Speech by Her Majesty the Queen

The Hague, 26 September 2006

at the dinner on the occasion of the official visit of the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia to the Netherlands.

Mr Governor-General,

It gives me great pleasure to greet you and Mrs Jeffery this evening and to welcome you to our country. Your visit is taking place in the anniversary year which is being celebrated with a wide range of events and exchanges in the fields of politics, economics, culture and sport. In this context, my son Prince Alexander and Princess Máxima will pay a visit to your country in October.

The reason for our commemoration is that four hundred years ago the Duyfken was sent by the Dutch East India Company to explore what was then still the "Unknown South Land" - and so became the first European ship to reach Australia. In memory of this historic event, a replica of the Duyfken is currently sailing along the Australian coast and the vessel has also been immortalised on the Duyfken coin that was minted in Australia several months ago.

Ten years later captain Dirk Hartog fixed a pewter plate to a stake as proof that he had been in Australia. Other Dutch ships followed. Their visits were not always intentional, but rather the result of navigational errors en route to Batavia, which often led to shipwrecks on the Australian west coast. In sixteen twenty-nine, this fate befell the Batavia, in a tragedy of mutiny and murder that claimed many lives. Other Dutch vessels also foundered on that distant shore. Fortunately, the fact that our shared history largely began with shipwrecks was by no means a prophecy for the four centuries that followed.

The Second World War was undoubtedly a turning-point in Australian-Dutch relations. The Dutch East Indies were overrun and Australia too was under threat. Ships of the Australian and Dutch navies fought side by side in the Battle of the Java Sea. Units of the Dutch armed forces and of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army, escaped to Australia to carry on the fight from there. One of our ships managed to get away in a surprising manner when the crew camouflaged it as a floating island! Initially, our forces made only a modest contribution. The most important role was played by the Dutch merchant navy, which supplied troop transports and hospital ships for the Allies. Thus, the Netherlands became the Fourth Ally in the Pacific, alongside the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Australian forces also took part in the war in Europe, continuing a tradition which began in the First World War, when your country demonstrated its solidarity with the mother country, Britain. Sixty thousand Australians gave their lives in that horrific conflict, in the far-distant European continent. Again, during the Second World War, your country made a significant contribution to the war in Europe. Four hundred Australian military personnel, mostly airmen, were killed in our country.

After the War, emigration opened a new chapter in Australian-Dutch relations. Numerous Dutch people who had been stationed in Australia during the War settled there, as did a number of their compatriots, many of them war veterans, who had lived in the Dutch East Indies. From nineteen-fifty onwards, they were followed by a stream of emigrants from the Netherlands, who saw the opportunity to build a new life in Australia. They now make up over one per cent of the population of your country, and have adapted to the spirit of enterprise, drive and hard work that still prevails and to which Australia owes its great progress and its current prosperity.

Today Australia is a country with a thriving population, a flourishing culture and a high level of scientific endeavour. Moreover, it is a nation whose values we share. Our two countries therefore often act together in the international political arena. They are both engaged in maintaining the international legal order and make an active contribution to conflict prevention, conflict management and peace enforcement. Australian and Dutch forces have played an active part in peace operations in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. Together they are striving to restore peace.

One of the characteristics of the Australian people is their passion for sport and their strong sense of sportsmanship. These qualities are reflected not only in outstanding performances in many different fields, but also in the enthusiasm with which sport is practised. The successful Olympic Games of two thousand - and the no less successful Paralympics to which thousands of Australian volunteers contributed - convincingly demonstrated the national pride and genuine sportsmanship and solidarity of your people.

The distance between Australia and the Netherlands is great, but not a problem for the inhabitants of our two countries. Every year tens of thousands of Dutch people visit your country and nearly as many Australians come to ours. Young people in particular travel from here to your faraway continent, as indeed many young Australians visit age-old Europe. This anniversary year offers excellent opportunities for exchanges between our two peoples, in the cultural, academic and sporting fields.

Mr Governor-General,

The Australians and the Dutch get on well. That is a solid basis for cooperation in the next four hundred years. For many Dutch people, moreover, their warm feelings for your country are bound up with the role Australia played in the Second World War - and in the liberation of the Netherlands. That memory has not yet faded.

May I now invite all those present to raise their glasses and join me in a toast to your health, Mr Governor-General, to the health of Mrs Jeffery, and to a bright future for the Australian people.