Welcome To Balayi! Open your Eyes Houtman 400 Festival

The McGowan Government is a proud sponsor of the Balayi Open Your Eyes! Houtman 400 Festival through its Regional Events Scheme.

The scheme was devised as a way for the Government to support smaller and emerging events in regional Western Australia to boost tourism, increase community vibrancy and participation, and develop regional areas.

The Regional Events Scheme plays an important role in positioning Western Australia as an exciting destination to visit and a great place to live by showcasing and promoting a region’s unique and diverse attractions.

Sixty-eight regional events across the State have been funded through the 2019-20 Regional Events Scheme. This year’s round includes the Regional Aboriginal Events Scheme with a funding pool of $150,000 exclusively allocated to events delivering Aboriginal activities and experiences.

Tourism is a key part of the Government’s plan to diversify the economy, create jobs and develop business opportunities, especially in regional Western Australia.

Events play an important role in this plan, with the Government sponsoring a range of sporting, cultural, arts and culinary events across the State, through Tourism WA, to attract more visitors, encourage them to stay longer, disperse further and do more while they are here.

We hope everyone enjoys the event and takes the time to explore the Mid West region.







I’d like to officially welcome and invite you to the Balayi – Open Your Eyes! Houtman 400 Festival here in Geraldton. This is the first event of its kind to celebrate the unique maritime heritage of our region. If our coast could talk it would have some interesting tales to tell, and I look forward to these stories being told through a number of exciting exhibitions, installations and events that our community and visitors can engage in.

The history of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands has a profound connection with the Midwest, and many aren’t familiar with the story of Frederick de Houtman’s remarkable voyage and how the Islands were discovered.

With Yamaji art and dance, features at the Museum of Geraldton, light projections, a spectacular opening night and so much more, this is a special way to be part of such a significant anniversary.

The City of Greater Geraldton is proud to partner with the Batavia Coast Maritime Heritage Association to support this emerging event.

I’d encourage the community to embrace this celebration of our rich history and get involved in the upcoming event.

Shane Van Styn

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor

Shane Van Styn

The journey along the coast of Western Australia in 1619, made by Commander Frederick de Houtman, aboard VOC vessel Dordrecht, marked another historical moment in the early Dutch explorations of the Australian waters and shores. After the landing of Dirk Hartog in 1616, the Dordrecht was one of the many Dutch ships that encountered the west coast of the continent in the decades to come. The group of islands that were named after Commander De Houtman are not only known as the final resting place for Dutch shipwrecks Batavia (1629) and Zeewijk (1727), they are also renowned for their unique ecology and spectacular beauty.

I congratulate the organisers of the Balayi-Open Your Eyes! Houtman 400 Festival on highlighting an important chapter in the history shared by Western Australia and the Netherlands. It is wonderful to see how the festival honours the past, the present and the future. The culture of the Yamaji people is celebrated and stories are told of the rich, cultural heritage shared by our nations.

This shared cultural heritage will be visualised during one of the highlights in the program; ‘Illuminating the Night’, an event of beautiful night-time projections in Geraldton, which uses imaginary from the Rijksmuseum; the museum of the Netherlands.

The Embassy is proud to support the Balayi-Open Your Eyes! Houtman 400 Festival and,

I wish you all a very good time!

Marion Derckx


We would like to acknowledge and honour our Ancestors, our Elders past and present and our youth who will carry the future dreams and passion of our Yamaji People.

“Yamaji” meaning “Aboriginal Man or person” describes an area within the Midwest that many
language and family groups belong to.

A special thankyou to Yamaji Arts, Geraldton Streetwork Aboriginal Corporation, Bundiyarra – Irra
Wangga Language Centre, Yamaji artists and performers, Radio Mama and the Yamaji community
who have worked together with us in sharing their culture, creativity and visions for the future. Nhanagardi “The People” Wilunyu “Coastal Country”
Iningu Woojanu “The visitors and traveller” We welcome you.

Minangu - Traditional owner

Descendant of Traditional Owner

1619 marked the beginning of a new epoch in the rich maritime history of the west coast of
Australia. For millennia, as sea levels advanced and retreated several times, the First Australians
thrived on the continent’s sea-girt edge, a source of protein-rich foods adding to the larder of river
valleys and bushland plains. These shores remained unknown to Europeans: distant, mysterious,
immersed in the legends, fables and imagination of seafarers and philosophers, the edge of the
world, inhabited by monsters … sea monsters. The more rational suspected a huge landmass existed
in this southern hemisphere, required to balance the northern continents, “terra australis
incognita”, the unknown south land.

The ‘discovery’ of this land by Frederick de Houtman and Jacob Dedel aboard the ships Dordrecht
and Amsterdam in July 1619 was an accident – an unintended encounter, a consequence of the new
Brouwer Route across the southern Indian Ocean to Java and the spice islands. Realising the dangers
of sailing along these uncharted shores they steered to the safety of the open sea, only to narrowly
avoid the inconspicuous reefs and islands that became known as Houtman’s Abrolhos, the warning
in the name failing to forestall disaster for others who passed this way.

“Balayi-Open Your Eyes” captures the meeting of these two cultures, a chance to learn about and
reflect on these times and the four hundred years that have since passed. The events leading up to
and included in the Festival weekend provide an opportunity for all to discover our past, engage in
the present and explore the future. There is something for everyone, so join in and enjoy!

Howard Gray

Chair, Batavia Coast Maritime Heritage Association
Convenor, Balayi-Open Your Eyes! Houtman400 Festival