Cr Gerardus Den Dulk
Gerardus “Gerry” den Dulk was the thirteenth councillor elected to the Shire of Altona. He served from 29 August 1959 until his retirement on 4 May 1968. Additionally, Gerardus also served as the Shire President in 1963/64, which was the same period in which the new council chambers and offices in Civic Parade were opened. This wasn’t the only event that propelled him and Altona into the news though! Gerardus was also the first Altona Shire President from a non-English speaking migrant background. So, what was his background and how did he find his way to seaside suburb of Altona?
Gerardus den Dulk was born on 8 November 1923 in the coastal area of Scheveningen, Netherlands, one of the eight districts of municipality of The Hague. He was the second of five children. At the early age of sixteen, Gerardus and the Dutch population found themselves in the thick of World War Two as they were ruled over by the German occupation forces. These were unimaginable times for everyone within the Netherlands, particularly for the large Jewish population, but no less demanding and menacing for all its citizens. The Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation developed relatively slowly, but its counterintelligence, domestic sabotage, and communications networks provided key support to Allied forces.
Gerardus joined the Dutch underground soon after its occupation. He assisted in establishing the first link between occupied Netherlands to the Dutch government and royal family that had relocated to England. However, in 1942, Gerardus was captured and sent as slave labour to Germany. Through stealth and trustworthy contacts in the Dutch resistance, he managed to escape his captivity and went into hiding for two years within his home country. The German military tried him (in absentia) and sentenced him to death for his role as a saboteur.
Gerardus and his wife, Lena (nee Foeken), emigrated to Australian in August 1951 to start a new life in a new country. The couple married in 1950, about one year prior to migrating to Australia. They were initially sent to a migrant camp in Bathurst, New South Wales, knowing very little English. Soon after, they relocated to Altona, Victoria, where they first moved into a bungalow. The couple eventually settled into their new home in Bracken Grove, and in 1955, their daughter Albertine ‘Betty’ was born. It was just after this that Gerardus commenced working at Mobil in the late 1950s. However, he was badly injured along with seven others in an industrial accident at the refinery on 4 October 1957.
In 1958, shortly after the refinery incident, the den Dulk family opened a hardware store in Somers Parade, known as West Altona Hardware. It was also around this time that Gerardus and Lena were naturalised as Australian citizens. A year later, having taken a keen interest in local and state politics, Gerardus successfully ran for election to the Altona Shire council. He was re-elected again in 1962 and 1965.
Prior to his election and even during his time as a councillor, Cr den Dulk served as president of the Altona Elderly Citizens’ Welfare Council. He had also been president of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, a member of the Altona High and Altona North Technical School Advisory Councils, as well as a member of the Western Suburbs Municipal Association since it was formed. Throughout this busy period, Gerardus and Lena also established a greengrocer store on the corner of Civic Parade and Millers Road.
In 1963, upon becoming Shire President, Cr. Den Dulk said that there were several things he would like to see during his term in office. They were:
- A favourable report on the proposed railway extension. The Public Works Committee has given a favourable report’ and legislation is now being prepared for Parliament.
- Finalisation of the Cherry Swamp Drain. This drain is now under way. Excavation at the sea end is well in advance.
- Completion of drains and footpaths for all unmade streets. Work of this nature in private streets in Altona North was completed and considerable progress has been made in other sections of the Shire.
- Some progress in removal of the Briquette Depot. Apart from sustained opposition to the dump, including protest meetings by the residents, no vital progress had been made.
During his term as Shire President, Cr. den Dulk also opened the Hobsons Bay civic centre and unveiled the chamber dome with the then opposition leader Arthur Calwell. In fact, Cr. den Dulk is the only councillor to chair council meetings in each of the three different venues where the Altona meetings have been held—firstly at the Altona Homestead, then the Elderly Citizens’ Club rooms, and finally in the present council chamber. He also ran for state parliament (Southern Province) in the Legislative Council in 1964 for the Labor party but was narrowly defeated.
In March 1968, Gerardus realised that he had asked a lot of his family during his time in the council. He ultimately decided that he needed to spend more time with his wife and daughter. He advised the council that he would soon resign, and he sold his greengrocer business too. It was at his farewell dinner that the shire secretary, James Waters, said of Cr. den Dulk, that “His name, den Dulk, will be known to all as we have named a street after Gerry and a reserve in Altona West which contains a playground, kindergarten and health centre.” Both Den Dulk Avenue and Den Dulk Reserve are situated close to where the den Dulk family lived in Bracken Grove.
Following Gerardus’s resignation from the council, the den Dulk family moved from Altona to Nambour, Queensland, which they would call home for about the next six years. They then moved again, this time south to the township of Warilla, near Wollongong, New South Wales. Here, Gerardus and Lena settled into their retirement.
Gerardus den Dulk passed away on 11 August 2019 at the age of 95. He is interred within the Yan Yean Cemetery. His wife Lena passed away on 1 July 2022, also aged 95, and was interred next to her husband. They are survived by their daughter Betty, son-in-law Dennis Brown and grandchildren.