Author and maritime historian Howard Gray said the success of the recent Balayi-Open Your Eyes! Houtman 400 Festival could usher in a “golden decade” of celebrations for Geraldton.
“There are some terrific opportunities there and the City should get behind them and use them to show who we are, our history,” Dr Gray said.
He said another five major maritime anniversaries could be observed between now and 2030.
They were the 1622 Philip Parker King survey, the possible 1625/1626 wreck of the Aagtekerke at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, 1727 Zeewijk wreck, 1629 Batavia wreck and Preston’s Champion Bay exploration in 1830.
Dr Gray said organisers were delighted with the recent Balayi-Open Your Eyes! Houtman 400 Festival.
“All in all we achieved our aim in bringing the anniversary event to the attention of the population and bringing the Dutch side and Yamaji side of the story to the public’s attention,” he said.
“The measure of success was the number of people that got engaged with it.”
Festival director Rebecca Millar said this included 300 at the opening night; 2000 watching animated and video projections on Queens Park Theatre and St Francis Xavier Cathedral; and 2000 at the Sunday foreshore event.
Artists included 120 creating the Karen Hethey-designed sea monster, 50 Yamaji artists and 22 other local and WA artists.
“There is something quite incredible when you have got a vision for something and the whole community comes together to make it happen,” Ms Millar said.
Mayor Shane Van Styn said celebrating Yamatji and maritime cultures was a fantastic way of looking at history.
“The event plays a strong part in giving our city an identity forged not only over the 400 years from de Houtman but at least 50,000 years of Aboriginal occupation,” he said.
Batavia Coast Maritime Heritage Association organised and ran the festival with the support of numerous volunteers, and sponsors including Geraldton Guardian owner Seven West Media and the City of Greater Geraldton.