A New Lease of Life for the La Perouse Museum

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Tuesday 5th September 2017 saw a new chapter unfold in the life of the Lapérouse Museum.  Situated on the northern headland of Botany Bay, the Museum was established in 1988 to coincide with Australia’s bi-century and the landing of French Naval Officer Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse in 1788.

The NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage, Gabrielle Upton and Randwick City Mayor, Councillor Noel d’Souza signed an historic agreement that will transfer management of the Lapérouse Museum, on a long-term lease (2 x 21 years) to Randwick City Council. The transfer, which is several years in the making, will result in the Museum’s maintenance and running assured by Randwick City Council. Much needed funds allocated in Council’s budget can now be released and directed towards repairs and restoration of the Lapérouse Museum, Lapérouse Monument, Père Receveur Grave and Macquarie Watchtower. A stakeholder’s advisory Trust will advise Council and a consultation process underway will decide the best uses for these significant assets that attract many visitors to the area from Australia and abroad each year. Randwick Council aims to elevate this important location to one of the nation’s principal cultural destinations.

This unique site is very important to France. It marks the beginning of the France-Australia relationship a 229 year long affair that continues to grow, strengthen and prosper.   The establishment of the Lapérouse Museum in 1988, was the culmination of a joint four year Australia-France project for our nation’s bicentenary. Throughout the Museum’s life both the Royal Australian and French Navies regularly gather here to commemorate Lapérouse’s unprecedented visit and to pay homage to all Mariners past and present, who often serve far away from their homeland.

A ceremony conducted with dignity and respect accompanied the official signing of the new lease, presided over by Peter Hay, Executive Officer for the Greater Sydney Region of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.  Honoured guests and participants included Michael Wright CEO of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW Member for Coogee and former Randwick Council Mayor the Hon. Bruce Notley-Smith, the Consul General for France Nicolas Croizer, Gary Ella representing the La Perouse Indigenous community, Randwick City Councillor Sima Truuvert, Director of City Planning, the Lapérouse Museum’s curator Elizabeth Broomhead, Nicole Forrest Green (President) and Tony Gentile (Secretary) representing the Friends of the Lapérouse Museum and the Principal of the French School, Maroubra the Lycée Condorcet, Philippe Courjault accompanied by Year 5 primary students who performed both the Australian and French National Anthems.

Minister Upton is to be commended for her efforts in taking charge of this project and assuring the transfer of the Museum’s management and other related sites, took place in a timely manner. This long awaited result will breathe new life into the area and will allow for greater access to facilities, and increased Museum operating hours. The management agreement will officially come into effect on Thursday October 26 2017.

(Pictured above:  Schoolchildren from the French School at Maroubra including a descendent of the family of Pierre le Gobien with Minister Upton and Bruce Notley-Smith MP Coogee who as Mayor of Randwick first raised the possibility of the lease. Pierre le Gobien joined the expedition in the Philippines in May 1787, celebrated his 21st birthday in June aboard L’Astrolabe and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant at Botany Bay, March 5th 1788).

The Friends of the Lapérouse Museum thank all parties who worked tirelessly across many years to ensure the result achieved today and look forward to the future with great anticipation.

Nicole Forrest Green, President

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Australia’s Chief of Navy, VADM Tim Barrett AO CSC RAN Visits the Laperouse Museum

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On Wednesday, 7th June 2017 the Friends of the Lapérouse Museum hosted close to 90 guests for a special evening, a lecture entitled ‘American Freedom, a French Inspiration’ or ‘l’Indépendance Américaine, grâce a la France’ by Professor Peter Anstey from the University of Sydney, a specialist in 18th century French philosophy, the era of Lapérouse, Lafayette, Rochambeau, Jefferson, Franklin and the French Enlightenment.

The Guest of Honour was Australia’s Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett AO CSC RAN. Other special dignitaries included the U.S. Consul General Valerie Fowler, French Consul General Nicolas Croizer and from France the CEO of THALES Underwater Systems SAS and Vice President of the THALES Group Alexis Morel. Also present were the U.S. Naval Attaché Captain Defrias, French Defence Attaché (FN) Captain Marboeuf, CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (Amcham) Niels Marquardt and the Dean of the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics from Western Sydney University, Professor Siméon Simoff.  (Photos: FR-AUS-US Navies Captain Y. Marboeuf (French Defence Attaché, French Navy) VADM Tim Barrett AO CSC RAN Chief of Navy, Captain A. Defrias (U.S. Naval Attaché); FOLM President, Nicole Forrest Green with Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett AO CSC RAN

 

