Nettelbeck, Colin William (1938–2022)

Colin Nettelbeck was an Australian scholar of French literature and cinema. He made a distinguished contribution to language policy at university, state, national and international levels. One of the founders of the Institute for the Study of French-Australian Relations (ISFAR), he was also the originator of the French-Australian Dictionary of Biography in which this entry appears. He played a leadership role in both the exploration and the practice of French-Australian relations during the half-century of his career in Australian universities.

Colin William Nettelbeck was born at Streaky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia on March 29, 1938. He spent his first three years in country South Australia, before moving to Adelaide. Like many South Australians, his parentage comprised a Barossa Valley German component, as indicated by his surname. The other components were Irish, on his father’s side, Scottish and Dutch on his mother’s side. He lost his father early in World War II, in 1941, in the Middle East. He and his siblings were brought up by his mother and his stepfather, a teacher.

Nettelbeck completed his secondary studies at Prince Alfred College, a prominent private school in Adelaide, and then undertook an Arts degree at the University of Adelaide. During his undergraduate years he converted to Catholicism and became a fervent believer. He graduated with First Class Honours and began his working life as a secondary teacher of Latin, French and Mathematics, an unusual combination. Having gained a French government scholarship, he went to Paris and enrolled for a doctorate at the Sorbonne. He was awarded the title of Doctor of the University of Paris in 1964 for a thesis on the Catholic novelist and public intellectual Georges Bernanos. Bernanos was also the subject of his first published book.

During his student days in Paris he met his future wife Carol, an American of Italian extraction, a graduate of the highly regarded Middlebury College, Vermont, who was studying at the Sorbonne for a Master’s degree. They married in Paris in 1963: the wedding was performed by the University Chaplain, Father Jean-Marie Lustiger, who subsequently became Archbishop of Paris and then Cardinal, possibly the only Cardinal of Jewish origin in the modern Roman Catholic Church. The Nettelbecks remained friends with Cardinal Lustiger for the rest of his life, and Nettelbeck published two articles on him. The Nettelbecks’ three children, Alexander, Jennifer and Bridget, were born in California during his eight year tenure initially as Instructor and then as Assistant Professor at the University of California in Berkeley.

Nettelbeck returned to Australia with his family in 1971 to take up a Senior Lecturership in French at Monash University in Melbourne. He was subsequently promoted to Associate Professor and spent a total of twenty-three years at Monash. The crowning of his formal university career was his appointment in 1994 as A. R. Chisholm Professor of French at the University of Melbourne, the first holder of the newly named chair of French. He held the A. R. Chisholm Chair for eleven years, including several terms as Head of the School of Languages. He retired in 2005 and was appointed Emeritus Professor of the University of Melbourne.

Both at Monash and at the University of Melbourne he played an active part in academic administration, promoting the teaching of languages within the universities as well as at State level, nationally and internationally. Cooperation with French universities and the French government was particularly important to him. He played an influential role in policy making in all these areas, as well as in organisations such as the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Alliance Française. He was President of the Alliance Française of Melbourne for a number of years and also of the Federation of Alliances Françaises of Australia for a term, and he published a history of the Alliance Française in Australia, The Alliance Française in Australia, 1890–1990: an Historical Perspective (1990), now a standard reference work.

Together with Wallace Kirsop and Dennis Davison, Nettelbeck was one of the co-founders in 1985 of ISFAR, the Institute for the Study of French-Australian Relations and its bulletin, Explorations. This move was both inspired by Victoria’s sesqui-centenary celebrations and the ground-breaking 1984 exhibition “The French Presence in Victoria 1800–­1901”, initiated by Dianne Reilly, then La Trobe Librarian at the State Library of Victoria, and a response to similar initiatives by French scholars at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. What set the Monash operation apart is the long life of ISFAR and its bulletin, later to become the journal, the French-Australian Review. Wallace Kirsop took responsibility for the latter, while Nettelbeck took charge of the Institute for the Study of French-Australian Relations. All these developments occurred in the context of the approaching 1988 bi-centenary. In 1994 Nettelbeck took up his new appointment as A. R. Chisholm Professor of French at the University of Melbourne. ISFAR’s gradual reorientation from its Monash association to a Parkville connection followed.

Nettelbeck held the presidency of ISFAR for two seven-year periods between 1985–1992 and between 2011–2018. His last major achievements before his retirement from ISFAR were setting up a Research Committee and creating the on-line French-Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Nettelbeck’s scholarly contributions cover an exceptionally wide range of topics. His teaching, as well as his publications, books and articles and his participation in conferences reflect his great intellectual curiosity, his interest in modern French history and society and his deep knowledge of twentieth century French literature and cinema. His nine books and the thirty chapters he authored, demonstrate his very broad intellectual and professional interests. His articles, numbering over a hundred, have appeared in a variety of Australian and international journals. He also contributed numerous book reviews in a variety of fields to the Australian Book Review. In his years as a senior scholar, his work was supported by a number of competitive Australian Research Council grants.

He has written on various aspects of the two world wars and more specifically on France under German occupation and also on French exiles in the United States during World War II. More in line with ISFAR concerns, Nettelbeck devoted his energies and his talents to the exploration of the history of French-Australian relations and published widely in this area.

A great deal of his research was on specific French authors, with in-depth attention given to several of them, including Bernanos, Céline and Modiano, whilst some of his other publications deal with post-war and contemporary French cinema and the work of influential filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Louis Malle. He played a pioneering role in introducing cinema studies in Australian French departments and also in bringing to light the contribution of jazz to French culture: one of his most original publications was a book entitled Dancing with De Beauvoir: Jazz and the French, published in 2004. His other books include Les personnages de Bernanos romancier (1970); Patrick Modiano : pièces d’identité : écrire l’entretemps (1986); Forever French: Exile in the United States, 1939–1945 (1991); and edited volumes: War and Identity: The French and the Second World War (1987) and A Century of Cinema: Australian and French Connections (1996). He was also the author of two reports into the teaching of LOTE languages (Languages Other Than English) in Australian Universities (2007 and 2009).

Nettelbeck’s contribution to so many fields was recognised by the award of several distinctions, including the French Palmes Académiques and the Légion d’honneur, as well as the Australian Centenary Medal. He was a life member of ISFAR, as well as ASFS (the Australian Society for French Studies), and LCNAU (the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities) for which he was a member of the original project team in 2011–2012.

Simultaneously with the unfolding of his career as a scholar and an academic leader, Nettelbeck was also a talented jazz pianist and jazz composer: in 2017 he was one of the stars of “Three of a Kind”, a Nettelbeck jazz concert held at “fortyfivedownstairs” in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. The other participants were his older brother Ted Nettelbeck, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Adelaide, and his son Alexander, a professional musician, all three jazz pianists.

Colin Nettelbeck died on October 21, 2022 after a long illness.


Author: Ivan Barko, Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney, May 2023


Colin Nettelbeck’s professional curriculum vitae and publications list.

Auhor Interviews with Carol Nettelbeck and with Colin Nettelbeck’s academic colleagues.

Australian Academy of the Humanities, ‘Vale Colin Nettelbeck FAHA: 1938­–2022’.


Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, World War II and post-war French literature and cinema, Monash University, University of Melbourne, Institute for the Study of French-Australian Relations, Alliance Française.

Caron, Léon (1850–1905)

Leon Francis Victor Caron (1850–1905), by unknown engraver,
La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN09/10/80/188

As a talented performer, conductor, composer and an outstanding director and organiser, French musician Léon Caron made a valuable contribution to Australian musical life during the late nineteenth century, at a time when there were few professional orchestras. In addition to the above activities he founded and co-founded a number of Australian institutions such as the Professional Musicians’ Association in Sydney, the Orpheus Club and the Musical Association of Victoria, now The Musical Society of Victoria.


Léon Francis Victor Caron was born in Boulogne-sur-Mer, near Calais, on January 13, 1850 to Louis Victor Abel Caron, contractor, and his wife Louise Josephine, née Rimel. The little boy displayed unusual musical talents and began learning violin at an early age, becoming known, according to his son-in-law journalist, M. P. Greenwood-Adams, as ‘l’enfant Paganini’.

In his early teens, after nine years at the municipal conservatorium, Léon Caron became an instructor at the school and then, in 1869, he competed, as was usual, with other outstanding students for the chance to be sent to study at the Paris Conservatoire. In Paris Caron studied composition with Victor Massé and violin with Lambert Massart, who had been a student of Rodolphe Kreutzer and was himself an exponent of the virtuosic French violin school.

Paris, London and America

Due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Caron cut short his music studies and left Paris for London, ‘catching the last train but one to Dieppe, before the line was captured, and fell into the hands of the Prussians’ (Melbourne Table Talk 1889). The English music critic, Herman Klein has described this period as a golden age for the London musical scene so perhaps Léon was fortunate in beginning his music career there. It was through his position as violinist in Riviere’s eighty-piece orchestra at the Alhambra Theatre, London, that Caron was next invited to join the French Opera in New Orleans.

Most of Léon Caron’s American career was spent with the Theodore Thomas Orchestra where he also composed a number of works. In May 1876, the Thomas Orchestra participated in the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Celebrations—for a variety of reasons, these concerts were a financial failure and the Thomas Orchestra was abandoned, leaving Caron and many other musicians out of work.

Early days in Melbourne

The New York based composer Charles Horsley had lived and worked in Australia as a composer, organist and critic during the 1860s and, according to The Oxford Companion to Australian Music, he was to become a co-founder of the Musical Association of Victoria which later became the Musical Society of Victoria. Horsley advised Léon Caron to try his luck in Australia. Caron arrived in Melbourne in 1876 just in time to play a leading role in Melbourne’s boom days, following the discovery of gold in Ballarat in the 1850s.

