When and why did you move to Australia?
The first time I visited to Australia I entered on a working holiday visa, I came to travel and work. My sisters advised me I could work on farms and other casual jobs. I travelled to Queensland from Sydney with a guy I met there (we kept in touch until this day!) and we I took on any job I could find. It was all minimum wage salaries and I worked at a banana farm, I painted peoples houses and even worked as a skiing teacher.
Back in the Netherlands, my parents had a big farm and I used to do a lot of work on the farm. 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 get a job on any farm.
On my way back home after a year of backpacking, I met Juliette in Moscow. She is from Melbourne. I was 28 years at the time. 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.
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, did their Dutch exams and I took them to a Dutch community playgroup. We travelled to the Netherlands every year, when they were younger we would stay for at least a few months so they could attend primary school. If you open my kitchen drawer, you will find appelstroop, Calvé pindakaas and hagelslag.
Every year, I organise a Dutch camping weekend on our property in Yarra Valley. I have done that for xx years and xx families would come over for the weekend. Non-Dutch speaking partners are not welcome, or they have to try 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. In the beginning I was nervous for rehearsals and performances, but not anymore.
Zing! is such a diverse team; anyone fits in. If you don’t fit in, that is an addition, because it is more diverse.
Most choir members would stay for a long period and would only leave when they move overseas or interstate. Most members speak only a little bit of Dutch, they can understand it but it is their second language. Rudy says ‘you’re my family’. He never visited the Netherlands, but gets to learn about his roots 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 that 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 create this 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.