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22 January 2009
The Government of the Netherlands has offered to transfer to Australia its portion of artefacts recovered from the four Dutch shipwrecks found off the West Australian coast.
To this date the collections of the Batavia (1629), Vergulde Draeck (1656), Zuytdorp (1712) and the Zeewyk (1727) have been located both in Australia and the Netherlands as agreed under the Australian and Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks (ANCODS) established in 1972.
Rather than dividing objects between the two countries, they will be kept as close as possible to the shipwrecks where they have been excavated. This is why the Netherlands has agreed to entrust Australia with safeguarding the objects, which are currently in Dutch possession.
Artefacts recovered from these shipwrecks include bricks, building blocks, lead ingots, elephant tusk, cannon, cannon balls, amber and pitch as well as rare objects owned by crew and passengers such as navigational instruments and ornaments.
Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen, who is visiting Australia this week, said he expected that the collection will be handed over in the first half of 2010. He stressed that researchers and the wider public in the Netherlands will continue to have access to the artefacts. For this purpose an Internet connection will be established.
"It is important that the Australian and Netherlands Governments continue to work together to understand, protect and showcase our common heritage.
"Dutch ships undertook significant exploration off the coast of Australia, particularly Western Australia, with many ships and their crew finding peril in the unfamiliar waters.
"The bravery and curiosity of Dutch crews forged new and valuable trade routes between Europe and the rest of the world.
"Each Dutch shipwreck off the coast of Australia is as important to the heritage of the Dutch people as it is to the story of the European discovery of Australia."
Australian Minister for Heritage, Peter Garrett, said he welcomed the decision by the Government of the Netherlands.
"This will be the largest maritime artefact endowment Australia has ever received," he said.
"The new arrangement will combine the artefacts once more with those in Australia and allow for greater study and appreciation of the entire collection.
"Each wreck and their associated collections is a window into another time, giving us a valuable insight into the people and events that made us who we are today.
"From the simplest to the exotic, these archeologically priceless artefacts will be an important part of Australia's rich maritime heritage."
Mr Garrett said that details of where the collection will be housed will be finalised this year.
For more information on shipwrecks: