There is nothing like a Dame

On the eve of her abdication earlier this week, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands awarded a knighthood to the CEO of Victorian aged services provider, DutchCare.


Above: DutchCare CEO, Petra Neeleman poses with her surprise knighthood. Photo courtesy of Holland Focus.

The Chief Executive of Victorian aged services provider DutchCare has been honoured with a knighthood from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on the eve of her planned abdication this week after 33 years on the throne.

It’s been a week of celebrations for Petra Neeleman after she was presented with a knighthood in the Order of Oranje-Nassau during a reception held in Melbourne on Tuesday 30 April to celebrate the Inauguration of King Willem-Alexander.

The distinguished medal was awarded to Ms Neeleman by the Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mr Hans Nieuwland, in what Ms Neeleman described as a totally unexpected announcement.

Ms Neeleman said she had joined other members of the Dutch business and diplomatic community on Tuesday evening for a function to celebrate 75 year old Queen Beatrix’ formal handover of the throne to her son, Willem-Alexander, who has become the country’s first King since 1890.

“It was absolutely unexpected,” said Ms Neeleman.  “The Consul said he wanted to talk about Dutchcare and asked me to come onto the stage and then he began talking about me.”

“I said well, actually DutchCare isn’t about me, there’s a whole amazing community of staff and volunteers over many years and lots of hard work…. Then he said, well actually there is a reason I am talking about you, because actually this is about you,” she said.

“It is in recognition of this work, I am very honoured to be able to inform you, that it has pleased Her Majesty the Queen to appoint you, Petronella Neeleman, a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau,” the Consul said in making the award.

“It is with great pride and pleasure that, as her Consul, I have been instructed by Her Majesty to bestow this award upon you tonight.”

Proud and humbled

Ms Neeleman said she was extremely proud and humbled by the award which she believes is recognition for all the people in the DutchCare community.  Since the award, she has been visiting staff, residents and clients and doing a lot of celebrating.

“For our residents, there is a lot of love and respect for Queen Beatrix.  She has been on the throne for 33 years and it was on the anniversary of her crowning that she stepped down.

“We all had our own celebrations to mark her abdication and the crowning of King Willem-Alexander so in my response on Tuesday night I said I knew how thrilled the DutchCare community would be and many of the residents would be watching the ceremony – all the women with their advocaats and the men drinking their Jenever (Dutch gin),” said Ms Neeleman.

“It’s so special to know that the last official thing that Queen Beatrix did before abdicating was to sign off a list of awards including one for me. It actually happened on the day that the Queen abdicated and we got a new King.

While the Order of Oranje-Nassau is said to be comparable with the lower ranks of the Order of the British Empire in the UK, it does not give recipients a title, a prefix or a post-nominal.

“If we used titles, the title would be the equivalent of ‘Dame’ but we don’t.  Even the King says he doesn’t want to be referred to as His Majesty.”

However, Ms Neeleman says she has enjoyed plenty of laughs with friends, colleagues and well-wishers who are enjoying trying out new titles.

Above: Petra Neeleman and DutchCare CFO, Olaf Zalmstra (left of Ms Neeleman) met HRH The Prince of Orange and HRH Princess Maxima during a special visit to Australia in 2006 at a reception hosted by then Governor-General Michael Jeffery. 

DutchCare has been looking after the welfare of the Dutch elderly in Victoria for more than 25 years and provides both aged residential accommodation, intensive care services and in home support. Petra Neeleman has been CEO of DutchCare for all of this period. She was instrumental in bringing together a group of diverse care organisations into one strong and professional aged care group.

Above: The award – Knight of the Order of of Oranje-Nassau (civilian division)

The Order of of Oranje-Nassau is a chivalry order, founded in 1892. According to Wikipedia, it is open to “everyone who has earned special merits for society”. These are people who deserve appreciation and recognition from society for the special way in which they have carried out their activities.



Tags: award, dutchcare, knighthood, petra-neeleman,

10 thoughts on “There is nothing like a Dame

  1. Petra, Congratulations on your knighthood, very well deserved. This shows the dedication that people like you give to aged care and often goes unrecognised. So well done.

  2. Congratulations Petra. What fabulous recognition for you and the wonderful services provided by Dutchcare.

  3. Congratulations Petra, it is great to see well deserved recognition for your leadership & service to a wonderful organisation.

  4. Congratulations Petra. Well deserved. You have given many years.
    Well done

  5. Congratulations Petra. Well deserved. You have given many years of excellent service to both aged care and Dutchcare.
    Well done

  6. Petra

    On behalf of all of the members of ACSA around Australia, congratulations to you personally on this great honour and thank you on behalf of everyone in the community who have benefited from your leadership at Dutchcare.

  7. Congratulations Petra on the recognition you have received and importantly the work you have undertaken to raise the profile of issues for CALD communities and service provision in Australia and internationally. You have worked tirelessly in promoting quality and responsive service provision. Wonderful recognition of your contribution. Well done Anne

  8. Congratulations Petra, What an honour; well deserved for all the hard work you have put in across the industry over the years. Great recognition for both you and your achievements at Dutchcare. All the best,Lyn

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