Geographic Origins

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is in north-western Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea to the north, Germany to the east and Belgium to the south. Its people are known as Dutch.

History of Immigration and Settlement

The first contact between Australia and the Netherlands occurred in the early seventeenth century. Willem Jansz commanded an exploratory expedition aboard the Duyfken, which visited Australian shores in 1606.

Dutch migration to South Australia was limited before the Second World War. There is little evidence of Dutch communities in either urban or rural South Australia. There was little incentive for the Dutch to emigrate at this time as they enjoyed a very high standard of living and full employment in the Netherlands.

A small number of Dutch Indonesians came to South Australia after 1942 to escape the Japanese occupation of the country. In 1947 there were 86 Dutch South Australians.

Approximately 120,000 Dutch nationals immigrated to Australia between 1947 and 1961. They came from the war-ravaged Netherlands and newly-independent Indonesia. The immigration process was simplified by the 1951 Netherlands Australian Migration Agreement. Under this agreement both countries contributed to the cost of passages from the Netherlands to Australia. The peak years of Dutch immigration were the years 1950–51 and 1955–56.

Many of the Dutch immigrants who came to Australia at this time found resettlement difficult. Besides language difficulties they faced problems including the non-recognition of employment qualifications and a housing shortage. Some returned to the Netherlands in the 1960s.

In 1961 there were 12,539 Dutch South Australians. After that year Dutch immigration to Australia declined sharply due to the post-war recovery of the Netherlands.  Small numbers of Dutch immigrants have continued to settle in South Australia since then.

Dutch South Australians are employed in a wide range of occupations. They have mainly settled throughout the metropolitan area.

Community Activities

The Dutch Club (Dutch Social and Welfare Club) was founded in 1978 to provide mutual support for its members and to promote Dutch culture. It originally met at community halls on Torrens Road, in Prospect and on South Road. In 1981 the club bought a block of land on Salisbury Highway, Greenfield. Members of the club cleared and levelled the property. In 1983 they began building a community centre and planting a garden. Wandrina J W Douglas-Broers sculptured a frieze depicting the movement of Dutch immigrants from the Netherlands to Australia. This work was installed at the entrance of the Dutch Club, which was officially opened on 7 March, 1987. 

The Dutch Club conducts regular activities at its centre for members and guests. The shop and café is open Mondays from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm and Fridays from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm. Family Day is held on the third Sunday of each month.

Remembrance Day, Liberation Day, the Relief of Leiden and the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas are the main cultural anniversaries commemorated by Dutch South Australians.

Remembrance Day falls on 4 May. It honours those who have died for the Netherlands since 1940. The Dutch and Australian flags are raised and wreaths laid at a memorial that was unveiled in the Dutch Community Centre’s grounds on Remembrance Day, 1990.

Liberation Day is on 5 May, the day that the Allies freed the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. It is celebrated at the Dutch Community Centre with a communal dinner-dance. Traditional foods served include snert, pea soup; hutspot, a stew of carrot, potato and meat, kahl, a dish made from cabbage and potato; boerenkool, sausage; zoute haring, salted herrings; rollmops, pickled herrings; kroket, meat dumplings coated with breadcrumbs; and poffertjs, small pancakes.

The Relief of Leiden is celebrated on 3 October. It commemorates the revolt of Protestant William of Orange against the Catholic Phillip II of Spain. The Spanish put Leiden under siege in 1573. In 1574 the people of the city opened the dikes so that the Dutch fleet could sail to their aid. The Relief of Leiden is marked by a dinner-dance at the Dutch Community Club.

The Feast Day of Saint Nicholas is on 5 December.  Saint Nicholas and his mischievous attendant Peter visit the Dutch Club to distribute presents and advise naughty children to behave themselves.

The Dutch Club held its first Dutch Festival on 5 and 6 March, 1994, recreating the atmosphere of kermis, a typical Dutch carnival with sideshows, a street organ, music, traditional costumes, food, dance and a display of artefacts and craftwork. The Dutch Festival is an annual event.

Other regular events organised by the Dutch Club include the Orange Ball, Sinterklaas Kinderfest, Sinterklaas Ball and the Karnaval Ball.

Cultural Traditions

Dutch South Australians staged an exhibition at ‘The Forum’, the Migration Museum’s community access gallery, in 1989. ‘Clogs and Windmills’ was organised by the Dutch Cultural Council. It was on display between 16 September and 27 November, 1989. ‘Clogs and Windmills’ presented information about traditional aspects of Dutch cultural life. The exhibition’s displays included a cross-section model of a windmill; delftware, distinctive blue-and-white folk crockery; clogs; and the costumes worn by St Nicolaas en Pietar, Saint Nicholas and Peter.

Organisations and Media

  • The Dutch Social and Welfare Club, Adelaide
  • Netherlands Australia Relief Fund Adelaide (NARFA)
  • Dutch Aged Care (NAASA) Inc.
  • 5EBI FM 103.1
  • 5E FM 89.3/94.7/88.3
  • 5BPA FM ‘Time with the Dutch’
  • BVN TV
  • Dutch on SBS
  • Dutch Courier 
  • Holland Focus
  • For a full list of groups/organisations relating to the Dutch community in South Australia see the website of the Dutch Club Adelaide:


According to the 1981 census there were 10,646 Netherlands-born South Australians.

The 1986 census recorded 10,198. 18,427 South Australians said that they were of Dutch descent.

The 1991 census recorded 9,862 Netherlands-born South Australians. 17,520 people said that their mothers were born in the Netherlands, and 19,287 that their fathers were.

The 1996 census recorded 9,070 Netherlands-born South Australians. The second generation number stood at 13,625.

The 2001 census recorded that there were 8,301 Netherlands-born South Australians, while 23, 401 people said that they were of Dutch descent.

The 2006 census recorded 7,796 Netherlands-born and 13 Netherlands Antilles-born South Australians, while 26,103 people said that they were of Dutch descent. 

The 2011 census recorded 7,282 Netherlands-born South Australians, while 27,369 people said that they were of Dutch descent.

The 2016 census recorded 6,597 Netherlands-born South Australians, while 26,495 people said that they were of Dutch descent.

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Cigler, B and Cigler, M, Australia: A Land of Immigrants (Milton: Jacaranda Press, 1986)

Dennis, B, Ethnic Development in South Australia, (Adelaide: Good Neighbour Council, 1971)

Duyker, E and Cigler, M (ed), The Dutch in Australia, (Melbourne: AE Press, 1987)

Jupp, J (ed.), The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins, Second Edition, (Cambridge University Press, 2001)