France and Australia launch shared archival history project

Media release: Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Today, at the Ministry of Culture in Paris, the Governor -General of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), launched the 'Imagination, exploration, memory: French-Australian shared histories' project.

As part of a commitment to celebrate the experiences of history that unite Australia and France, the Archives Nationales de France and the National Archives of Australia today signed a bilateral agreement to strengthen the links between these two national cultural institutions.

The idea of 'sharing histories' was conceived in 2014 when the French President, His Excellency François Hollande visited Telopea Park, the French-Australian high school in Canberra. President Hollande met students working with the National Archives of Australia on a joint Centenary of Anzac project. Using records from the National Archives of Australia, students identified some of the 140 French citizens who joined the Australian Imperial Force during World War I.

The idea has since grown into a six-year collaborative program between the two national archives.

'I am hopeful that this project evolves into an even stronger ongoing partnership between the Archives Nationales de France and the National Archives of Australia and benefits both nations,' said David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives of Australia.

'Strengthening ties between global archival institutions helps ensure we preserve, care for and use the world's valuable archival heritage appropriately.'

From the French expedition of Nicolas Baudin in 1800 to the current sharing of polar territory in the Antarctic for scientific research, the links between Australia and France are enduring and ongoing, and include a shared military history.

'French and Australian troops landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, not together, but as part of a shared operation,' said David Fricker.

'And in July this year we mark the centenary of battles fought on French soil – Fromelles and Pozières are just two of the haunting names of shared battlefields from the Great War.'

A professional exchange for a French historian to visit Australia for the centenary of the end of World War I is part of the project, which will also include an international seminar and an archival exhibition.

At the launch, the French Minister of Culture Audrey Azoulay presented Mr Fricker with the award of Knight (Chevalier) of the Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres). He received the award in recognition of his work in the field of cultural heritage.

David Fricker has been the Director-General of the National Archives of Australia since January 2012, and was elected President of the International Council on Archives (based in Paris) in October 2014.

The Order of Arts and Letters recognises eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. This award has been received by Rudolph Nureyev (1992), Robyn Archer (2001), Leo Schofield (2002), George Clooney (2007), and Cate Blanchett (2012).

Contact information

  • Holly Pritchard (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3413 m 0417 247 157 e holly.pritchard@naa.gov.au

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