His first professional solo violin appearance was during the interval of La Belle Hélène at the Melbourne Opera House in mid-1877 when he included some of his own works. Soon after this Caron was offered work as a virtuoso violinist for W. S. Lyster’s Royal Italian Opera Company; Alberto Zelman, the conductor of the Lyster Opera Company became ill suddenly and Léon Caron was able to take his place, conducting the entire score of Carmen from memory. He was then appointed conductor for the last New Zealand tour of Lyster’s Italian Opera Company.

Caron was an adaptable, professional musician—he composed songs for concerts, scores for comic operas, pantomimes and ballets as well as instrumental music, church music and, in his role as musical director or choirmaster, was responsible for organising and teaching. There seemed always to be problems finding enough instrumentalists for the many orchestras needed to provide the wide array of entertainment offered at this time, so composers and musical directors had to improvise and create their own arrangements as well as compose songs and/or instrumental pieces for interludes or other requirements. They were Australia’s musical pioneers and, through their dedicated work and sometimes remarkable musical and organisational skills, contributed greatly to the establishment of a professional music scene in Australia. Immersed as they were in the Viennese classical tradition, they tried to transplant it in the new colony and few of them thought of adapting their style of music to specific Australian influences such as Aboriginal music or native birdsong.

1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and other state ceremonies

In 1880 Caron won first prize of $100 for his Victoria Cantata, which was performed at the inauguration of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, with Caron himself conducting a choir of 1000 singers. During his Australian musical career, Caron participated in a number of state occasions—his National Cantata gained second prize in the competition for the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition and was presented there on March 14.

These colonial exhibitions were modelled on the Great Exhibition of London at the Crystal Palace in 1851 and were indeed ‘marvels’ of the Victorian era as they displayed all kinds of things, from inventions and artwork to produce and ideology. The daily music programmes also provided an opportunity for the public to hear some European symphonic music, rarely heard in Australia because of the difficulty in assembling sufficient musicians to form symphony orchestras.

Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland, New Zealand and the Montague-Turner Opera Company

In 1881 Caron conducted for the American Montague-Turner Opera Company, travelling between Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland and New Zealand and in 1882 he also became conductor/choirmaster for St Mary’s Cathedral (Sydney). Whilst working in Sydney in 1883 he met Tasmanian singer Eliza (Elsa) Sherwin who had recently joined the Opera Company—they married and she continued performing, sometimes using the name ‘Tasma Sherwin’. Their daughter Leonie Irma Sherwin, born in 1891, also became an opera singer, performing usually under the name of ‘Irma Caron’.

At this time he would have met his fellow countryman, pianist and composer, Henri Kowalski, who visited Australia twice, once in 1880 and again from 1885 when he settled in Sydney for fourteen years. Together they formed the Orpheus Club, organising promenade concerts and private soirees promoting chamber music.

Caron composed a choral symphony and an incomplete version was performed at the ‘New Opera House’ in Sydney in 1885. Caron’s symphony was a noteworthy precursor to Marshall-Hall’s Symphony in E flat of 1903, usually considered the first important symphony composed in Australia.

J. C. Williamson’s Royal Opera Company and Djin-Djin

In 1888, after unsuccessful attempts to set up his own opera companies, Léon Caron accepted the offer to conduct Yeoman of the Guard for J. C. Williamson’s Royal Opera Company at Melbourne’s recently opened Princess Theatre. He remained with J. C. Williamson, with occasional time out, for the rest of his life.

During the 1890s, when many Australians were struggling because of the depression, all theatres were finding it difficult to attract audiences and, in 1895, Williamson decided to recoup his losses with a ‘grand spectacular pantomime’ to be launched on Boxing Night. This was a last resort and Williamson told his players that if it failed, the players would be out of work and he would be ‘down and out’. The pantomime was Djin-Djin, the Japanese Bogie Man, or, The Great Shogun Who Lost his Son and the Little Princess Who Found Him: A Fairy Tale of Old Japan. The pantomime was a great success—it drew huge crowds and the takings filled the coffers of J. C. Williamson and his partners, Arthur Garner and George Musgrove.

Caron also wrote a grand opera Mati-Mati based on Victor Hugo’s Les Orientales but it was not performed as a whole. A trio from the opera was performed at the Orpheus Club. However, he also composed in other music forms including three string quartets; a choral symphony (Symphonie Poème I’Idéal); a violin concerto; and several orchestral works, including Souvenir Patriotique or An Episode of ’93 (which evokes the mood of a mob of revolutionaries in Marseilles), and Birds of the Forest, an overture described in the Sydney Morning Herald (1899) as a ‘vivacious pastoral’.

Caron’s multi-faceted role in Australia’s music community

Marmion Adams writes that Caron’s role as conductor entailed much more than rehearsing and performing—he had to orchestrate the music for whatever musicians were available and ‘taught the chorus and principals and wrote interpolated ballets and songs’. One of his colleagues praised his writing for the ballet and said he ‘did more and better work than any other musician in this part of the world’. He was said to bring out the best in the musicians he trained and he seems to have been popular with both musicians and audiences.

 As well as his operatic and theatrical work Léon Caron continued to organise and conduct concerts such as the Camilla Urso tour and a series of Sunday concerts at the Sydney Opera House (later at the Criterion Theatre). He also founded the Professional Musicians’ Association in Sydney, providing musical entertainment on Sunday evenings at the Club Rooms. During his final years he also organised and conducted music for important state occasions such as the Opening of Parliament and the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902.

Caron was a great admirer of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s music: he worked to promote Gilbert and Sullivan in Australia and his own compositions were greatly influenced by those of Sullivan. Caron toured New Zealand several times and made his mark there. He became ill during his last New Zealand tour with J. C. Williamson’s Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company in 1905 and died shortly after his return to Australia. ‘Three bands led the funeral procession to the Waverley cemetery and at all the principal points along the route great throngs of people were gathered’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1905).

A Table Talk reviewer had written of him that ‘M. Léon Caron is the most popular conductor in Melbourne. This ideal Frenchman retains all the best characteristics of his race—the grace and sparkle, the touch of artistic Bohemianism, the bright and charming temperament, that is more nearly allied to wisdom than the muddy article usually associated with the heavy “philosopher” in Anglo-Saxon countries’ (Melbourne Table Talk 1902).

Whilst these remarks may seem excessive to the twenty-first century ear, there is no doubting Léon Caron’s influence upon the musical scene in both Melbourne and Sydney. The fact that he was asked to organise and conduct musical proceedings for so many official occasions must surely indicate his status in the Australian community and his importance as a well-recognised, much loved, multi-talented Australian musician.

Image: Leon Francis Victor Caron (1850–1905), by unknown engraver,

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN09/10/80/188.

Author: Elaine Lewis, Melbourne, March 2023.


Hars, Pierre, 1929, L’Académie et le conservatoire national de musique de Boulogne-sur-Mer (succursale du Conservatoire de Paris) 1829–1929. Célébration du centenaire. Pont-de-Briques: Livre d’or.

‘Leon Caron’. In Oxford Companion to Australian Music, edited by Warren Bebbington, Melbourne: Oxford University Press. 1997.

Love, Harold, 1981, The Golden Age of Australian Opera: W. S. Lyster and His Companies 1861–1880, Sydney: Currency Press.

Melbourne Table Talk, 1899, April 18, p. 6.

Melbourne Table Talk, 1902, February 13, p. 18.

Murphy, Kerry, 1985, ‘Léon Caron: his Role in the Musical Life of 19th Century Melbourne’, Explorations 2: 10–13.

Pas de Calais Archives.

Smart, Bonnie, 2003, Leon Caron and the Music Profession in Australia, Melbourne: Masters Research Thesis.

Sydney Morning Herald, 1885, September 7, p. 5.

Sydney Morning Herald, 1899, April 29, p. 4.

Sydney Morning Herald, 1905, May 31, p. 8.


Léon Caron, Opera in Australia, Colonial music in Australia, J. C. Williamson’s Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, Melbourne International Exhibition

Bourbaud, Louis Edouard (1837—1883)

Louis Edouard Bourbaud was the first viticultural expert appointed to any Australian colony. Born in 1837 in Chérac, a small town in the Charentes-Maritime, he was recommended to Francis Dutton, South Australia’s Agent-General in London, as ‘a man of superior intelligence and high respectability … highly skilled in the French  wine-making process’; in addition, his wife Mathilde was ‘acquainted with the process of preparing crystallized preserved fruits’ (South Australian Register August 1875). A member of the National Agricultural, Industrial, and Commercial Academy of France, Bourbaud had also served on one of the committees selecting wines to be exhibited at the 1867 Paris Exhibition. The family disembarked in Adelaide in August 1875.

The assistance of the colonial government, however, extended only so far as free passage; no salaried position was offered. Having tasted South Australian wines in London, Bourbaud had some idea of their qualities and potential but on arrival he immediately made a thorough survey of the state of the industry, submitting his report to the Vignerons’ Club two weeks later. In his opinion, many aspects required attention, from vineyard management and harvesting to wine making and storage (Adelaide Observer 1875). Despite South Australian wines receiving awards at the 1867 Paris Exhibition and the 1873 Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibition in Sydney, after a decade of rapid vineyard expansion colonists keenly recognised their lack of expertise in grape growing and winemaking, the ‘want of reliable information’ representing a ‘formidable barrier’ (Heyne 1868, Preface).  Bourbaud presented the assembly with an offer to provide appropriate advice to improve their wines without diminishing yield or incurring additional expenses, for which he asked a contract of 4-5 years and a weekly salary of £10 plus travel expenses. After confirming his credentials—Bourbaud had served on one of the wine selection committees for the 1867 Paris Exhibition and had experience in Burgundy—the vignerons wasted no time in negotiating an agreement, employing Bourbaud at an annual salary of £300 plus expenses (Adelaide Observer 1875).

