Migrant: mobilities and connection

Migration from the Netherlands to Australia has many facets. This project focuses on immigrants who moved to Australia from the post-war Netherlands and their life histories. These life histories can be reconstructed on the basis of the registration systems used at the time. In these systems, records were kept for the migrants from the moment they applied to the moment that they settled in their new home country – and sometimes even long afterwards. These records show how migrants fared after arriving in Australia, both individually and as a group. ‘Migrant: Mobilities and Connection’ is intended to allow for the comparison of different subgroups in a longitudinal perspective on the basis of e.g. origins, religion or health. By taking the migrants’ cultural heritage on board in the study, the project is intended to cast new light on the circulation and adaptation of Dutch values in a new environment, and how these values – changed and enriched by new experiences – then found their way back to the Netherlands via the migrants’ contacts with their country of origin.

The registration systems – a database with emigrant registration cards (National Archives of the Netherlands, The Hague) and Australian migrant dossiers (National Archives Australia) – form the starting point for the research project and ensure that the various substudies remain closely interrelated. The project is both interdisciplinary and international in character, involving collaboration between Dutch and Australian historians, literary scholars and Digital Humanities experts of Huygens Institute, Leiden University, the Edith Cowan University, Perth and Curtin University, Perth. Although the project has a scholarly background and structure, it also holds direct importance for the Dutch migrant community in Australia. After all, the database with migrants’ lives relates to their history. In turn, this community can not only supplement and improve the database via crowd sourcing, but also provide new research material by sharing physical and digital sources such as photographs, journals and memorabilia.

Marijke van Faassen, Rik Hoekstra, Brenda van Dijk, Eline Groenewegen van der Weiden and Nonja Peters are regularly updating a blog about their research.


In 2018, it will be exactly 70 years since the great wave of post-war emigration began. As a result, Omroep Max broadcast a special broadcast on NPO Radio 1 on 24 March 2018 on the theme of emigration. In this broadcast, Marijke van Faassen spoke about the role of the Dutch government in stimulating emigration. Click here for the broadcast (the program starts after 4.30 minutes).

One of the research components is matching Dutch migration cards with Australian immigration records. Marijke van Faassen spoke with SBS Radio Australia about this subject, during of the Global Digital Humanities Conference in Sydney. Listen to the podcast.

Rik Hoekstra also gave an interview about the progress of the project “Migration, Moblitiy and Connection”.with SBS Radio Australia , during a workshop at the University of Western Sydney. Listen to the podcast.


Ton van Kalmthout, ‘At the Edge of the World and Other Stories. Dutch-Australian Emigration Literature, ca. 1945- 1990’, in: Theo D’haen (ed.), Dutch Literature as World Literature. New York: Bloomsbury Academic (forthcoming).

Marijke van Faassen en Marieke Oprel, ‘Paper trails to private lives. Performative power of card indexes through time and space’. in: Ida Nijenhuis, Marijke van Faassen, Ronald Sluijter, Joris Gijsenbergh and Wim de Jong (eds.), Information and Power in History: Towards a Global Approach London: Routledge (forthcoming)