The Dutch were first noticeable in Melbourne during the gold rush. Jan Vennik, brought to trial for his part in the Eureka Stockade, settled in Williamstown. Jan Zevenboom became a successful brush manufacturer, councillor of the Melbourne City Council and commissioner for the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition. Another commissioner, Daniel Ploos van Amstel, was a generous benefactor of the Austin and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospitals; his brother, Jan Willem, published several memoirs of travels in Australia. Painter Henricus van den Houten became art master at Scotch College and helped found the Victorian Academy of Art. Other 19th-century Dutch visual artists who settled in Melbourne included Jan Hendrick Scheltema, who achieved fame for his rustic scenes, and Jacques Carabain, remembered for his landscapes and architectural subjects.
The Dutch fleet visited Melbourne in 1910 and drew enormous crowds of visitors. Dutch-born Guillaume Daniel Delprat, general manager of Broken Hill Proprietary Limited and pioneer of Australia's steel industry, lived for many years in Melbourne and died there in 1937. He was a board member of the Royal Melbourne Hospital and father-in-law of Sir Douglas Mawson.
In 1936 the Order of Women of Nazareth, otherwise known as the 'Ladies of the Grail', was founded in Melbourne by five Dutch Catholic women: Lydwine van Kersbergen, Judith Bouwman, Brigid Huizinga, Patricia Willenborg and Frances van der Schot. Cees and Johanna Tesselaar, who arrived in Victoria in 1939, pioneered tulip-growing at Silvan in the Dandenongs and also established an annual Tulip Festival.
Melbourne's next significant wave of Dutch immigrants came with the influx of refugee civilians and servicemen after the fall of the Dutch East Indies in 1942. A Dutch club was established in Elizabeth Street and in 1944 Dutch women formed an Auxiliary Corps. After World War II, Melbourne received more Dutch immigrants than any other Australian city. Despite the fact that some 40% returned to the Netherlands, the Dutch have been described as 'good immigrants' and 'model assimilators'. Linguistic studies indicate that they have fewer problems communicating in English and have a much better grasp of Australian slang than other non-English-speaking immigrants. Thousands of skilled Dutch tradesmen and technicians helped to reinvigorate Melbourne's postwar industries. Many established enterprises of their own, particularly in the building and horticultural fields. Prominent Dutch-Melburnian cultural figures have included conductor Willem van Otterloo and film-maker Paul Cox. The Netherlands-Australian Cultural Society has also promoted Dutch culture (including exhibitions) in Melbourne through its Erasmus Foundation. The local community paper is the bilingual monthly Dutch Courier, established in 1970 when the Associated Netherlands Societies in Victoria decided to create a single collective publication. At the 2001 census there were 15 828 Netherlands-born in metropolitan Melbourne. Most are home-owners enjoying a middle-class standard of living in established outer suburbs. The community, however, is ageing and the Dutch have an admirable record of founding their own retirement villages and providing Dutch-speaking aged care. The Holland Australian Retirement Foundation (HARF) was established in Melbourne in 1971 and ultimately constructed the Beatrix Village in Montrose and the Princess Margriet Units in Kilsyth. In 1983 Avondrust was formed to establish similar accommodation at Carrum Downs. Each February, since 1974, Dutch Melburnians have celebrated their Holland International Festival at Sandown racecourse in Springvale with the object of raising money for further aged care and to introduce Dutch food and culture to the wider community.