Rapidly accepted into the circle of industry leaders such as Thomas Hardy and Samuel Davenport, Bourbaud was appointed a wine judge in early 1876 and unanimously voted an honorary member of the Vignerons’ Club. In August 1876 he was appointed manager of the newly-formed South Australian United Vineyard Association, a business created by eight of the most influential winegrowers to encourage wine consumption among the general population by offering sound wines at a reasonable price, together with low-priced ‘working man’s’ wines (South Australian Register 1876). In Bourbaud’s opinion, wine was a wholesome, beneficent beverage and ‘the best guarantee against drunkenness’ (South Australian Register December 1875).

Through Bourbaud, South Australian vignerons had access to the most recent French viticultural and vinicultural science and practice. His learned and technical articles under the title ‘Viticulture and Viniculture’ were published in the Adelaide Observer and South Australian Register between July and November 1876, covering such matters as soil types, siting of vineyards, selection of grape varieties, planting, vine diseases, vineyard management and pruning. They were subsequently circulated in other colonies. Pruning, he observed, was effectively an unknown skill in South Australia and he encouraged improved practices—which, incidentally, would reduce the risk of mildew—together with pruning competitions (Adelaide Observer November 1876; South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail 1876).

A prolific correspondent to the Adelaide press, Bourbaud presented scientific reports on such topics as the prevention and treatment of powdery mildew and the use of a densimeter or gluco-oenometer to determine the best time for harvest. He advocated diversification through the manufacture of vermouth, brandy, verjuice, wine vinegar, ‘vin cuit’ (reduced and concentrated must), liqueurs and spirits and medicinal wines, publishing recipes for quinine tonic wine, pepsin wine and sarsaparilla (Adelaide Observer March 1876). As a demonstration of the versatility of the vine, in 1881 he presented the newly opened Museum of Economic Botany with a range of products from wine and raisins to grape syrup, grape sugar, grape jam, grapeseed oil, cream of tartar and potash, and grape charcoal (South Australian Register 1876).

Bourbaud was a fervent supporter of his adoptive home and especially its wines, which he believed had their own individual character and deserved to be more widely known. After recommending South Australian participation in the 1878 Paris Exhibition, he was deeply disappointed that its wines fared so poorly, with no wine deserving more than a third class order of merit, and although Bourbaud’s wines performed best, he resigned from the South Australian United Vineyard Association in October 1878 (South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail 1878). He encouraged other nascent industries such as sericulture, sending samples of locally spun silk to manufacturers in Lyon, receiving a very favourable response (South Australian Register April 1879). He also made attempts to foster greater Franco-Australian cooperation, including promoting to French shippers the advantages of direct entry of South Australian goods through the port of Le Havre, instead of via England (Adelaide Observer 1878). Representing the interests of French nationals in South Australia, he requested improved postal relations and better facilities for the interchange of money orders (Evening Journal 1881).

A firm believer in progress through the dissemination of knowledge, Bourbaud recommended the publication of a monthly review that reported details of relevant agricultural research and development from the northern hemisphere (South Australian Register 1879). He revived the concept of a Model Farm, combining it with an Agricultural College that would conduct experiments as well as provide farmers with practical education, an idea realised with the establishment in 1883 of Roseworthy Model Farm and Agricultural College, the first such institution in Australia (Adelaide Observer 1878).

Yet scientific acumen momentarily deserted Bourbaud in October 1879 when, probably through over-zealousness, he mistakenly identified phylloxera in an Adelaide vineyard. South Australian vignerons had been fearful of the spread of the devastating disease after its detection in Victoria in 1877. Bourbaud was clearly familiar with phylloxera which had hit France in the early 1860s, and with the insect responsible, having previously presented a paper on the subject to the Chamber of Manufactures (The Express and Telegraph December 1878). Although he recanted several days later, he felt his reputation damaged and resigned his honorary membership of the Vignerons’ Club.

Almost immediately, however, the indefatigable Bourbaud launched into a new business, the Franco-Australian Alimentary Company, making preserved canned meat products (refrigeration was still in its infancy). The canning industry had begun in France in the early nineteenth century in the wake of Appert’s successful experimentation and initially focused on fruit, vegetables and sardines, but meat products gradually became more significant. In April 1880 Bourbaud presented to the Chamber of Manufactures samples of three of his products – pâté de Paris, galantine de Paris and boeuf à la mode – all of which were very favourably received (The Express and Telegraph 1880).  More products were added and promoted at both the 1880 Melbourne Exhibition and 1881 Adelaide Exhibition, where visitors were offered tastings. Soon after the close of the Adelaide Exhibition, however, Bourbaud sold the goodwill in the business to L. Conrad, while continuing as manager. Conrad maintained the full range of fourteen French-style products for another year, alongside his own more English ones such as corned mutton, ox tongues and tripe.

Ever active, in June 1882 Bourbaud reconstituted the South Australian Winegrowers’ Association and became its manager (The Express and Telegraph 1883). At this time he was still advising individual vignerons such as Samuel Davenport and Sir Thomas Elder, and it might have been in one of their cellars that Bourbaud directed the making of an experimental champagne, arguably the first made in South Australia (Adelaide Observer 1880). His sudden death in January 1883 at the age of 45, probably the result of an aneurysm, was unexpected, although he was reported to have been suffering from an unknown illness for two years.

The motto ‘Work, hope and perseverance’ that Bourbaud proposed for South Australia could indeed be applied to his own approach to life (Adelaide Observer February 1876). Obituaries lauded him as a man of genial manners and a cultivated mind, ‘probably the cleverest expert in blending and treating wines that the colony has possessed’ and a man who ‘contributed largely and practically to our local viticultural literature’ (South Australian Register 1883).

His widow Mathilde later married Emile Ulm, an artist who became Bolivian consul in Melbourne, and spent the greater part of her remaining 33 years in the city, playing a significant role in its French community.

Image: Preserved meats manufactured by the Franco-Australian Alimentary Company, supplied by Barbara Santich.

Author: Barbara Santich, Emeritus Professor, University of Adelaide, January 2023


Adelaide Observer, 1875, 4 September, p. 9; 1876, 11 March, p. 5; 1876, 25 November, p. 9; 1876, 26 February, p. 9; 1878, 6 April, p. 9; 1878, 8 June, p. 9; 1879, 2 August, p. 9; 1880, 5 June, p. 7.

Evening Journal, 1881, 22 February, p. 2.

Express and Telegraph, 1878, 26 October, p. 2; 1878, 7 December, p. 2; 1880, 27 April, p. 2; 1883, 8 January, p. 2.

Heyne, E. B. 1868. The Vine and Wine Making in Southern France, Melbourne, Walker, May & Co, preface. Translation of André Pellicot, Le Vigneron Provençal: Cépages provençaux et autres, culture et vinification, Montpellier, Imprimerie Gras, 1866.

South Australian Advertiser, 1876, 24 February, p. 5.

South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail, 1875, 16 October, p. 9; 1876, 19 August, p. 17; 1878, 14 September, p. 9.

South Australian Register, 1875, 23 August, p. 6; 1875, 28 December, p. 7; 1876, 20 September, p. 4; 1879, 30 April, p. 6; 1879, 24 May, p. 1; 1881, 25 August, p. 3; 1883, 8 January, p. 4.

Keywords: wine, viticulture, sericulture, phylloxera, Australian sparkling wine

Paddon, James (1811–1861)

James Paddon, trader and colonial pioneer, sometimes referred to as “New Caledonia’s first colonist”, was one of the most influential figures in the European colonisation of New Caledonia and the New Hebrides. Paddon was born in Portsea, England, on September 23, 1811, to Sarah and James Paddon, one of eight children. The family had seafaring roots: his naval father was by 1819 master of the HMS Myrmidon. Inspired by the voyages of James Cook and the victories of Nelson and Collingwood in the Napoleonic Wars, Paddon joined the British navy at the age of thirteen, rising to the rank of midshipman by the time he left the navy in the mid 1830s (Martin 2010). He was described as Captain James Paddon of the George Canning free-trader in the announcement in the local Exeter paper of his marriage to Lucretia Fitzmaurice on October 27, 1834 (Exeter Flying Post 1834). His physique was short and stocky—measurements taken after his death estimated that he was only 1.67m tall—and there were references to his “rude [ie. rough] appearance” that nevertheless belied a generous heart (Moniteur de la Nouvelle-Calédonie 1866).

In the more peaceful era that followed the defeat of Napoleon, he sought an outlet for his adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit in trading ventures across the South Pacific that were to make his name and fortune. He was one of many who pursued this career but only a few were as successful as he; his contemporary and rival Robert Towns (1794–1873) was one, as was the man who began his career working for Paddon and who took over many of his activities, John Higginson (1839–1904).

Paddon’s entrepreneurial activities across the South-West Pacific drew Australia’s east coast, New Caledonia and the New Hebrides into close trading relationships that involved the exchange not only of goods but of people, fauna and flora, tools and techniques, and ideas. Paddon facilitated the colonisation of these latter territories in several ways: through his commercial interests that drew the Indigenous peoples into the wider orbit of the Pacific trade economy; by founding ports that supplied ships and settlements; by providing the French with essential supplies after their takeover of New Caledonia in 1853; and by organising the migration of colonists from Australia.

