FRENCH-AUSTRALIAN CONNECTIONS- Perspectives on a shared archaeological and cultural heritage.
On November 29, the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce WA organised a conference in partnership with the Western Australian Museum (WAM) with its members and industries. The presentations dealt with the shared archaeological and cultural maritime heritage between France and Australia. During this event, the attendees enjoyed several presentations on the exciting history of French presence in Australia and they heard about the necessity for the Museum to have support for the development of research in this domain.
We were delighted to welcome as our guest speakers Patrick Kedemos, the Honorary Consul for France to Australia for a short introduction, Nicolas Bigourdan, Assistant Curator in Maritime Archaeology at the WAM, Dr Emilie Dotte-Sarout, Postdoctoral fellow in Archaeology at the Australian National University, Brownen Douglas, Honorary Professor in History and Archaeology at the Australian National University, Dr Billie Lythberg, Senior Research fellow in Art and Economic History at the University of Auckland and Myra Stanbury, Research Associate in Maritime Archaeology at the WAM.
An effective French presence on the Western Australia Coast:
Nicolas Bigourdan has highlighted the fact that thanks to the great French explorers who have walked on the Australian territory, Australia or at least Western Australia could have been a French territory today.
However, this great history in not really present in textbooks, as well as in France or in Australia.
Only some names on the western coast of Australia and some vestiges retain evidence of the passage of these explorers, who wanted to conquer a new world by sailing courageously towards the Southern Seas.
Therefore, the Western Australian Museum has launched a program of research and communication in order to share more about that forgotten part of history. They are organising temporary and permanent exhibitions about the history of the French presence in Western Australia as well as a documentary film and publications to retrace this heritage. They are even thinking about making a film on the history of Nicolas Baudin or Louis-Claude de Freycinet!
The Western Australian Museum is strongly committed to the promotion of this history but they need the support, the collaboration and the solidarity between France and Australia, which are distant countries but share a common history and heritage.
The Australian Lands Discovery:
The evolution of the international map, presented by Brownen DOUGLAS, shows that the first paper appearances of Australia are late. In 1772, Louis-Antoine DE BOUGAINVILLE’s works helped to partial define Australian borders:
A clear definition of maps was only made possible in the 19th century, showing borders that did not exist until there.
At that time, the view of the world from Europe was very limited. It was at this time that Europe also discovered Prehistory. Dr. Emilie DOTTE-SAROUT explains how the new lands exploration in the “South Sea” and European prehistoric discoveries, two parallel events, led the inhabitants of the old continent to think that the aboriginals, discovered in Australia, were in fact Prehistoric men.
Explorations’ artistic traces:
On each shipment, the sailors embarked with them many travellers from all sides and with different qualifications. Among them, artists had brought back works, from the far side of the world: the landscapes, the animals and the people that they were able to discover during these trips, leaving us an “engraved” testimony of this centuries-old history.
Dr Billie LYTHBERG shared with us some pictures along with their contemporary artistic interpretations.
The Binic example, a small fishermen’s town in Brittany:
Bicnic is a small town, not far from Saint-Brieux, which benefits from a rich maritim legacy and whose the history is also connected to the history of Western Australia.
In 2013, Myra STANBURY went there to celebrate Heritage Days, and on this occasion she presented her research on LE PERSEVERANT and L’ABEILLE, two ships that left the port of Bicnic between 1833 and 1841, a time when this city was the first port for the whaling industry.
While the commanding officer was looking for provisions for his crew, under a stormy weather, the journey of the PERSEVERANT ended unfortunately by a shipwreck not far from Shark Bay, on “Dirk Hartog Island”. Researches carried out by the Western Australian Museum revealed the exact location of the survivors’ camp as well as some vestiges.
About the fate of L’ABEILLE, it is more complex. Its history began in 1765, year of its construction under the name of LA DUCHESSE D’AIGUILLON. In 1981, two anchors were found at the Rowley Shoals, off Broome (in Northern Western Australia), their identification and the associated researches confirmed that it was the LIVELY, an English whaleboat from a seizure by the navy of French privateer ships and which was formerly named L’ABEILLE.
The work carried out by the city of Bicnic, in collaboration with the Western Australian Museum, had helped to present to the population this unknown maritime history.
If you want to support this project of promoting this shared heritage, please do not hesitate to contact Nicolas Bigourdan from the Western Australian Museum
Nicolas BIGOURDAN : firstname.lastname@example.org
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© 2017 FRENCH AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE