

The Bridging the Distance project and the Migrant: Mobilities and Connection project joined forces as both projects complement each other. The Migrant: Mobilities and Connection project is executed by the Huygens ING, HOME Centre Curtin University Perth and the Digital Humanities Research Group Western Sydney.

The Bridging the Distance has been received by the Netherlands Embassy as a welcome addition to the 2016 festivities that will commemorate the arrival of Dirk Hartog in 1616.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to send us an email.