His first trading venture, in the late 1830s, was as Captain of the Brigand, probably trading opium to China on behalf of the ship’s owner, Heerjeebhoy Rustomjee: Rustomjee’s name appears on a list of “inveterate opium traders” compiled by the Chinese government in 1839 (Houghton 2020, part 9). There Paddon discovered the interest in sandalwood that was to make his fortune. In the 1820s tea, mainly supplied by China, had become an essential drink in Australia as in Britain. The principal product that China sought in exchange for this commodity was sandalwood, used for both ceremonial and profane uses (incense, fans and luxury items). After the exhaustion of wood from Fiji and other over-exploited islands, the sandalwood traders turned to the New Hebrides and New Caledonia for supplies. From 1841, and continuing over the following decade, the “scramble for sandalwood” brought scores of foreign ships to these islands that were described by the Sydney Shipping Gazette in 1851 as “of much greater importance to our Australian colonies than any others in the Pacific”.

Paddon differed from his trading rivals in establishing teams of workers who remained on the islands to bargain for, fell and prepare the wood, and transported it to the beaches to be collected by his ships. In pursuit of this policy, in January 1844 Paddon bought the uninhabited islet of Inyeuc off the south-west coast of Aneityum in the New Hebrides; since the traditional Indigenous owners believed the islet to be haunted, it cost Paddon only a few trade goods. Here he founded a well-provisioned station and, the following year, set up a base at Port St Patrick on the north coast of Aneityum. He gradually increased his fleet of ships, sought new financial backers (Thacker & Co of Sydney) after the bankruptcy of Rustomjee and took on new partners: Captains Charles Edwards, Walter Todd and Somerville are reported as associated with his ventures in the New Hebrides and New Caledonia over the following decade. In 1852 Paddon added a counter at Port Resolution on Tanna and another at Erromanga. His establishments were widely advertised in the Australian and New Zealand press as ports of call for whalers and other ships on the Pacific routes, offering safe harbours, facilities for repair and well-stocked stores. A steady and regular trade developed between the New Hebrides, Sydney and China: Paddon’s ships, the smaller vessels built at a construction site at Aneityum, carried sandalwood, bêche-de-mer and coconut oil to Sydney or more often to China and returned with merchandise of all kinds.

Paddon’s success seems to have stemmed partly from his policy of attempting to conciliate the local peoples through fair treatment, negotiation and purchase of land (Adams 1984, 41). In this he was widely reported as taking a different approach to that of his contemporaries; Shineberg (1967, 108) notes that even the Protestant missionaries, generally hostile to the sandalwood trade, conceded that Paddon had a “good name” in the business. Much was made of his fair-minded approach in the tributes paid to him at the interment of his ashes in Païta in 1866, when several speakers spoke of his humanism in this regard: “jamais il n’a cru que les différences de couleur dût établir des différences de droit” declared M. le R. P. Montrouzier, claiming to represent in these words the views of the natives themselves (Moniteur 1866). Paddon’s common law wife, Naitani, was a native of Tanna. They had four daughters—three of whom, Louise, Lizzie and Bella, survived to adulthood—who were brought up and educated in the European world and married Frenchmen. Of the fate of his lawful wife Lucretia nothing is known. Certainly no children of that marriage came forward to claim his inheritance which passed to his nephew Thomas, the son of his sister Ann.

The trade could not, however, be carried on, even by Paddon, without armed confrontation and killings on both sides. On several occasions Paddon’s ships were subject to attacks by the local people: in November 1843 an attack on the Brigand at Maré led to the death of some seventeen crewmen (Sydney Record 1843; Shineberg 1967, 99). It was reported in June 1844, by the Australian and many other papers in identical terms, that a number of Brigand’s passengers and crew had been murdered by local natives at the île des Pins on a voyage from Wellington. The ship had returned, the reports continued, “well manned and armed and had severely punished the natives and taken possession of the island.”

Whatever the exact truth of these reports that seem at times to confuse date and place of confrontation, by 1846 Paddon had established a small station on the île des Pins. He gradually moved the focus of his activities to the healthier climate of New Caledonia (he suffered from recurring bouts of fever) and during the early 1850s he set up stations at Canala, Houaïlou and elsewhere along the east and west coasts of the main island. In 1851, having obtained the consent of the local chief Kuindo, he bought the île Nou, where he established facilities for processing coconut oil, salting fish, preparing bêche-de-mer and tortoise shells, and introduced horses, cattle and other livestock from Australia. This thriving settlement, which employed some 300 Europeans and Kanak, provided vital supplies to the garrison established at Fort Constantine, opposite île Nou, after the French takeover of New Caledonia in 1853.

Speaking at Paddon’s memorial service in 1861, M. Guys of the local Chamber of Commerce declared that Paddon had rendered “to our administration, services which the Governors and Commandants who successively took office here all recognised, in the most flattering terms. He continued to supply all that was required in the way of provisions to our garrison and our shipping” (Sydney Morning Herald 1861). It was Paddon who organised the regular postal service between Noumea and Australia. By the mid 1850s he had a dozen bases on New Caledonia but he was forced to hastily leave the colony for Australia in 1857, reportedly on being accused of selling arms to the Kanak (Priday 1942, 44). The French later sought him out in Australia, however, and encouraged him to return, on condition that he organise the recruitment of settlers to their new colony. In December 1858, having sold the île Nou to the French for 40,000 francs, he was granted a concession of 4000 hectares of land at Païta for the purpose of settlement. Advertisements duly appeared in the Sydney papers offering migrants twenty hectares of land, support during the settlement period, 500 francs a year and five percent of the produce of their land; in return the settler had to stay and work the land for five years. Eighteen male colonists and their families, some of German origin but all recruited in Australia, settled there; despite the difficult first few years, most remained and integrated into the developing French colony where they became known as the “colons Paddon”.

The famous botanist Charles Moore, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney from 1848 to 1896, visited Paddon’s settlement on Aneityum in 1850 where he collected samples of a range of indigenous plants unknown in Europe until then (Mabberley 2002, 261). Over the following decade Paddon continued to send specimens of native plants to the Gardens, while Moore sent mango, cinnamon and other fruits and spices to Paddon, who experimented with establishing them on New Caledonia and adjoining islands. Paddon’s interest in the local fauna and flora is reflected in the name given to a New Caledonian grass finch, poephila paddoni (registered in 1858), by a visiting English ornithologist.

Paddon died of a pulmonary infection on February 13, 1861 on the île Nou. In 1866 his ashes were transferred with great ceremony to his property at Païta, also known by then as Paddonville, where a monument had been built to him by his nephews (Moniteur 1866). His tomb was classed as a historical monument by the Province Sud in 2012 while the Païta museum hosts a permanent exhibition on the “colons Paddon”. A local primary school is named after him.

Image: approved for use by author

Author: Elizabeth Rechniewski, The University of Sydney, July 2022.


Adams, Ron. 1984. In the Land of Strangers: A Century of European Contact with Tanna, 1774–1874. Canberra: ANU Pacific Research Monograph 9.

Australian, June 30, 1844, 2.

Exeter Flying Post, November 6, 1834, 2.

Houghton, Roger. 2020. A Peoples’ History 1793–1844 from the Newspapers, Part 9, China 1839,

Jones, Martine. 1992. James Paddon. Nouméa: imprimerie du C.T.R.D.P.

Mabberley, David J., 2002. “The Coming of the Kauris.” Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 19, no. 4, 252–264.

Martin, R. 2010. “James Paddon.” Bulletin de la société d’études historiques de la Nouvelle-Calédonie 163, 34–61.

Moniteur de la Nouvelle-Calédonie 342, April 15, 1866, supplément.

Priday, H. E. L. 1942. “Early Settlers in New Caledonia.” Pacific Islands Monthly XII, no. 11, 42–47.

Shineberg, Dorothy. 1967. They Came for Sandalwood: A Study of the Sandalwood Trade in the South-West Pacific, 1830-1865. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Shipping Gazette, January 18, 1851, 16.

Sydney Morning Herald, March 14, 1861, 8.

Sydney Record, December 9, 1843, 76.

Keywords: sandalwood trade; New Caledonia; New Hebrides; European colonisation

Proust, Georges Armand (1850–1937)

Georges Proust arrived in Sydney in 1900. From 1901 to 1918 he was Managing Director of Le Courrier Australien, the oldest foreign language newspaper still operating in Australia. His career in journalism began when he was already fifty years old, as he settled into the French-Australian community. In Le Courrier Australien’s commemorative 2020 publication, his management was characterised as providing stability to the newspaper. He was remembered for his constant and valiant effort to steer the newspaper through difficult times and financial duress during World War One.

Georges Armand Proust, born in Niort (Deux-Sèvres), was the fourth of five children. His father and uncle owned a successful business in Niort manufacturing products that incorporated horsehair. Horsehair was widely used in making wigs, saddles and harnesses, as well as in upholstery. After the 1789 Revolution wigs went out of fashion, but horsehair had other uses, such as in furniture, carriage trims and mattresses. In the nineteenth century, the firm of MM Proust Frères et Noirot Fils used it as a stiffener in tailored garments, particularly military uniforms, in millinery and for common brushes. For these products the firm received a medal at the 1855 Paris International Exhibition.

Georges was only eight years old when his father Pierre Louis Proust (1807–1859) died suddenly and left his mother, Anne Charlotte Céline Desbordes (1820–1884), with a young family. By 1860 Céline had returned with the children to Bordeaux, where her own family was well established as glove-makers (gantiers) since at least the 1740s. Céline’s parents owned a country house, La Hourcade, in Bruges, where she raised the Proust children. Bruges was a village largely of market gardens north of the city.

In Bruges Georges attended the École Communale but it is unclear where he received his secondary education. He did not follow a career in either of the family businesses. At the age of twenty-one, he joined the shipping activities of his maternal uncle, Jean-Paul Desbordes who was a sea captain for the shipping entrepreneurs, Civrac Armateurs-Négociants. They ran services from Bordeaux to South America and the eastern Pacific. Georges worked first in a ship’s chandlery in London, then later, as a midshipman, he sailed on a three-masted ship around Cape Horn to Chile and San Francisco. However, a career at sea did not hold him.

