2017 was a crucial year for the association and I am proud to have played my part in moving the organisation forward both strategically and logistically.
We began the year in February with the Pere Receveur mass, held in the warmth of the late summer sun, under a Marquee on the lawn before the Lapérouse Museum. In memory of the late Louis Receveur, Franciscan friar and French naturalist, who succumbed to his wounds at Botany Bay in February 1788, the local community gather each year in an atmosphere of respect and celebration to remember his achievements.
Lapérouse Day 2017 was held on March 10 and this year was generously supported by His Worship the Mayor of Randwick, in the presence of many dignitaries including the Hon. Matt Thistlethwaite MP Federal Member for Kingsford Smith, the French Consul General, Nicolas Croizer and the French Defence Attaché Captain Yann Marboeuf (Navy) with a surprise guest I sourced personally, a descendent of Viscount Fleuriot de Langle technician, right hand man, and friend of Lapérouse, Commander of the Astrolabe, killed just before the expedition’s arrival into Botany Bay in the Samoan Islands in an incident that also saw Pere Receveur gravely injured. This event had a solemn tone; the President of Noumea’s famous Salomon Association founded in 1981 and instrumental in working with France’s Navy and the Maritime Museum of New Caledonia in recovering a remarkable inventory of objects from the wrecked ships of the Lapérouse expedition, Alan Conan was reported missing at sea. Alan was a giant in the Lapérouse community internationally and is sorely missed.
On 21st April the French Ambassador to Australia, H.E. Christophe Lecourtier presented me with the Ordre National du Merite, in the rank of Chevalier for my dedication, work and promotion of France and French excellence to an Australian audience across a number of areas. In my acceptance speech I paid homage to the Medal’s creator General Charles de Gaulle who modernised France’s system of national orders targeting a younger, civilian population in 1963.
April 26 was a unique day which saw a Group from the Friends of the Laperouse Museum embark on a Private tour of Garden Island Sydney, otherwise known as Fleet Base East of the Royal Australian Navy. The chapel, cultural centre, Museum and famous system of underground tunnels were revealed to us thanks to the courtesy and generosity of RAN personal; a great privilege to be escorted and cared for so well by a number of the Officers on the Base.
A highlight for me personally on June 7 was hosting Australia’s Chief of Navy to the Lapérouse Museum, Vice Admiral Tim Barret AO CSC RAN. Also present were the U.S. Consul General Valerie Fowler, the U.S. Naval Attaché Captain Anthony Defrias, the French Consul General Nicolas Croizer, French Defence Attaché Captain Yann Marboeuf (Navy) and VP of Thales France, CEO of Thales Underwater Systems Alexis Morel, at an event that was six months in the making and included as guest speaker Professor Peter Anstey from the University of Sydney’s School of Philosophy who enamoured an audience of almost 100 people with a lecture entitled ‘American Independence, a French Inspiration.’ I would like to thank Thales for their support which made the evening possible.
Each year, Randwick Council generously sponsors a celebratory event at the Lapérouse Museum on France’s National Day July 14. This year we were gifted with fine weather and paid homage to Lapérouse and his expedition and mariners past and present, before the Lapérouse Monument with members of the French Veterans of NSW in attendance before retiring for refreshments inside the Museum. Over 100 people were in attendance at the daytime function before joining a reception in the evening held at the MCA, Circular Quay hosted by the France’s Consul General.
On 5th September – a date to be remembered – a momentous new chapter in the life of the Lapérouse Museum in Sydney officially unfolded. The NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage, the Hon Gabrielle Upton MP whom I have known for the past 5 years signed an historic agreement with the Mayor of Randwick that will transfer management of the Lapérouse Museum on a long term lease (2 x 21 years) to Randwick City Council. This massive undertaking and change will now result in funds being allocated to the Museum’s restoration and in the interim much-needed repairs taking place. I was pleased to have played my part in requesting Minister Upton’s assistance in finalising once and for all, this long process which she quickly and efficiently undertook to resolve for us. We are very grateful to her and to Randwick Council. NPWS were also instrumental in finalising the conditions of the lease to ensure a smooth hand-over; particular thanks are owed to Peter Hay, Executive Officer for the Greater Sydney Region of NSW NPWS.
September 9 saw an official visit to the Museum of French Senator Olivier Cadic who represents French citizens living abroad. An admirer of Lapérouse, Senator Cadic who has lived in the United Kingdom and speaks English with a near-perfect accent, was very appreciative of the time taken to show him this special site, and describe the voyage and achievements of the Lapérouse Expedition.
I have been a member of the association’s Committee for the last 5 years, with the past two as its first female President. I am proud of my achievements which have included the publication in English of ‘Lapérouse Sailing Through the Enlightenment,’ a variety of promotional events that have increased the Museum’s public exposure and attracted wider audiences, increased Membership which has almost doubled since I began in 2013 (including younger Members) and the re-establishment of the Museum’s naval heritage by engaging with both the French Navy and the Royal Australian Navy aided by this country’s largest ever defence contract being awarded in 2016 to a French company Naval Group, for the redesign of Australia’s new submarine fleet.
I have overseen the transition of the Museum to Randwick Council a massive undertaking that will have far reaching benefits and consequences for the whole Botany Bay northern headland area; I have re-established good relations with the indigenous community of La Perouse and the local Council vital for the advancement of the organisation in a collaborative, respectful manner. I am very appreciative of French Government support of our work and hope they will maintain an interest and a keen eye on the progression of the Museum and the story it will tell future generations.
For all those who supported my vision and initiatives I thank you wholeheartedly and I wish to inspire you with a few words accredited to Lapérouse himself –
‘I will probably never be a great man, but I take with me on my journey the principles of humanity, dignity and respect, and I am sure that you will find nothing in reading of the accounts of my travels, that will suggest any acts of injustice. I shall make every effort to ensure that the inhabitants of the Islands I encounter will never be sorry for having welcomed us.’
New challenges beckon and I am content in the personal knowledge of a ‘mission bien accomplie.’
Nicole Forrest Green , Président