Commonwealth Consolidated Acts

[Index] [Table] [Search] [Search this Act] [Notes] [Noteup] [Previous] [Next] [Download] [Help]


Agreement between the Netherlands and Australia concerning old Dutch shipwrecks

Section 3



1.    MR WIM BLOKZIJL, resident of The Hague, Head of the Inspection Division of the State Property Directorate of the Ministry of Finance, acting on behalf of the State of the Netherlands, hereinafter referred to as "The Netherlands".

2.    DR LLOYD DOUGLAS THOMSON, M.V.O., Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands, acting on behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, hereinafter referred to as "Australia":


A.    That vessels that belonged to the Dutch "VEREENIGDE OOSTINDISCHE COMPAGNIE" known as the V.O.C., hereinafter referred to as "the V.O.C.", were wrecked on or off the coast of Western Australia;

B.    That the Netherlands, by virtue of article 247 of the 1798 Constitution of the Batavian Republic, is the present legal successor to the V.O.C.:


Article 1:     The Netherlands, as successor to the property and assets of the V.O.C., transfers all its right, title and interest in and to wrecked vessels of the V.O.C. lying on or off the coast of the State of Western Australia and in and to any articles thereof to Australia which shall accept such right, title and interest.

Article 2:     For the purpose of this Agreement, the expression "articles" means any part of vessels as referred to in article 1, that have become or have been detached or removed therefrom, as well as the fittings, goods and other property, wherever situated, that were installed or carried on those vessels .

Article 3:     Australia shall make no claim on the Netherlands for reimbursement of any costs incurred in searching for any of the vessels referred to in article 1 of this Agreement or in recovering any articles from those vessels.

Article 4:     Australia recognizes that the Netherlands has a continuing interest, particularly for historical and other cultural purposes, in articles recovered from any of the vessels referred to in article 1 of this Agreement.

Accordingly Australia shall set up a Committee to determine the disposition and subsequent ownership of the recovered articles between the Netherlands, Australia and the State of Western Australia .

Article 5:     The Committee referred to in article 4 of this Agreement shall be set up within 90 days after the entry into force of the Agreement and shall comprise two persons nominated by the Netherlands and two persons nominated by Australia. These persons shall have the scientific and cultural expertise appropriate for the discharge of their functions.

Article 6:     The Committee shall determine the disposition of the recovered articles in accordance with the principles which have been agreed upon by Australia and the Netherlands and are set out in the Arrangement signed by Australia and the Netherlands and attached to this document.

Article 7:      Expenditure incurred by the Committee in the performance of its work shall be shared between the two Parties represented on the Committee, the share to be borne by the Netherlands being one third and that by Australia two thirds provided that--

      (I)     each Party shall bear the costs of travel by the Committee members nominated by it,

     (II)     the costs of communications by a party to the Committee shall be borne by the despatching Party, and

   (III)     the expenses of transportation of articles distributed in accordance with determinations of the Committee shall be borne by the recipients of the articles.

Article 8:     If the members of the Committee referred to in article 4 of this Agreement cannot come to an agreement on the disposition of particular articles, Australia and the Netherlands shall appoint an independent consultant to report on the matter in issue and the report shall be referred to the Committee for re-consideration of the matter. The cost of the report shall be shared between the two Parties represented on the Committee, the share to be borne by the Netherlands being one third and that by Australia two thirds.

Article 9:      If, on considering the consultant's report on a matter, the members of the Committee cannot come to an agreement on the disposition of the recovered articles, the matter will be referred to the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, which will settle the matter by negotiation.

Article 10:    This Agreement shall enter into force on the date of the signatures of both Parties.

DONE at The Hague this sixth day of November in the year One thousand nine hundred and seventy-two in two originals in the English language.




The Committee's responsibility will embrace all material recovered from the wrecks--whether recovered before or after the coming into operation of the Western Australian Museum Act in December 1964 which contains provisions for vesting in the Museum title to the wrecks of the Batavia, the Gilt Dragon, the Zuytdorp and Zeewyk.

Conduct of Business

The Committee is small enough to meet if occasion demands but most of its work could be done by correspondence.