In 1883 Georges married Berthe Rose Olivier (1863–1948), and they had three sons, Emile, Alfred and Raymond, born in Bruges. From about that time he became involved in local political life. In 1893 and 1894 his name appeared as a répartiteur (a municipal officer responsible for stores) in the Commune of Bruges. Then at the time of the Dreyfus Affair (1895), when the republican government was at a low point, Georges joined other royalistes who supported an unsuccessful return of Philippe, Duc d’Orléans and Pretender to the French throne. Georges stood in the municipal election of May 3, 1896 but was unsuccessful in what was a strongly republican working-class village.

About this time Georges was ill with pneumonia and was advised that a warmer climate would improve his health. Both his election failure and his health prompted him to investigate the opportunities offered in a French overseas colony. He rejected most places because of climate or political instability, but saw the possibility of a new life in the Pacific as one of the Colons Feillet. In the 1890s the Governor of New Caledonia, Paul Feillet (1857–1903), introduced a program to reduce the importance of the island’s penal colony by actively promoting free settlement and the growing of coffee. The French administration called for settlers from France, preferably farmers with some capital, to come to the Pacific colony.

On July 17, 1898 Georges left Marseilles with his wife and sons aboard the MM Armand Behic. They took up a concession in the Amoa Valley near the settlement of Poindimié on New Caledonia’s north-east coast where most settlers who arrived in 1898 received land. With the help of government surveyors and Kanak labour, the land was prepared for construction of a basic three-room dwelling and external kitchen. Once the family had a place to live, they set about establishing the coffee plantation.

However, difficulties caused by isolation, poor soil, the lack of agricultural experience of some settlers, and especially the collapse of the world coffee prices in 1900, resulted in the failure of the Plan Feillet. The Proust family shared these difficulties with fellow settlers but in addition, the family experienced twin disasters. First, in the autumn of 1899, a kitchen fire took hold and consumed their dwelling of timber and thatch. A new house was built, and life was back to normal, when a tropical cyclone and associated floods in March 1900 destroyed their plantation. Not only had floodwaters uprooted the young coffee plants, the soil was washed away leaving only rock and gravel.

After just two years Georges and Berthe were forced to reassess their position and future in New Caledonia. Not only were they doubting the viability of coffee growing, they were particularly concerned about providing an education for their sons. And so they said farewell to the Amoa Valley and left New Caledonia bound for Sydney.

On June 5, 1900 MM Le Polynésien brought the family into Sydney Harbour with their few belongings salvaged from the fire and flood, but with hope for a more stable future. At a meeting with the French Consul-General, Georges Biard d’Aunet, Georges Proust learnt of a position with Le Courrier Australien. Georges seemed to have had the right credentials: his involvement in political and community life in France had given him experience in political writing. In 1901 he was appointed Directeur-Gérant (Managing Director) to work with editor Paul Chauleur (1877–1927).

Le Courrier Australien was established in 1892, when Australian–French relations were growing stronger, and textile companies in France and Belgium looked to Australia as a source of fine merino wool. The newspaper operated from Bond Street Chambers located at 2 Bond Street, on the corner of George Street. The Chambers were the hub of French cultural life, and location of Government associations for which the Consul-General had oversight. In addition to the newspaper, the Chambers housed the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the French Benevolent Society and the Alliance Française de Sydney. Georges found himself happily part of French business and cultural activities in his new city.

During Georges’ association with the newspaper it reported events in France and the French-speaking world, as well as fostering a general interest in French culture and language. It reported on Australian trade with France and with New Caledonia, and advertised French goods and services available in Australia. When notable French individuals in the arts, entertainment or sport came to Australia the newspaper drew attention to their visits and described their planned activities. However, with the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1914, there was sustained focus on events as they unfolded in Europe.

In 2020 the newspaper published a bi-lingual book celebrating 128 years of operation. The authors wrote that, “from 1901, the stability of the newspaper was embodied in the figure of the managing director of the Courrier Australien, G. Proust.” Notions of good faith, moderation, and rectification of false information about France and French life became principles of the newspaper and its editors from this time.

Georges retired from the position of Managing Director in 1918, aged sixty-seven, but remained associated on a part-time basis as a staff member for another decade. His writing interests went beyond practical journalism to include poetry. What was likely his last formal contribution to Le Courrier Australien was a 400-word poem published in 1935. In L’Etang – Souvenir du pays poitevin Georges wrote of the beauty of the Marais Poitevin (wetland) region near Niort, his birthplace.

Less is known about his life in Sydney beyond the newspaper. His name regularly appeared with those who attended French National Day celebrations, and Georges and Berthe remained connected with families from New Caledonia. Proust descendants remember that the education of the Proust brothers was a priority, and that Georges helped them to establish professional careers. The family enjoyed sailing on Sydney harbour in their wooden dinghy, Fleur de Lys. Family ties remained strong. His grandson Frank Proust recalled memorable hours with Georges hearing “wonderful stories” of life in Bordeaux and the royaliste cause.

Le Courrier Australien gave Georges the settled and purposeful work that he failed to find in Bordeaux or New Caledonia. In the small but vibrant French community of Sydney, he also found a sense of place. He became a naturalised Australian citizen in 1904 and the family knew he was grateful for these opportunities. He died aged eighty-seven at his home in Haberfield on April 13, 1937.

Image: Georges Proust in the uniform of a midshipman, taken in Bordeaux c.1871 (Proust family archive)

Author: Dr Katrina Proust, Affiliate, Australian National University, July 2022.


Annuaire général du commerce et de l’industrie de la ville de Bordeaux et du département de la Gironde, 1858 édition, 408.

Exposition Universelle des Produits de l’Agriculture, de l’Industrie et des Beaux-Arts, 1855.  Rapports du jury mixte international, Volume 2, Industrie des Laines, 365.

Le Courrier Australien, special supplement, Bref Historique du Courrier Australien de 1892 à 1945, published May 1, 2005.

Le Courrier Australien, creating the French-Australian Connection since 1892.

Gay, Jean-Christophe. 2014. La Nouvelle-Calédonie, un destin peu commun. Marseille: IRD Editions, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement.

Proust, Katrina. 2000. Mr Surveyor Proust, Memoirs of Alfred Louis Proust (private publication).

Stuer, Anny P. L. 1979. The French in Australia with special emphasis on the period 1788–1947, ANU PhD thesis.

Keywords: Niort, Bordeaux, New Caledonia, Colons Feillet, Le Courrier Australien

Stead, Christina (1902–1983)

Christina Ellen Stead, born in Sydney on 17 July 1902, was an Australian novelist, short story writer, journalist and translator. Her fictional works, often bitingly parodic and politically astute, increasingly reflected her Marxist leanings, honed over forty-two years of writing, and her affiliations with sympathetic left-wing institutes. Her two Paris-centred novels, The Beauties and Furies (1936) and House of All Nations (1938), stamped with personal opinion and political insight, remain weighty critiques of the historic and social upheavals of 1930s France and Europe.

Spurred by an unhappy childhood that was marred by the death of her mother in 1904, a domineering father, poverty and two successive stepmothers she disliked, Stead left Australia in 1928 to forge an independent life. But the memories of the past lingered and inspired two of her most acclaimed novels: Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934) and The Man Who Loved Children (1940). By then she was practising what she called ‘the novel of strife’ in which characters in conflict are variously the victims of social injustice, human frailty, unwise moral choices and the unkindness of fate.

Following her arrival in London in 1928, Stead joined a company of grain merchants where she met and fell in love with William Blake (formerly Wilhelm Blech), a brilliant economist, broker, novelist and journalist. In 1929 they moved to Paris where she took up a secretarial post and Blake a senior administrative position in the company’s American Travelers’ Bank.  Their affair heralded a lifelong partnership and an itinerant lifestyle as they moved between Europe and America while establishing themselves as cosmopolitan authors. All Stead’s twelve novels relate to places in which she lived, observed and fictionally judged. Verbally brilliant, intellectually sharp, digressive and psychologically profound, they make demands on the reader, but they cast penetrating light on moments in history that changed both society at large and individuals caught up in its flux.

In 1929 Stead and Blake moved to Paris where they resided until 1935. There, opportunely, Stead’s secretarial position in the Travelers Bank gave her inside knowledge of the vagaries of the 1930s financial world, triggered by the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the economic calamities it unleashed. Largely set in a fictitious bank when France was in reality in the throes of stock market volatility, the privations of the Great Depression and the threat of Hitler’s escalating might, House of All Nations offers on a broad canvas a damning assessment of the capitalist system and, via its cavalcade of characters, the nature of speculatory frenzy and the corrupt human responses it generates. Most of those who work for the novel’s bank are opportunists, profiteers and egotists: wily managers, scheming middlemen, manipulative agents and ruthless arrivistes, who dupe the unwary investor, cheat the gullible client and reap the monetary benefits. For Stead they are the exemplars of those the Marxist theorist castigates: the affluent minority who exploit the poor and the working class to further their own status, social advantage and wealth. As the book unfolds, Stead broadens her scope: the ‘house of all nations’ represents the crumbling political and financial edifices of European nations at risk. In its closing chapters she traces the demise of the major players and the bank’s inexorable and ultimate collapse, even as, in parallel, Europe floundered in the grip of oppressive leaders, economic instability and unstable governments. Stead’s invented scenarios were thus not unlike those she witnessed at the time. The outbreak of the Second War in 1939 would plunge ‘all nations’ into crisis, shattering the false utopias of the 1930s to which so many had unguardedly clung.

