When and why did you move to Australia?
I came to Australia as a backpacker, to travel and work. My sister advised me I could work on farms and do other casual jobs. I travelled to Queensland from Sydney with a guy I met there (we keep in touch until this day!) and we I took on any job we could find. I worked on a banana farm, I painted people’s houses and even worked as a skiing teacher.
Back in the Netherlands, my parents had a big farm and I was used to hard work. The circumstances are a bit different here in Australia, the climate and farming practices were different, but my Dutch experiences were valued, and I could easily find work.
On my way back home after a year of backpacking, I met Juliet in Moscow, who is from Melbourne. I was 28 years old at the time and not long after we met, I moved to Melbourne permanently.
What does Dutch identity and culture mean to you?
In the beginning I picked up the phone in Juliette’s family house saying: ‘This is Kurt from Holland!”. Everyone knew I was the new guy from Holland.
In the beginning I picked up the phone in Juliet’s family house saying: “This is Kurt from Holland!”. Everyone knew I was the new guy from Holland.
Dutch culture and the Netherlands have always played a central role in my life and how I raised my two daughters. They both speak Dutch, are doing their Dutch exams and I took them to a Dutch community playgroup when they were little. We travel to the Netherlands every year, when they were younger would stay for a few months so they could attend school. If you’d open my kitchen cupboard, you would find appelstroop, pindakaas and hagelslag.
Every year, I organise a Dutch camping weekend. I have done that for many years and dozens of families would come over for the weekend. Non-Dutch speaking partners are not welcome, or they have to speak Dutch, haha!
Can you tell us a bit about the Zing! choir?
I joined Zing! 2.5 years ago. I had never sung in my life and didn’t think I was good at it at all! A Dutch friend of mine convinced me to join and I loved it. For me it is pure enjoyment, singing is also really good for your health.
Zing! is such a diverse team; anyone fits in. If you don’t fit in, that is an addition, because it is more diverse.
Membership is rather stable; people only leave when they move overseas or interstate. Some members speak only a little bit of Dutch because it is their second language. One of the choir members once said: ‘you’re my family’. He never visited the Netherlands, but learns about his ancestry through the choir.
I think I learned more about the Netherlands after joining Zing! and all the people I met there. But this could happen in the Netherlands as well, if you meet someone new at a party whom comes from Zaltbommel and talks about the church tower, you learn something new. At Zing! we sing about the tower. Whereas for some members Zing! really offers a place to learn about Dutchness and connect to their Dutch identity, for me this is different because I have lived half my life in the Netherlands.
I don’t feel more Dutch when I sing with the Dutch community choir, I just feel like myself.
Two of my favourite songs we sing with Zing! include Kom van dat dak af by Peter Koelewijn and Oerend Hard by Normaal.