1 April 2019

Australia: Balayi Festival celebrates 400 years Houtman Abrolhos

July 2019 marks 400 years since VOC commander Frederik Houtman reached Western Australia and became the first European to set foot on the Houtman Abrolhos.

Portrait of Frederik Houtman (1571-1627), anonymous, c. 1610 - c. 1620 (source: Rijksmuseum / https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-A-2727).

Dutch discovery

In July 1619, Frederick Houtman, on his way to the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) with the 'Dordrecht', came across several low islands surrounded by extensive coral reefs off the west coast of Australia. As a warning, these islands were named 'De Houtman Abrolhos', 'abrolhos' meaning ‘open your eyes' or 'look out’. This warning, however, was unable to prevent the loss of two Dutch East India Company (VOC) ships in the Houtman Abrolhos some years later: the 'Batavia' in 1629 and the 'Zeewijk' in 1727.

Balayi Festival

On 28 and 29 July 2019, Western Australia will mark 400 years since the first European set foot on the Houtman Abrolhos at the Balayi Festival in Geraldton, organised by the BCMHA - Batavia Coast Maritime Heritage Association Inc. The festival will highlight the significance of the Dutch finding, but it will also celebrate the culture of the Yamaji, the indigenous people of the area, since the land ‘discovered’ had been inhabited for at least 40,000 years. ‘Balayi’ means ‘watch out/listen’ in the language of the Yamaji.

To build awareness of this historical event, the Batavia Longboat replica will sail on the Swan River in Perth and to Safety Bay in Rockingham from 13 to 22 April 2019. People can sail on the Batavia Longboat and learn about the Dutch discovery in 1619.

The BCMHA will also be working with the Rijksmuseum, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and Dutch photographer Geert Snoeijer.

For more information please check here.

This project is supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Canberra, Australia.