In The Beauties and Furies, as in House of All Nations, Stead takes the heedlessness of the 1930s unremittingly to task: its characters – acquisitive, self-serving, profligate – belong to a world of human unconcern and predatoriness. Yet the novel is less a critique of an era’s capitalist bodies than a scathing portrait of post-war and post-Crash social types. The male protagonist, a pretentious, shallow student, who is in Paris to advance his research, proves as intellectually expedient as he is fickle in his amorous entanglements. This is particularly the case with his English lover, a bored housewife, come abroad to seek pleasure until the novelty of foreign surroundings and the excitement of a romantic fling wear off. Stead draws on the clichéd perception of Paris as the city of glamour and promiscuousness to expose the folly of her protagonists as they pursue false ideals and an illusory happiness. There is a common ideological edge to Stead’s fictional works. The Beauties and Furies is, in essence, a study of class. Her male and female protagonists are smug bourgeois. One is committed to self-advancement; the other unready to forego her home with its chattels and material comforts. The Paris venture, it transpires, is a failure; the travellers remain unchanged by their experience.

Stead’s role in left-wing organisations complemented her ideologically driven literary output. In 1935 in Paris, while Fascist Germany was burning books deemed degenerate, she attended the First International Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture, an anti-fascist writers’ lobby that included literary notables such as André Gide, Louis Aragon and André Malraux. In her role as the delegation’s unofficial British secretary, she recorded the event’s political thrust: how best to address the deficiencies of the capitalist paradigm and resist the emerging menace of Europe’s dictatorships. Yet, Stead was never a propagandist or proletarian writer like the group’s predominantly communist participants; rather her leftist leanings encouraged her to denounce all forms of hypocrisy, injustice and dishonesty in all political arenas. In the rich ferment of 1930s events and ideologies, she remained open-minded and judiciously evaluated the impact of theorists like Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud. Again, although she never identified as a feminist, successive novels explored the patriarchal hegemony and the nature of feminine passions, ambitions, travails and regrets. This was acknowledged, if tardily, in the 1980s when London’s Virago Press reissued those of her novels that most representatively critiqued the contemporary feminine lot.

In 1935 and 1936 Stead and Blake travelled between Europe, England and the United States. In July 1937, they re-embarked for America. There, they contributed articles to the communist weekly journal New Masses. At the same time, they branched out: in 1938 Stead was reviewing Australian novels for the New York Times Book Review. Between 1942 and 1943 both she and Blake worked as screenwriters for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood, as well as co-editing the anthology Modern Women in Love: Sixty Twentieth-Century Masterpieces of Fiction. In 1946, fearful of burgeoning American anti-communist sentiment, they returned to a peripatetic life in Europe. This period was marked by a flurry of literary works, although Stead’s true success as an author eluded her until late in life. In 1947 they resettled in England, living in considerable poverty despite Blake’s role as a researcher and scripter for a German film studio and the relative success of his works. In 1952 they married, Blake having finally secured a divorce from his first wife. Upon his death in 1968 Stead took up a short-term visiting fellowship at the Australian National University in Canberra; it encouraged her to return to Australia in 1974 where she remained until her death in Sydney on 31 March 1983.

Literary success in Australia came late for Stead, largely because she was perceived as an expatriate writer of cosmopolitan works, some of which, moreover, were judged obscene. However, increased fame abroad and the US republication in 1967 of The Man Who Loved Children kindled recognition in her homeland. In 1974 she was the recipient of the inaugural Patrick White Literary Award, bestowed for the lifetime achievement of older writers. Posthumous fame followed, notably with the publications of Ocean of Story: The Uncollected Stories of Christina Stead in 1985 and I’m Dying Laughing: The Humourist (1986). In their wake, translations of her works into numerous languages continue to broaden her repute. In 1988 The Man Who Loved Children was published in France as L’Homme qui aimait les enfants, and in 2018 The Beauties and Furies appeared as Splendeurs et fureurs.

Christina Stead, ca. 1938
C.S. Daley photograph collection
National Gallery of Australia, nla.obj-144459442

Rosemary Lancaster, University of Western Australia, September 2021.


Ackland, Michael, Christina Stead and the Socialist Heritage, New York, Cambria Press, 2016

Geering, R. G. (ed.), new edition, Christina Stead, A Web of Friendship: Selected Letters, 1928–1973, Melbourne, Miegunyah Press, 2017 (first published 1992)

Geering, R. G. (ed)., Christina Stead, Talking into the Typewriter: Selected Letters, 1973–1983, Melbourne, Miegunyah Press, 2018 (first published 1992)

Gribble, Diane, Christina Stead, Oxford University Press, 1994

Lancaster, Rosemary, ‘All That Glitters: Illusory Worlds in Christina Stead’s The Beauties and Furies (1936) and House of All Nations (1938)’, in Je Suis Australienne: Remarkable Women in France, 1880–1945, 2008, pp. 124–150

Lidoff, Joan, Christina Stead, New York, Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1982

Rowley, Hazel, Christina Stead: A Biography, rev. ed., Melbourne, Miegunyah Press, 2007 (first published 1993)

Rowley, Hazel, ‘Politics and Literature in the Radical Years, 1935–1942’, Meridian, vol. 8, no. 2, 1989, pp. 149-159

Christina Stead, writer, Paris, 1930s, Marxism, Sydney

Freycinet, Louis-Claude de Saulces de (1779–1842)

Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet, also known as Louis de Freycinet or Louis Freycinet, was a naval officer, maritime explorer and member of the Académie des Sciences. He played a prominent role in the Australian expedition led by Nicolas Baudin (1800–1804) and later commanded his own scientific voyage around the world, 1817–1820.

Freycinet was born on 7 August 1779 at Montélimar (Drôme). He was the second son of Louis de Saulces de Freycinet, merchant, and Elisabeth Armand, daughter of the Prince of Monaco’s intendant general. Freycinet joined the navy alongside his older brother, Henri, in 1793, at the height of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.

The Revolutionary Wars provided Freycinet with ample opportunity to develop naval experience and skills. By 1796, he had participated in three battles against the English and risen from 5th– to 2nd-class midshipman. In 1797 he resisted a promotion to the rank of sub-lieutenant, believing that it was based on favour not merit, but the decision could not be repealed.

In July 1800, Louis and Henri joined the Baudin expedition: Henri, aboard the Géographe and Louis, on the consort vessel, the Naturaliste, with Commander Emmanuel Hamelin. The expedition set sail on 19 October 1800 to chart the southern, Tasmanian, western, north-western and northern coastlines of Australia, as well as to study the natural history and human inhabitants of those regions. It is believed that Baudin named Freycinet Peninsula in Tasmania after Louis; however, the sources are unclear: it may have been in honour of either Louis or Henri, or both brothers.

At Timor, Louis was promoted to acting lieutenant and, in Sydney, he was given command of a new vessel, the Casuarina. The Casuarina replaced the Naturaliste, which returned to France with the expedition’s natural history collection. After leaving Sydney, Louis travelled along the southern and western coasts of Australia, leading geographic and cartographic studies of the Hunter Islands Group, the Spencer and St Vincent Gulfs, King George Sound, Cape Leeuwin, Nuyts Archipelago, Edel Land and De Witt Land.

By the time the expedition arrived at Lorient, 25 March 1804, Freycinet had developed a devotion to maritime exploration. He took responsibility for publishing the expedition’s hydrographic atlas (1811), which included the first full map of Australia, and the geography and navigation volume (1815). He also completed the second history volume of the Voyage de découvertes, begun by François Péron (1816).

That same year, Freycinet put forward a proposal for a voyage which was accepted by Louis XVIII. Marking a turning point in maritime exploration, the focus of this voyage was not to be discovery or hydrography, but scientific research. As directed by a committee formed within the Academy of Sciences, the voyagers were to conduct measurements of the globe’s southern hemisphere, observations of magnetic and meteorological phenomena, experiments relating to air pressure and sea temperature, and studies in natural history and anthropology. Freycinet was given command of the expedition and his choice of officers and crew members. He manned the Uranie with care, by forming a crew largely of men who were labourers as well as sailors, and choosing, instead of civilian scientists, three naval surgeons to carry the main responsibility for natural history and anthropological research. He was accompanied, although it was against all the rules, by his wife Rose, initially disguised as a man. The Uranie set sail from Toulon on 17 September 1817 and reached Oceania, where the bulk of its observations were conducted, one year later. Between Shark Bay, on Australia’s west coast, and colonial Sydney-Town, on its east, the Frenchmen explored Timor, the Papuan, Caroline, and Marianna Islands, and Hawaii. The smooth voyage was subsequently marred by shipwreck at the Falkland Islands; however, both the men and the products of their research made it ashore, and Freycinet obtained a new ship, renamed the Physicienne. Back in France from 13 September 1820, he was not blamed for the shipwreck, nor disciplined for smuggling his wife Rose onto the expedition, but was promoted from commander to post-captain.

Freycinet thereafter concentrated on voyage publications and the field of geography. He co-founded the Paris Geographical Society, became a member of the Academy of Sciences (geography and navigation section), and gained a place on the Bureau of Longitude. He was named Knight of the Order of Saint-Louis and a member of the Legion of Honour. He also published a second edition of the Baudin expedition’s historical account (1824) and, with certain of his co-voyagers from the Uranie, completed the Voyage autour du monde (1824–1844). Freycinet died of a heart attack on the family estate at Saulces-sur-Rhône, 18 August 1842.

Image: Leroy, Sébastien, Portrait of Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet, ca. 1812 , National Library of Australia.

Author: Nicole Starbuck Adjunct Academic, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University, 1 June 2021.


