Following are items of history that reflect the connections of Australia with France.
We hope you enjoy these, and we’d be delighted to receive input on other aspects that might be relevant in this context.
|Bare Island Fort, La Perouse, Sydney|
The French in Australia
The history of the French in Australia dates from the arrival of the La Perouse expedition at Botany Bay in January 1788, just days after the landing of the First Fleet, and French people have been living in Australia almost ever since.
The French who came to Australia after 1788, generally came in search of opportunity or new horizons.
The State Library of New South Wales’s collections are rich in the records of early French explorers of Australia and the Pacific region. But these well known tales of imperial adventure and competition are only a small part of the more extensive and enduring story of French association with, and contribution to, Australia.
There is a lovely museum in the city of Albi in the south of France, dedicated to La Perouse.
French Australians are Australian citizens who are of French ancestry or France-born people who reside in Australia. According to the 2011 Census, there were 110,399 people of French descent in Australia and 24,675 France-born people residing in the country at the moment of the census, having an increase of 28.6 per cent compared to the 2006 Census. The largest French Australian community is in the state of NSW with 8,936 France-born people.
France’s connection with Australia began early, with Bruni d’Entrecasteaux, Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, Jules Dumont d’Urville, Nicolas Baudin, François Péron and Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne being some of the first European explorers to reach the continent. Furthermore, British-born navigator Tobias Furneaux was a descendant of the nobles who sailed with William the Conqueror, when they invaded England from France in 1066. Today, many prominent places in Australia bear the names of these explorers such as the Furneaux Museum in Tasmania.
Many Australians with French ancestry are descended from Huguenot refugees. Some of the earliest Huguenots to arrive in Australia held prominent positions in English society, notably Jane Franklin and Charles La Trobe.
Others who came later were from poorer Huguenot families. They migrated to Australia from England in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to escape the poverty in the East End of London, notably in the Huguenot enclaves of Spitalfields and Bethnal Green. Their impoverishment had been brought about by the impact of the Industrial Revolution, which caused the collapse of the Huguenot-dominated silk-weaving industry.
The largest post-war increase in French migration to Australia came during the 1960s and 1970s; unlike many other European countries, France did not establish a migration scheme in the immediate post-war period due to chronic underemployment, despite Australia seeing the French as some of the most desirable immigrants to obtain during that era.
First French Australian Newspaper
First launched in Sydney in 1892, Le Courrier australien (The Australian Mail) remains the longest running foreign-language newspaper in the country. During World War II, the Courrier australien became the mouthpiece of the local Free French Movement.
Also, in 1890 a Victorian branch of the Alliance Française was formed, promoting French language, culture and education.
The French in Hunter’s Hill & Eddie Obeid
Throughout the second half of the 19th century, brothers Didier and Julies Joubert bought up much of the land in Hunters Hill, lobbying for the construction of roads and bridges there. They built a dozen sandstone villas including Passy which was, at one time, home to Sydney’s French Consul, and later the Manning family. It is now alleged to be where Eddie Obeid resides, although the house is reported to be on the market.
Property developers in the modern sense of the word, the Joubert brothers chose to live in the suburb they’d developed: Jules Joubert called his house Moocooboolah after the indigenous name for the area. They were deeply concerned with all aspects of the infrastructure and civic life of Hunters Hill. Didier Joubert was the first President of the Hunters Hill Council (1861 – 62), before the title of Mayor was adopted, and Jules became its first Mayor (1867 – 69).
La Perouse is a suburb in south-eastern Sydney. It is one of few Sydney suburbs with a French name, others being SansSouci, Engadine and Vaucluse.
La Perouse was named after the French navigator Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (1741–88), who landed on the northern shore of Botany Bay west of Bare Island on the 26th January 1788. Captain Arthur Phillip and the first fleet of convicts had arrived in Botany Bay a few days earlier. Louis XVI of France had commissioned Lapérouse to explore the Pacific. In April 1770 James Cook’s expedition had sailed onto the east coast of Australia whilst exploring the south Pacific searching for Terra Australis or ‘Land of the South’. Upon King Louis XVI’s orders, Lapérouse departed Brest, France, in command of Astrolabe and Boussole on 1 August 1785 on a scientific voyage of the Pacific inspired by the voyages of Cook.
Lapérouse’s two ships sailed to New South Wales after 12 of his men had been attacked and killed in the Navigator Islands (Samoa). Astrolabe and Boussole arrived off Botany Bay on 24 January just six days after Captain Arthur Phillip (1738–1814) had anchored just west of Bare Island, in HMS Supply. On 26 January 1788, as Captain John Hunter was moving the First Fleet around to Port Jackson after finding Botany Bay unsuitable for a Settlement, Lapérouse was sailing into Botany Bay, anchoring there just eight days after the British had.
The British received Lapérouse courteously, and offered him any assistance he might need. The French were far better provisioned than the English were, and extended the same courtesy but apparently neither offer was accepted. The commander of the Fleet, Captain Phillip, ordered that two British naval vessels, HMS Sirius and Supply, meet the French. Contrary to popular belief, the French did not have orders to claim Terra Australis for France and the arrival of the French ships Astrolabe and Boussole and their meeting with the ships of the British expedition was cordial and followed normal protocols. Lapérouse subsequently sent his journals and letters to Europe with the British ship, the Sirius.
The French stayed at Botany Bay for six weeks and built a stockade, observatory and a garden for fresh produce on what is now known as the La Perouse peninsula. After completing the building a longboat (to replace one lost in the attack in the Navigator Islands) and obtaining wood and water, the French departed for New Caledonia, Santa Cruz, the Solomons, and the Louisiades. Lapérouse wrote in his journals that he expected to be back in France by December 1788, but the two ships vanished. The French expedition was wrecked a short time later on the reefs of Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands during a cyclone sometime during April or May 1788, the circumstances remained a mystery for 40 years. Some of the mystery was solved in 1826 when items associated with the French ships were found on an island in the Santa Cruz group, with wreckage of the ships themselves discovered in 1964.