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

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Laperouse Day 2017 celebrated with dignity and style

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On Friday 10th March 2017 exactly 229 years to the day that French Naval Officer Real Admiral Jean-François de Galaup le Comte de Lapérouse left Australia never to be seen of again, Councillor Noel D’Souza Mayor of Randwick City on behalf of the La Perouse Museum and Headland Trust hosted close to 100 guests for an evening of remembrance and celebration at the Lapérouse Museum of Sydney.

His Worship the Mayor was accompanied by his partner Mme. Annick Antoine; in conjunction with Nicole Forrest Green, President of the Friends of the Lapérouse Museum, they received the Hon. Matt Thistlethwaite Federal Member for Kingsford Smith, the Deputy Leader of the NSW Opposition the Hon. Michael Daley Member for Maroubra, Councillor Geoff Stevenson Randwick City Council, Consul General of France, Sydney Mr. Nicolas Croizer, French Defence Attaché, Captain Yann Marboeuf (French Navy) Canberra and Captain Brian Schlegel representing the Fleet Commander of Garden Island Sydney, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer AO CSC and Bar RAN.

Famous Australian sports champion, former Rugby Union XV Wallabies player, and proud local member of La Perouse’s Biidjigal people, Mr. Gary Ella performed the Welcome to Country complementing a diverse guest list with a distinctly French flavour.

In particular the surprise presence of a young French girl Alexia du Peloux, enhanced the occasion. Aged 22 years, from Brittany in North-Western France, Alexia is a descendent of the Astrolabe’s Commander Paul Antoine Fleuriot de Langle. She was welcomed by all in the context of closer relations with France and the importance of the Museum’s strong French heritage.

Lapérouse sailed into Botany Bay on January 26th 1788, set up camp on its northern headland where he and his crew remained for approximately 6 weeks. A scientific expedition, under the orders of the last King of France Louis XVI, he and his men took advantage of the opportunity to discover this strange southern land far from France with its unique vegetation, flora and fauna, as well as its aquatic life and original animal species, namely marsupials. Samples of ‘Hawkesbury’ sandstone were collected and his men met not only the site’s local indigenous people, but officers and crew of Captain Philip’s First Fleet anchored across at Sydney Cove, which had also just arrived.

En route to Australia tragedy had befallen Lapérouse. He lost his right hand man, close friend and naval technician Fleuriot de Langle in Command of the Astrolabe when an encounter with the people of Samoa at Maouna (today Tutuila Bay) went badly wrong and 11 of Laperouse’s men were killed as they attempted to retrieve drinking water for the next leg of their voyage from a remote inland location in small boats. Father Louis Receveur, a Franciscan aboard the Astrolabe, but also a naturalist and man of science – not uncommon at the time of the French Enlightenment – was gravely injured and died at Botany Bay in February 1788 where a catholic mass was conducted in his memory whilst he was buried. The esteemed philosopher-naturalist Robert-Paul de Lamanon also perished in the attacks of Maouna. Lapérouse was a man known for his humanity and insisted that no reprisals be taken against the people of the Island, despite France’s significant strength and technological advantage in weaponry.

French Defence Attaché, Canberra Captain Yann Marboeuf, French Navy, in his speech reminded the audience (LINK) that …… 

Lapérouse was a great sailor open to the great discoveries of the 18th century, a century that we like to call in French le siècle des lumières (The Age of Enlightenment). He was always, and above all, a humanist, who never denied the values he believed in, when dealing with his enemies or facing populations he came across during his expedition in the South Pacific region and kept in mind what he had written before leaving France: “I shall make every effort to ensure that the inhabitants of the Islands we might visit will never be sorry for having welcomed us”.

Nicole Forrest Green as master of ceremony read a message received from her counterpart in Albi France, Lapérouse’s birthplace – from the President of the Association-Musée Lapérouse d’Albi France, Mr. Jean-Marie Pestel.

Jean-Marie is a descendant of the Lapérouse family. He paid homage to Alain Conan.

Alain was a giant in the context of the Lapérouse story and had just been reported missing at sea by the authorities in New Caledonia. Alain dedicated much of his life to unravelling the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Lapérouse and that of the expedition’s two frigates, the Astrolabe and the Boussole, which were found eventually wrecked on reefs off the Island of Vanikoro, part of the Santa Cruz archipelago in the Salomon Islands.

Alain, an experienced sailor and underwater diver, founded the Salomon Association in 1981. He was instrumental in working with France’s Navy and the Maritime Museum of New Caledonia to recover and collate a remarkable inventory of objects from the wrecked ships of Laperouse’s expedition now known to have met with a massive cyclone off the coast of the Salomon Islands for which the Pacific Ocean, above the Tropic of Capricorn, is famous for.

Alain had just finished a remarkable website – http://www.collection-laperouse.fr – a testimony to his dedication and life’s work that the Lapérouse Museum in Sydney will be joining. He is an irreplaceable loss and in many respects his disappearance is not dissimilar to that of Lapérouse himself.

Alain had taken his boat out alone in still waters one morning off Amédée Island with the aim of diving off one of Noumea’s many reefs – it would be a dive from which he never returned as currents on these reefs are notorious and can change rapidly.

Lost to the great vastness of the southern Pacific Ocean for all eternity, both Lapérouse and Alain Conan will be remembered with distinction and pride.

Photo 1: the Consul General of France, in Sydney Nicolas Croizer, Nicole Forrest Green President of the FOLM, Annick Antoine with RCC Mayor Noel D’Souza, Federal Member for Kingsford Smith, the Hon. Matt Thistlethwaite MP, French Defence Attaché, Canberra Captain Yann Marboeuf, French Navy

Photo 2: the late Alain Conan with Jean-Marie Pestel (descendent of the Lapérouse Family) Albi France

French Film Festival Special Offer

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SPECIAL OFFER  FOR FRIENDS OF THE LAPEROUSE MUSEUM

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The Alliance Française de Sydney is delighted to offer 70 ‘two for one’ passes to the friends of Laperouse Museum to celebrate the 28th edition of the Alliance Française French Film Festival from the 7th to 30th March.

Take your Friends’ membership card with you to pick up your pass at the Alliance Française de Sydney from today, then present it at the cinema box office to receive two tickets for the price of one full-priced adult ticket.

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We anticipate that door sales will be available for most sessions, however patrons are urged to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

More info: Alliance Française de Sydney  257 Clarence St, Sydney 02 9292 5700 From 9am to 6.30pm

Participating cinemas: 

PALACE VERONA Cnr Oxford & Verona Streets, Paddington NSW 2021 (02) 9360 6099

PALACE NORTON STREET 99 Norton St, Leichhardt NSW 2040 (02) 9564 5620

CHAUVEL CINEMA Cnr Oatley Rd & Oxford St, Paddington NSW 2021 (02) 9361 5398

HAYDEN ORPHEUM, CREMORNE 380 Military Road, Cremorne NSW 2090 (02) 9908 4344