French Sources

Freycinet, Louis-Claude, 1812–1824, Voyage de découvertes aux Terres australes, exécuté par ordre de Sa Majesté l’Empereur et Roi, sur les corvettes le Géographe et le Naturaliste; et la goélette le Casuarina, pendant les années 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, et 1804, Paris: Imprimérie Impériale, comprising the following volumes:
Atlas, Historique, deuxième partie, 1812.
Navigation et géographie, 1815.
Historique, tome 2, by F. Péron, continued by L. Freycinet, 1816.
Historique, 2ème edn, tomes 1–4, 1824.

Freycinet, Louis-Claude, 1825–1839, Voyage autour du monde, entrepris par ordre du Roi, Exécuté sur les corvettes de S.M. l’Uranie et la Physicienne, pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820, Paris, Imprimérie Royale, comprising the following volumes :
Historique, tomes 1–3, 1825–1839.
Navigation et hydrographie, 1826.
Observations du Pendule, 1826.
Magnétisme Terrestre, 1842.
Météorologie, 1844.

Mourral, Alphonse, 1936, ‘Notice sur les expéditions scientifiques de Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet 1779–1842’, Bulletin de l’Académie delphinale, 6, no. 7: 229–244.

Roquette, D., de la, 1843, ‘Notices historiques sur MM. Henri et Louis de Freycinet’, Bulletin de la Société de géographie, 20, no 2: 501–539.

English Sources

Douglas, Bronwen, 2014, Science, Voyages, and Encounters in Oceania, 1511–1850, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Dunmore, John, 1969, French Explorers in the Pacific, volume II, The Nineteenth Century, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Fornasiero, Jean, Peter Monteath, and John West-Sooby, 2004, Encountering Terra Australis: The Australian Voyages of Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders, Kent Town, Wakefield Press.

Starbuck, Nicole, 2013, Baudin, Napoleon, and the Exploration of Australia, London, Pickering and Chatto.

Starbuck, Nicole, 2013, ‘“Primitive Race”, “Pure Race”, “Brown Race”, “Every Race”: Freycinet’s Understanding of Human Difference in Oceania’, in Discovery and Empire: the French in the South Seas, ed. John West-Sooby, 215–244. Adelaide, University of Adelaide Press.

Keywords: Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet, scientific voyages, Oceania, Australia, exploration, Uranie, French navy.

Bowen, Stella (1893–1947)

Esther (Stella) Gwendolyn Bowen was a painter who became an official Australian war artist in Britain during the Second World War. She was born in North Adelaide in 1893. After passing South Australia’s Senior Public Examination at Tormore House School, she pursued her early love of drawing by enrolling in the art classes of Rose MacPherson (later Margaret Preston). But it was her travels in Europe and America between 1914 and 1947 that proved crucial to her artistic development as a professional portraitist, a talent that secured her wartime commission in 1944.

Bowen’s childhood education hardly anticipated the professional ambitions and lifestyle she later assumed. Under the watchful eye of her widowed mother, a devout Christian of staid middle-class ideals, she was conservatively femininely raised. But upon her mother’s death in 1914 and armed with an inherited annuity of £200 she was free to leave Australia to seek artistic tuition abroad. On arrival in London she joined Walter Sickert’s reputed art academy, encountering and mixing with some of the city’s most adventurous artistic and literary avant-garde. It was through the poet Ezra Pound that she met the much older critic and novelist Ford Madox Ford (1873–1939), initiating a partnership that was to endure for nine years. It was a match that, although it became latterly emotionally fraught, emboldened the couple to settle in Paris’s culturally vibrant Left Bank in 1922, with their child Julie, who, born in England, was then two.

Early twentieth-century Paris was a mecca for Australian women artists. Dorrit Black, Hilda Rix Nicholas, Kathleen O’Connor, Bessie Davidson and Grace Crowley were all drawn to a city whose impressionist and modernist pioneers had taken the world by storm, although only the potter Anne Dangar and Bowen did not return to Australia. Moreover, for Ford and Bowen the timing was opportune: the postwar French exchange rate was advantageous for visitors and the restrictions imposed by Prohibition and censorship laws in America drew its more progressive writers and artists to Paris for inspiration and contact with the Left Bank’s thriving artistic milieux. It was in the Latin Quarter that Bowen, engagingly gregarious, met and befriended the young Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, American poet Raymond Guthrie and writer and august salonnière Gertrude Stein. In 1924, in support of the era’s literati and Ford’s burgeoning career, Bowen helped fund and host a weekly ‘at home’ reception for the latter’s short-lived journal, the Transatlantic Review.

In 1941, six years before she died, Bowen published her memoir Drawn from Life, an illuminating recapitulation of her progress from her Australian roots to her gradual and hard-fought rise to professional success and personal independence following her separation from Ford in 1927. Within its pages, frankly and movingly written, she pays special homage to the Paris years. This riveting memoir, both social document and personal review, plots her path to artistic maturity alongside lively evocations of 1920s post-war gaiety, optimism and intellectual experimentation and exchange. Accounts of parties, dances and café encounters vie with reflections on the artistic principles she progressively espoused. Her narrative reveals a woman of quiet achievement: steadfast in her belief in her abilities, discreetly feminist and increasingly resolved to be released from the strain incurred by Ford’s infidelities and domestic demands.

Bowen claims that a visit she made with the Pounds to Tuscany in the spring of 1923 deeply influenced her painting style. On viewing the works of the Proto-Renaissance artists, especially Giotto and Fra Angelico, she was struck by the beauty of their formal composition, the layering of paint, flattening of shapes and attention to decorative detail. These were techniques she adopted and refined, albeit against the grain of the modernist and abstractionist art in vogue. The title of her memoir refers both to its biographical purpose and her dedication to portraiture. Capturing a likeness of people was a gift at which she marvelled and in which she excelled. Those she painted or sketched in Paris are representative of the 1920s circles in which she moved: Edith Sitwell, T. S. Eliot, Raymond Guthrie, Gertrude Stein; more intimately, Ford playing solitaire, herself in a painter’s smock, her daughter Julie in plaits in three-quarter profile. In contrast, a work of 1927 depicts the faces of the patrons and waitresses of Au Nègre de Toulouse (a Left Bank restaurant) clustered around the canvas like Fra Angelico cherubs, each one meticulously delineated and individually portrayed. Group paintings henceforth became a forte. After her separation from Ford and in the wake of the calamitous Wall Street Crash of 1929, Bowen, still in Paris and reeling from the devaluation of the French franc, the onset of the Depression and the resulting paucity of commissions, accepted Ramon Guthrie’s invitation in 1932 to paint portraits, mainly of family groups and their children, in Boston, Vermont and New Jersey. Yet despite the success of the venture, the proceeds were insufficient to sustain her on her return and, with Julie, she left France for London in 1933.

In England, struggling to survive, Bowen led a peripatetic life, successively supplementing her artwork with teaching, a brief position as an art reviewer for the News Chronicle and a small remuneration upon the publication of her memoir. A six-week holiday with generous friends in 1936 produced four works, notably the masterful Provençal Conversation (gifted to the National Gallery of Australia in 2013). It was, however, her appointment as a war artist by the Australian War Memorial in 1944 that produced the body of work that was to be her greatest legacy.

Bowen’s brief, to depict the members of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed in Britain, took her to military encampments around the country, north to Scotland, west to Wales and south to Essex, her last abode. It was on such sites that her skills as a portraitist served her well as she captured the strikingly youthful faces of those who served the Allied cause. Paintings such as Bomber Crew (1944), Halifax Crew, Driffield (1945), and A Sunderland Crew Comes Ashore at Pembroke Dock (1945), all group studies, depict military commitment and solidarity. The men are typically portrayed in their wartime gear: variously badges, caps, gloves, gas masks, parachute tackle, rugs, leather jackets, safety buckles and earphones; some are surrounded by symbolic cameos of doves, planes, logbooks, panel instruments, or hands at work. Poignantly, Bomber Crew was finished using photos when the men failed to return from combat. Single portraits of officers and commanders include Air Chief Marshal Charles Burnett (1944) and Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin (1944), reminders for posterity of Australia’s wartime leadership abroad. Pleased with her work, the Australian War Memorial extended her appointment in 1945 to paint and commemorate Australian soldiers who had survived the war: POWs (for example Repatriated Prisoner of War is Processed, 1945) and the hospitalised wounded, many severely maimed. In 1946, her war commission over, Bowen planned to return to Australia but her repatriation and pension rights were denied. She died of cancer on 30 October 1947.

Today the Australian War Memorial holds the forty-six oils and drawings she executed during the war, the largest collection of her work in the world. Her self-portrait of 1928 is in the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, and another, c. 1934, in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. The former, in particular, donated to the gallery by Bowen’s niece in 1979, attests to her gift for portraiture, nurtured in the Paris years. The aspiring artist who had left Adelaide not knowing what lay ahead had returned ‘home’ as one who had fulfilled her earliest goals.

In recognition of her accomplishments as an Australian artist in France and abroad, a retrospective exhibition, entitled Art, Love and War, was held at the Australian War Memorial in 2002.

Image Stella Bowen, Self-portrait c.1934, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia.

Author Rosemary Lancaster, University of Western Australia, August 2021.


Australian War Memorial, 2002, ‘Stella Bowen: Art, Love and War’,,au/visit/exhibition/stella.

Bowen, Stella, 1999 (first published 1941), Drawn from Life: A Memoir, Sydney, Picador Pan MacMillan.

Lancaster, Rosemary, 2008, Je Suis Australienne: Remarkable Women in France, 1880–1945, ch. 4: ‘Stella Bowen’s “education of another sort”’, Crawley WA, University of Western Australia Press.

Modjeska, Drusilla, 1999, Stravinsky’s Lunch, Sydney, Pan Macmillan Australia.


Stella Bowen, Paris, portraitist, official war artist, Second World War.

