April 20, 2019

Australia and the Netherlands: 400 years of shared history

Ambassador Neuhaus attended the Invictus Family & Friends Day in Doorn for the Dutch athletes representing the Netherlands at the 2018 Invictus Games in October in Sydney, Australia.

Australia’s new Ambassador to the Netherlands, H.E. Mr.  Matthew Ernest Keith Neuhaus, comes to The Hague with a background in international law, multilateralism and Africa (he grew up in East Africa and has served as Ambassador in Zimbabwe and Nigeria). “My career anchors” he calls them.

As a Masters student at Cambridge University he first visited the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1986 for a mock court case – or moot. Later in his career he worked on Australia’s international court cases. So it was particularly fitting to commence his posting in The Hague as the head of the Australian delegation in the recent Chagos Islands Case.

Ambassador Neuhaus also came to The Hague in the early 1990s while Legal Adviser at Australia’s Mission to the United Nations as part of the Australian delegation finalising the Chemical Weapons Convention and its implementation. “It is exciting to see the growth of organisations such as the OPCW and ICC since those days” he says.

He is saddened by the controversies and divisions now surrounding their work. “Australia is a strong supporter of the international rules based order and the institutions that underpin this. We need to ensure a shared commitment as nations to the total elimination of chemical weapons and to bring to justice those who commit serious international crimes” he emphasises.

HM King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, the Ambassador of Australia, H.E. Matthew Neuhaus, Ms. Indra McCormick, Deputy Head of Mission, Mr. Tony Pobjie, First Secretary and Consul, Ms. Michelle McKendry, First Secretary.

While he has a deep interest and commitment to the multilateral work, most of his time is taken up with an increasingly important bilateral relationship with the Netherlands. “We have over 400 years of shared history” he notes, as a result of the Dutch being the first Europeans to sail to Australia’s shores, in 1606, which they named “New Holland”.  

The name didn’t stick but the relationship did, with the Dutch active in Asia to this day. More than 300,000 Australians claim Dutch heritage. Formal diplomatic relations were entered into during World War 2 when Australia’s High Commissioner in London became the first accredited Ambassador to the then Government in Exile in London. The Embassy in The Hague was opened with the liberation of the Netherlands, in which many young Australians lost their lives.

12 October 2018: Ambassador Neuhaus opened the exhibitionby Arkeria Rose Armstrong at the Aboriginal Art Gallery Rotterdam
In the picture: Mr. Michel Arends and Ms. Danielle van Dam- owners of the Aboriginal Art Gallery Rotterdam, Ms. Arkeria Rose Armstrong – artist, Ambassador Matthew Neuhaus and Mrs. Angela Neuhaus

“Few people know that the Netherlands is now Australia’s fourth largest foreign director investor” Ambassador Neuhaus reveals, with only USA, UK and Japan ahead. “While we have an important and growing economic and political relationship with the countries of our Indo-Pacific region, Europe remains crucial. This even more so as we begin negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with Europe, and the Netherlands is a particularly important partner in Europe” he notes.

We also share values and approaches with the Netherlands, including a commitment to global free trade and innovation and promoting the rule of law, free expression and democracy. This makes us important allies internationally. We have worked and fought together against terrorism and injustice, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq in countering ISIL. We are cooperating closely to pursue truth and justice for the victims and families of the MH17 tragedy in which many of our nationals died.

In the aftermath of the successful Invictus Games in Sydney led by Prince Harry, which support and celebrate injured servicemen and women, Ambassador Neuhaus is looking forward to the next Games in 2020 in The Hague.

Finally as a gender champion he is determined to support increasing gender equality and women in leadership positions in international institutions during his time in The Hague. “It is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do and I look forward to promoting more positive change during my posting here”, he notes.


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