FOLM President, Nicole Forrest Green conducted the order of ceremony for the evening, inviting both the French and U.S. Consuls General to speak on the important historical relationship between the U.S. and France where during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), French assistance enabled American resistance forces also known as the ‘Continental Army’ to defeat the British colonists with both financial aid and military support ensuring their independence. Lapérouse, the Marquis de Lafayette and the Count of Rochambeau were active French participants. Professor Peter Anstey, also referenced French political philosopher and jurist Montesquieu and his core work ‘De l’Esprit des Lois’ where he believed that political freedom could be created by separating political powers into different branches, developing the political theory of ‘checks and balances’ that became an integral  part of the U.S. Constitution. (Photos:  Professor Peter Anstey, University of Sydney; U.S. Consul General Valerie Fowler)

Guest of Honour VADM Tim Barrett AO CSC RAN, Australia’s Chief of Navy also addressed an attentive audience, highlighting the strong France-Australia partnership recently strengthened when French defence company DCNS, had been selected in April last year to design the Royal Australian Navy’s new fleet of diesel powered submarines. Vice Admiral Barrett referred to the cooperation in our region of the three nations represented tonight, Australia, France and the U.S., allies, united by shared values and historical bonds that remain solid and strong. The Chief of Navy also paid homage to the vision and achievements of French Naval Officer, Jean-François Galaup, le Comte de Lapérouse, who landed on ‘this very site where we gather this evening’, on 26th January 1788, and who personifies the beginnings of the France-Australia relationship, an enduring partnership.

From France, Nicole Forrest Green welcomed Alexis Morel, CEO of Thales Underwater Systems SAS and a Vice President of the Thales Group leading the organisation’s underwater systems global business line. Alexis’ international engagement is vast including a secondment to the U.S. State Department, working within the French Embassy in Washington D.C., and serving in France’s Foreign Ministry’s Directorate for Strategic and Security Affairs, in charge of NATO and European Defence Policy. In Australia, THALES work extensively with the Royal Australian Navy and partner with numerous domestic SME’s in the defence sector, creating jobs and businesses that use advanced technology and specialized science.  (Photo: Alexis Morel, CEO Thales Underwater Systemes SAS, VP Thales Group)

But it is the organisation’s interest in culture, education and employment opportunities for young Australians (including women), that brings them to the Lapérouse Museum. Generous sponsors of the evening, Thales will also partner with the Lapérouse Education Fund to create a scholarship program that will send Australian students from non-affluent backgrounds to France, to further their studies in science, engineering and mathematics via a University exchange program between the University of Nice, Sophia Antipolis and Western Sydney University, Parramatta. THALES operate from premises close to both campuses at Sophia Antipolis, an advanced technology hub in Southern France, and at Rydalmere next to Parramatta in Sydney’s West. Students at WSU are often first in their family to attend University, and are unlikely to have the opportunity to travel and study in France. Criteria for the scholarship will include an affinity with French philosophy and the mission and values of Lapérouse, whose legacy embodies dignity, respect, humanity and scientific discovery.  (Photo: French Consul General Nicolas Croizer with Michel-Henri Carriol)

Nicole Forrest Green presented the Dean of the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics of Western Sydney University with a $10,000 cheque on behalf of the Lapérouse Education Fund at the evening’s conclusion. She also extended an invitation to both the Chief of Navy and the U.S. Consul General to return to the Lapérouse Museum at their convenience, and thanked the French Consul General for his support of our work.

 

 

 

Ambassador’s visit to the Laperouse Museum

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Friday, 21st April 2017 His Excellency Christophe Lecourtier the French Ambassador to Australia was received by Nicole Forrest Green, President of the Friends of the Lapérouse Museum for an official visit and special ceremony.

In the presence of the Hon. Matt Thistlethwaite Federal Member for Kingsford Smith, Mayor of Randwick City, Councillor Noel D’Souza and Mme. Annick Antoine, French Consul General to Sydney, M. Nicolas Croizer, French Cultural Attaché, M. Philippe Platel and Mr. Gary Ella former Australian Rugby Union Player and Member of the Wallabies, representing the Indigenous Community of La Pérouse, Ambassador Lecourtier bestowed on our President on behalf of the French Republic, the insignia of the Ordre National du Mérite in the rank of Chevalier.

In his speech, the French Ambassador commended Nicole for her passion and commitment to the France-Australia relationship. Highlights included her Board Representation on the Alliance Française Sydney where she had hosted the Hon Malcolm Turnbull, Federal Member for Wentworth, whilst in Opposition, for a discussion around French culture, language, industry and technology; in journalism for her writing of the treasures of the South of France particularly the Luberon, a region she knows well, and in her capacity to bring the achievements of Lapérouse, a man of the French Enlightenment and his 18th century scientific expedition, to an English speaking audience with the publication of ‘Lapérouse Sailing through the Enlightenment’ and iconic promotional events held at the Lapérouse Museum that brought together the French and Australian Navies, academia and education.

The Ambassador acknowledged Nicole’s maternal grandfather a decorated AIF WWI veteran who had fought at Gallipoli and on the Somme in 1916 where he was gravely wounded. He had been the recipient of the French Medaille de Reconnaissance de la Nation awarded posthumously for his military service to France, that Nicole had received on his behalf in Nice in 1999. Ambassador Lecourtier also remarked on Nicole’s capacity to build momentum for the France-Australia relationship at all levels as the partnership enters a new phase of development and cooperation across many key sectors.

In her acceptance speech, Nicole expressed her condolences to the French Ambassador and to the French people for the previous night’s attacks on the Champs-Elysée which saw a Police Officer killed and several people injured – her thoughts were with all those affected by terrorism.

She also paid homage to General Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) the creator in 1963 of France’s Ordre National du Mérite and arguably one of the most important French figures of the 20th century with a legacy that casts a long shadow across modern French politics.

In an impassioned speech, Nicole highlighted de Gaulle’s most notable achievements. A refusal to accept a French Armistice with Nazi Germany in 1940 and the establishment of the Free French Movement from London; a call to arms via BBC radio on 18th June 1940; resistance of oppression, safeguard and protection of France’s national interests and her strategic independence; the liberation of Paris in 1944, and leadership of the French Provisional Government, followed in 1946 by an  early retirement but a return to glory in 1958 and ascendency to the nation’s Presidency of the newly created 5th Republic, a position he would hold for 10 years .

For de Gaulle a forward thinker, this was a time of modernization and development for France, particularly across industry, education, health, culture – and armed with new powers attributed to the French President under the constitution of the 5th Republic, de Gaulle sought to reposition France in a changing post-war world, where decolonisation and the Cold War presented new threats and challenges.

Often described as a political marvel, a master strategist, but above all a great Statesman, de Gaulle maintained throughout his life an immense pride and love for his country, combined with an innate understanding of the French people.

In this context and with a wealth of experience that crossed two major world wars, de Gaulle strove for policies that still hold much weight across the corridors of power in Paris – his renowned “Politics of Grandeur”, asserting that France maintain her sovereignty as a major power and not rely on other countries, for her national security and prosperity. To this end, de Gaulle pursued policies of “national independence” which led him to withdraw from NATO‘s military integrated command and launch an independent nuclear development program that made France the world’s fourth nuclear power.

In January 1963, Adenauer and de Gaulle signed a treaty of friendship, the Élysée Treaty with a view to restoring Franco-German relations.

Internationally, in January 1964, France was among the first Western powers to open diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) established in 1949, but had been isolated on the international scene.  De Gaulle justified this by “the sheer weight of evidence and reason.”

He also oversaw tough economic measures to revitalise the country, including the issuing of a new franc (worth 100 old francs) and reduced France’s dollar reserves, trading them for gold from the US government, to reinforce her economic independence.

France’s innate national pride, coupled with this and an insistence on remaining strategically independent in all matters of governance and notably defence, I am convinced did not go unnoticed by the Australian Government this time last year in choosing France as a strategic ally and defence partner in our region.

General de Gaulle also undertook a major reform and modernisation of France’s system of National Ordres targeting a younger, civilian population, including women and as a consequence the Ordre National du Mérite came into existence in 1963 in the midst of France’s post-war ‘trente glorieuse’ period (post-WWII boom). The average age of recipients of this great award is 54 and 50% are women.

I am honoured to be admitted to the ranks of the Ordre National du Mérite, and thank the French Ambassador and the French Republic for acknowledging my contribution to the France-Australia relationship.   

Nicole thanked the entire Committee for their combined unrelenting efforts last night as they worked tirelessly to ensure the Ambassador’s visit to the Lapérouse Museum was a great success.

Photo I: Lapérouse Museum Sydney: H.E. Ambassador Christophe Lecourtier, French Ambassador to Australia with Nicole Forrest Green President FOLM before a copy of Nicolas-André Monsiau’s famous painting which hangs in the Château de Versailles, France of King Louis XVI handing his instructions to Capitaine de Vaisseau Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de Lapérouse for his ‘voyage d’exploration autour du monde.’

Photo II: General Charles de Gaulle