With all the talk about changing how we teach our history to reflect the fact that Captain Cook invaded, not discovered, Australia, I thought it was worth noting that we were almost settled by the French. No, it’s true… can you imagine our alternative Terre Australe?
We came very close to eating frog’s legs and snails, wearing berets and striped shirts whilst we cycled around with baguettes in our baskets.
Comte de La Pérouse sailed into Botany Bay just days after Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet had arrived to establish the first European colony here. After spending six weeks in Botany Bay, La Pérouse set sail to New Caledonia, and he and his ships were never seen again.
The French were faffing about in Western Australia well before that. In 1772 the French explorer Saint Alouarn arrived on the west coast of Australia where he buried coins on Dirk Hartog Island near Shark Bay. This was the recognised way of claiming land at the time.
In fact, they claimed the western side of the continent but didn’t hang around to develop the nation but bless, they certainly put in the hard yards. Unfortunately Alouarn died on the return journey to France and was never able to present his findings to the King.
Apparently a document was left behind, but has never been found while the coins were discovered in 1998. Bit late.
The up-and-downside of Australia being French
If we were Frenalian (French-Australian) we would be:
- Rubbish at cricket, cheat at rugby and we would have a Tour de Australe cycle race;
- We’d be really stylish and not care that everyone knew we cheated at rugby;
- We would have produced even more excellent tennis players too;
- We would have figured out a way to stop our makeup sliding off our faces in the humid areas of the country. There is no way French women would put up with that;
- The rest of the world would not think we were beer-swilling yobbos, they’d think we were champagne-swilling yobbos. Would we still be yobbos? Who knows? Our wine industry would be unsurpassed;
- We wouldn’t have to worry about New Zealand out performing us in Rio – New Zealand would be one big nuclear waste dump! Remember the Rainbow Warrior? Tip of the iceberg…;
- We are no strangers to scandals with our political leaders although not really of sexy variety the way they are in France, but still, we’d go alright.
SIDEBAR: Should Malcolm get a Vespa maybe? Would that help? Someone do some polling! Pronto! Although we don’t want him to trying to be some aging hipster Tragic. I’m still getting over Tony Abbott swanning around in his budgie smugglers. Years of therapy… but credit to him for being fit.
- Speaking of fit, there is no way we would be one of the most obese nations on earth, the French would not have a bar of that. When the French saw their obesity rate start to increase it became a political issue. In September 2005, France passed a law banning fizzy drink-and-snack-selling vending machinesfrom public schools and misleading television and print food advertising. They also put a 1.5 per cent tax on the advertising budgets of food companies if they didn’t encourage healthy eating. They got local communities to govern their overweight and obesity levels through a program called Epode (“Ensemble, prévenons l’obésité des enfants”, “Together let’s prevent obesity in children”). Six years after the program has started, it was considered a success with obesity rates lowered up to 25 per cent in some communities.
- People wouldn’t make fun of our national anthem. There’s no “girt” in La Marseillaise; and,
- Our film industry would also be magnifique!
I can think of way worse nations to be settled by. Au revoir.
With a successful 20+ year career in media and communications, Alex’s media portfolio includes contracts as a radio and television presenter (612 ABC, 4BC, Channel 9 and Network Ten) and as a feature writer for bmag and Brisbane Times.
Alex’s voice and face may be familiar to you from her voiceover and television commercial work. She has been featured in national radio and TV advertising campaigns, corporate videos and has been a regular MC for major events.