General Principles

Representative collections

The cost of recovery (including treatment) is likely to exceed by far the intrinsic or antiquarian sale-value of material recovered. The Government of Western Australia is spending considerable sums on this work ($92,000 in the last financial year) and estimates that the total cost will be $2,000,000 or more. Although a division would not be warranted by consideration of cash value alone, the historic, educational, scientific and international considerations are such as to make the deposition of representative collections in the museums of the Netherlands and Australia most desirable. The remainder of the material would be held in the Western Australian Museum.

Considerations governing the partition of archaeological collections

In modern archaeological practice sites are no longer regarded merely as a source of important individual items, but rather as a body of material whose collective value far outweighs the importance of the individual pieces and in which the relationship of the individual objects within the sample are a major part of its historical value. Accordingly, the sharing of material from an archaeological site is best regarded as the accommodation in several localities of a corporate entity rather than its division into parts.

If the decision is made that the contents of an archaeological site are to be apportioned between two or more institutions, the first principle to be observed is that the total assemblage should be capable of reassembly to allow further statistical and scholarly analysis. It follows, therefore, that unnecessary splitting of a sample of closely similar objects capable of statistical treatment should be avoided and, where samples are accommodated in more than one institution, those institutions should contract not to disperse them further and, moreover, to agree to allow samples to be brought together for analysis and study as required. The second principle is that where unique or rare objects, themselves, form a meaningful assemblage within the whole, this assemblage should not be split or, if split, perfect replicas be made to complete the assemblage. As in the case of the division of statistical samples an agreement should be made between the recipients to reconstitute the original assemblage if it is required for scholarly research.

Treatment of material recovered

The contents of the ancient shipwrecks of the Dutch East India Company include abundant statistical samples such as coin, bricks, objects of pottery, elephant tusks, and so on. There are also many articles which are less abundant but which are duplicated many times over. Many of these are ship fittings such as cannon, anchors, cannon balls, etc. There are also other articles which are relatively rare, or even unique, in the deposits (e.g. articles possessed by crew members, or passengers, such as barber's instruments, navigational instruments, ornaments, etc.). Most articles are fragmentary and in need of immediate chemical conservation and stabilization in the laboratory as soon as they are recovered. This treatment cannot await distribution.

Operating Principles

Code of Operation

The Committee will operate by reviewing proposals for distribution made, from time to time, by the Director of the Western Australian Museum; it could decide that the proposed samples be increased or decreased in content in the light of the total material collected and other factors.

General aims

In its deliberations the Committee will have, as its general aim, the purpose of ensuring that representative series of statistical samples and sufficient examples of the rarer objects will be deposited in the museums of the Netherlands and Australia to convey the variety and contents of each wreck to both the public and to scholars while, at the same time, ensuring that major projects of scholarly research will not be impeded by overfragmentation of the collection. Dispersal in this way, among separate repositories will also help to ensure the permanent safety of representative material in the event of the destruction of any one repository.

Statistical samples

Most material so far recovered from the vessels are samples capable of statistical treatment.

A representative collection of the contents of each statistical sample should be made available to a museum of the Netherlands Government and a museum of the Commonwealth Government. Thus, in the case of coin, for example, both the Netherlands and Commonwealth Governments would receive as complete a series as possible representing the mintings and values contained within each of the wrecks. These will provide their museums with ample material of this class of objects for display purposes and sufficient to enable a scholar to make the initial qualitative studies which would possibly lead him to a more detailed statistical treatment of the bulk sample retained in the Western Australian Museum.

Less common or rare objects

In order to ensure that both the Netherlands and Commonwealth Governments acquire, in due course, representative collections of the less common and even unique objects, the following procedure will be adopted. Since the relationships of such objects to the whole sample cannot be known until excavation is complete, the distribution of specimens of this nature cannot be considered during the continuing process of recovery. However, at reasonable intervals (of say two or three years) it should be possible to assemble a representative sample with fair certainty that all duplicates of any rare object present in a particular excavation should have been recovered and their nature taken into consideration during the deliberations of the Committee.


6th November, 1972

AustLII: Copyright Policy | Disclaimers | Privacy Policy | Feedback