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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 22:12 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 22:12 | SYDNEY

Podcast: Bishop omits the Batavia

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3 November 2016 09:55

On Tuesday Julie Bishop and Bert Koenders, the foreign ministers of Australia and the Netherlands, penned a joint opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald commemorating 400 years of shared history between the two nations:

On October 25, 1616, Dutch mariner Dirk Hartog, commanding the Eendracht, made landfall on an island just off the Western Australian coast. He then famously nailed a pewter plate to a post before sailing north, charting the coast as he went. In so doing, Dirk Hartog became the second Dutchman to walk on Australian shores, following the arrival of Willem Janszoon in 1606. Together they were the first recorded Europeans to come upon a new land. These early journeys marked the beginning of engagement between the world's oldest living culture, Aboriginal Australians, and the new seafaring merchants of Europe.

In their quick run-through, Bishop and Koenders understandably neglected to mention one of the more interesting and darker episodes of Dutch-Australian history (and European-Australian history more generally): the Batavia shipwreck, mutiny and massacre on the Albolhros Islands off the coast of Western Australia in 1629. As Jeff Sparrow describes it:

Retellings of the Batavia story rarely avoid the clichés of the Australian Gothic. It contains, after all, every trope of the genre: a small group of European intruders blunder into an eerie and inhospitable landscape to endure privation, insanity and a great deal of Grand Guignol violence. But less obviously, and just as interestingly, the Batavia story is also one of corporate power, involving the richest multinational the world has ever seen.

For a good account of the whole saga, see ABC 702's Dom Knight and historian David Hunt's podcast below:

Photo: Wikimedia/Adzee

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