In 1950, a group of Dutch immigrants arrived in Tasmania and established a settlement in the town of Kingston, located about 12 km south of Hobart. The group was led by a Dutch Reformed Church minister Reverend Klaas Hoek, who had been invited to Tasmania by the Australian government to help resettle Dutch refugees who had been displaced by World War II. The group consisted of ten politically conservative families who had worked with the Dutch Resistance during WWII.
The settlers were mostly from the province of Groningen in the Netherlands, and thus the – now defunct – settlement became known as “Little Groningen”. It has been absorbed by the township of Kingston-Blackman’s Bay. They had their own building company; the Australian Building Corporation.
The Dutch settlers faced many challenges in adapting to their new home, including a different climate, unfamiliar customs and language, and a shortage of housing and other resources. However, they were determined to make a new life for themselves and worked hard to establish a thriving community in Kingston.
The settlers brought with them many aspects of Dutch culture, including their language, cuisine, and customs. They established a Dutch school, which taught both Dutch and English, and organised cultural events such as festivals and dances. Over time, the settlement grew and prospered, with many of the original settlers becoming successful farmers, tradespeople, and business owners.
The first Reformed Church of Australia
Not surprisingly, the first Reformed Church of Australia was established at Kingston in 1952. Its name was chosen to make clear the desire to integrate into the Australian community and to remove the stigma of being Dutch and ‘foreign’. Nevertheless, it was based on the principles of orthodox Reformed theology so that its members were predominantly former members of the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands.
As Dutch migration to Tasmania continued in the 1950s and 1960s, Reformed Churches were established in Ulverstone, Penguin, Hobart and Howrah. Since the 1970s, the ethnic diversity of its membership has increased.
The John Calvin School, another first for the Reformed Church, which was opened in January 1962 with an enrolment of 77 primary students.
Between 1977 and 1961, the Dutch were the largest on-English speaking group in Tasmania. This ‘Little Groningen’ was the only true Dutch group settlement in Australia.
Today, Kingston is a vibrant suburb of Hobart, and while much of the Dutch influence has faded over time, the legacy of the early settlers is still evident in the town’s architecture, street names, and cultural heritage. The Dutch community in Tasmania continues to celebrate its history and traditions, and the Kingston community remains an important part of Tasmania’s multicultural heritage.
The Dutch Australian Society “Abel Tasman” Inc.
Elly Schuth: Voyage to Kingston, Tasmania