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ANCODS stands for the Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks and was set up in 1972 following a bilateral agreement between the Australian and Netherlands governments regarding the wrecks of Dutch East India Company (VOC) ships off the coast of Western Australia.

When in the 1960s four 17th and 18th century VOC shipwrecks were discovered off the West Australian coast, the ensuing looting and souvenir hunting required action in order to safeguard the wrecks and wreck sites. This led to their protection under the Western Australian State Government legislation (Museum Act 1963 later amended to Maritime Archaeology Act 1973).

It also clarified the legal and international issues between the Dutch government - who had inherited the assets of the bankrupt VOC in 1800 -, the Australian government, the Western Australian State government and the Western Australian Museum.


The 1972 Bilateral Agreement

A bilateral agreement was signed on 6th November 1972 in The Hague. In it the Netherlands transferred all its rights to the ship wrecks to Australia under the proviso that its ongoing historical and cultural interests would be recognised by Australia. For this purpose ANCODS was set up; to administer the work of the agreement by allocating the discovered artefacts, coins and other materials of historical or cultural value between the Netherlands, Australian, and Western Australian governments.

The agreement recognised the need for the collection to stay together for it to retain its scientific value. At the same time it determined that representative collections would be provided to each of the three parties, to stimulate research about the wrecks and the collection in both countries.

ANCODS consists of four members, persons chosen for their 'scientific and cultural expertise', two nominated by the Netherlands and two by Australia. Linked to the committee are two groups of stakeholders consisting of four museums and government representatives which take part in the decision making progress revolving around the agreement and the ANCODS collection.

compass rose

Detail from watercolour
sketch of the South Land
by Victor Victorszoon Original: Rijksarchief, Hague

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