Parade at Camp Columbia, Wacol Brisbane, on 6 August 1945, during which the Military Order of William was awarded to Sergeant Mauritz Kokkelink.
 

Camp Columbia: a project connecting shared WWII and colonial histories of Australia, the US and the Netherlands

Using oral history, archival and archaeological research, this project aims to tell the story of Camp Columbia and Dutch plans for rebuilding its empire.
30 September 2020

After the fall of the former Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) to the Japanese forces in March 1942, the Dutch East Indies civil and military authority found refuge in Australia. Most of their offices were located in Melbourne, with other locations for military units all over Australia. In June 1944 it became possible to co-locate numerous agencies and the government in exile to Camp Columbia in Wacol, Brisbane. This camp had been built by the Americans and used as their HQ. From June 1944 till September 1945, Camp Columbia housed Governor General Huib van Mook of the Netherlands and his staff.

A site of shared memories

Camp Columbia was the location where plans were made to re-occupy Indonesia at the end of WWII and to formulate the new relationship between the Netherlands and its former colony. This camp is a very symbolic location since it connects US-Australian and Dutch histories during WWII in the South West Pacific.

Multidisciplinary and multilateral cooperation

Pauljac Verhoeven from Museum Bronbeek (history of the Dutch East Indies Army), Bas Kreuger from KreugerinKultuur (heritage projects) and Ian Lilley and Jonathan Pragnell from the University of Queensland in Brisbane have joined forces to examine this shared history location in a multidisciplinary project. Using oral history, archival and archaeological research, the project aims to tell the story of this camp and the Dutch plans of rebuilding their empire. And it will result in the creation of a website, a publication and a (photo-)exhibition, depending on the outcomes of the research that is currently being carried out.

 

This project is supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Canberra.

This article was written by Bas Kreuger (bas@kreugerinkultuur.nl).