Fair Dinkum Dutch
The Pressure to Fit In
During the post war immigration wave there was immense pressure on migrants to successfully integrate into Australian society.
Previously, Australia's immigration had been influentially sculptured by the White Australia policy. The 'New Australian's' found themselves in a social climate that was overwhelmingly Anglo-Australian in ethnicity and culture. New arrivals were expected to learn English, adopt existing cultural norms and become indistinguishable from the Australian born population
To further enhance the persuasion to assimilate, non British migrants were designated as aliens until they were able to take on Australian citizenship, limiting their legal and political rights, their entry into particular occupations and their access to social security benefits.
The Dutch were particularly observed as assimilating effectively. Seemingly working hard to establish themselves financially, they had a very high intermarriage pattern and were quick in their uptake of the English language. In many cases their cultural differences were also kept out of the public eye as it was typical for them to socialise within each others homes.
The popular opinion for assimilation at this time is reflected in a newspaper article published in the South Coast Times, (Thursday 27 April, 1961). The article describes a Dutch family from Wollongong that achieved Australian Citizenship status. The children are described as being:
'typically happy Australian children'.
They have Dutch and Australian young friends, they speak Australian and only have a smattering of Dutch. Mr Van der Griend a newly 'Australianised' citizen said:
'the fact remains that very few, if any, of the 6000 Dutch in Wollongong have not improved themselves since their arrival'
|The de Jong family. Circa 1940's. Pictured in their quarter acre backyard in Corrimal complete with hills hoist clothesline and outside dunny - the family appear to have happily adapted to the Australian lifestyle! (de Jong family archives)|
In 1953 the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs became responsible for administering services aimed at increasing migrant assimilation, such as English language teaching. In Wollongong, English lessons were held at the migrant hostels and at local schools like Balgownie Public School.
|Mr Wilson, headmaster at Balgownie Public School, teaches English to new immigrants in an evening class at the school. Circa 1950. From the collection of Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society.|
|John Wilson teaches English to new immigrants in an evening class at Balgownie Public School. Mr Wilson was headmaster at Balgownie Public School. Circa 1950's. From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society.|
|Wollongong High School, May 1957. From left to right: Brenda Brown (English), John Woodsma (Dutch), Barbara Laycock (Australian), Kurt Lambeck (Dutch), John Lammers (Dutch), Keith Campbell (English), Doug Slater (English), Claire Millar (Welsh), John Garcia (French), Drude Lambeck (Dutch), Julia King (English). From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society|
An article in the Illawarra Mercury written in 1959 (Wednesday, 12 August) highlights the success of Dutch migrants in becoming assimilated 'New Australian's'. It says that from 22 ceremonies held in Wollongong Dutch people predominated with a total of 286 with Italians, Poles and Yugoslavs next on the list.
Their ease at adopting a new culture has not come without its consequences. Today the political climate in Australia has reissued itself as one that celebrates multicultural diversity. The White Australia policy has simmered into non-existence and a new influx of migrants from Asia has added more depth to the mix. Alas, many migrants of Dutch origin no longer know the language, or traditional Dutch cultures and customs that would be recognised as uniquely special in this new multicultural celebration.
Follow the link below to read an article by a second generation Dutch migrant. It describes the sense of loss that is felt by some of the Dutch people who so famously assimilated into their new country.
Forgetting the culture of cake - Eureka Street