Wake, Nancy (1912–2011)

Nancy Wake, a New Zealand-born Australian, was a heroic resistance fighter in the Second World War, notably serving alongside Maquis groups in the centre and south of France. On 29 February 1944, with France under German occupation, she was parachuted into the Allier department of the hilly French Auvergne. She was thirty-one and a British secret agent, sent to support French resisters to combat the Nazi peril. It was to mark her greatest contribution to the Allied cause, embarked on in 1940 and maintained until 1944.

Wake, born in Wellington on 30 August 1912, moved to Sydney with her family in 1914. Her childhood was marked by poverty but an unexpected inheritance from an aunt enabled her to leave Australia in 1932. After travelling to Vancouver and New York, she moved to London where she enrolled in Queen’s College of Journalism; in 1934, domiciled in Paris, she secured a post as a freelance reporter in the French office of Hearst’s American newspaper. Her assignations in Europe exposed her to Nazi oppression and Hitler’s expansionist programme that culminated in the invasion of Poland in September 1939, prompting a declaration of war by France and Britain. In November she married wealthy industrialist Henri Fiocca in Marseille. Only after the war did she learn that he had died, having been arrested, tortured and executed by the Gestapo for refusing to reveal her whereabouts and identity. By then the Germans had dubbed her ‘The White Mouse’ due to her baffling ability to elude notice and avoid capture. The name was used in the title of her 1985 autobiography, largely devoted to recounting her wartime activities.

After serving as a volunteer ambulance driver following the German invasion of northern France in 1940, Wake went south, initially participating in resistance activities as a clandestine courier. It led her to join the Pat O’Leary Line, an undercover circuit that escorted escapers, notably Jews, downed airmen and evaders of German labour recruitment, along the south coast via safe houses to neutral Spain. Wake’s role was highly risky: posing as a wealthy woman given to travel and holidays, she carried and delivered secret mail, harboured those on the run in her Alpine chalet and accompanied fugitives along the Line. In November 1942 the Nazis occupied France’s previously free South Zone, making the O’Leary operations increasingly dangerous, and when Wake’s phone was tapped by the Gestapo and the Line betrayed, she was forced to flee. After six abortive attempts and a series of hair-raising escapades she, with six others, crossed the Pyrenees led by sympathetic local guides. By the time she reached London in June 1943 she had helped bring some 1,037 fugitives to safety.

Anxious to resume her resistance activities, Wake enrolled in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a British intelligence organisation masterminded by Churchill to provide the means, material and intelligence staff to European resistance cells. The sixteen-week training period, in which Wake reputedly excelled, included tuition in unarmed combat, demolition and survival techniques and aptitude in code-breaking, impersonation and disguise. On arrival in France and bearing the code-name Hélène, Wake joined the regional Maquis—one of the rural guerrilla bands of the French Resistance—liaising with London, receiving nocturnal parachute drops, distributing the contents (money, equipment and arms) to the resisters, and assembling weaponry. Thanks to her training and fluency in French she was a proficient instructor, an adept markswoman and a knowledgeable spy.

Remarkably, Wake moved easily in the company of her male co-fighters, invariably sleeping alongside them on forest floors in between skirmishes and covert forays. Her stamina, good humour and courage earned the admiration and trust of the men, cemented when she accomplished the now much-cited ‘bike ride’ (for which she was awarded the British George Medal in 1945): motivated by the loss of the group’s radio, which her radio transmitter had had to bury and abandon in a hurried retreat, she cycled north on a round trip of 500 kilometres in seventy-two hours, dodging German road patrols by heading over open fields, finding a secret contact with a radio and alerting London headquarters. On her return, hailed by her comrades, she learned that a new radio, along with an operator, had indeed arrived.

In the latter stages of the war, Wake joined the Maquis group of Henri Tardivat with whom she carried out ambushes, raids and sabotage in line with Churchill’s Operation Overlord. His strategy was to distract the Germans by concerted retaliations to the north and east while executing his surreptitious D-Day assault on the Normandy coast and subsequent invasion of occupied territory. It saw her assume her most militant role as she assisted Tardivat in blowing up bridges and enemy vehicles, distributing arms in the midst of battle and, on one occasion, leading an assault and rescuing two American officers. Such events, highly perilous and crucial to the success of the Allied cause, reveal the unique strengths of Wake’s character: daring, determination and an ability to respond to dangerous situations with ingenuity, courage and unhesitating speed. Indeed, her commitment to action and her indomitable spirit rank her as one of the most heroic women fighters of the Second World War.

After the Liberation of Paris in August 1944, SOE agents in France were recalled even though fighting continued until the German surrender in May 1945. Her role over, Wake arrived in London on 16 October 1944, but, in one of her proudest moments before the war’s end, she returned to France accompanied by Colonel Buckmaster, the head of the SOE, on a tour of honour of Allier and the Auvergne.

In 1949 Wake returned to Sydney where she ran as a Liberal candidate, albeit unsuccessfully, in the 1949 and 1951 federal elections, but she failed to settle down after her dramatic life abroad and left for England in 1951. She joined the Air Ministry, lecturing on evasion and survival methods, for which she wrote a manual; she then helped prepare the United Nations interrogation reports on POWs who had survived the Korean War. In 1957 she married John Forward, a former RAF bomber pilot, and lived with him in Malta until 1959, then in New South Wales. After Forward’s death in 1997, she returned to England in 2001, initially residing in the Stafford Hotel in St James’s Place, near Piccadilly. In 2003 she moved to the Royal Star and Garter House for Disabled Ex-Service Men and Women, Richmond, London, where she stayed until her death in Kingston Hospital on 7 August 2011. As was her wish, her ashes were strewn in the Auvergne where she had courageously served and made so many friends.

In her lifetime Wake received numerous awards for her wartime bravery: notably, and in addition to the George Medal, the Croix de Guerre with Palm and Bar; the Croix de Guerre with Star; the Médaille de la Résistance; the American Medal of Freedom with Bronze Palm; Chevalier and, later, Officier de la Légion d’honneur; latterly, the Companion of the Order of Australia (2004) and New Zealand’s RSA Badge in Gold (2006). Her medals are currently on display in the Second World War gallery of the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra. In 2010, the year before she died, a heritage pylon was unveiled in her honour in Wellington, near where she was born.


Studio Portrait of Nancy Wake, 1945, Australian War Memorial


Rosemary Lancaster, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Western Australia, June 2021


Australian War Memorial:

Wake, Nancy, The White Mouse, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, Australia, 1997 (first published 1985).

Braddon, Russell, Nancy Wake, Pan Books, London and Sydney, 1956; republished as Braddon, Russell, Nancy Wake: SOE’s Greatest Heroine, Sutton Publishing Ltd., Stroud, UK., 2005.

Cunningham, Cyril, Beaulieu: The Finishing School for Secret Agents, Pen and Sword Books, South Yorkshire, 1998.

Fitzsimons, Peter, Nancy Wake: A Biography of our Greatest War Heroine, Harper Collins, Australia, 2001.

Lancaster, Rosemary, Je Suis Australienne: Remarkable Women in France, 1880–1945, ch.6: ‘“No Time to be Frail”: Nancy Wake, Resistance Heroine’, first published University of Western Australia Press, 2008.

Wake, Nancy, The White Mouse: The autobiography of the woman the Gestapo called the White Mouse, Macmillan, South Melbourne, 1985.


Nancy Wake, World War 2, French Resistance, Auvergne, SOE

Macarthur, Hon. Sir William (1800–1882)

William Macarthur was an Australian pioneer, politician, horticulturalist and vigneron who drew on his knowledge of French viniculture to develop the commercial wine industry in Australia and promoted Australian wine and other products at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1855. The fifth son of John Macarthur, acclaimed by many as the founder of the Australian wool industry, and his wife Elizabeth, William was born at Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta on 15 December 1800. With his elder brother James, he was tutored in Sydney by Gabriel Huon de Kerilleau, a French émigré who had served in the New South Wales Corps with their father. From 1809, both boys attended Rugby School in England.

In 1815, William and James were taken by their father to Paris and then travelled to the Canton de Vaud, an important wine-growing area of Switzerland. In February 1816, they travelled with two Swiss vinedressers to Marseilles and Paris and reached England in August 1816. The three Macarthurs boarded the East Indiaman ‘Lord Eldon’, which left England on 9 April 1817, reaching Sydney on 30 September 1817. William Macarthur henceforth devoted himself principally to his agricultural, horticultural and vigneron activities, including helping his father manage Camden Park Estate. He was close to his brother James and spent most of his life living with James and his family at Camden Park, where he had his own bachelor wing. He never married.

William Macarthur, along with other family members, acquired extensive grazing properties, mainly in the southern highlands and central west of New South Wales, particularly along the Murrumbidgee River. In 1825, they had convicts assigned to their employ. In 1838, William, James and their brother Edward borrowed £10,000 to buy the Belmont estate at Camden, where they built an inn, twenty cottages for selected English migrants, and an Anglican church (St John’s Anglican Church, which still operates to this day).

At Camden, William Macarthur carried on horse-breeding and important horticultural activities. He was a competent horticulturalist who experimented with seed propagation and irrigation. He also sent plants to London. He was particularly interested in camellias of which he developed more than sixty new varieties, one of which, named Camellia japonica ‘Aspasia macarthur’ in 1831, was possibly the first Australian cultivar of the camellia. He also grew other flowers, as well as fruit and vegetables. He is commemorated in the genus Macarthuria and the species Cyathea macarthurii and Ptychosperma macarthurii. He built a heated hothouse for the growing of imported orchids. In 1843, 1845, 1850 and 1857, he published extensive catalogues of the plants grown at Camden Park, where he also introduced dairying.

Drawing on knowledge obtained in France and Switzerland, Macarthur developed the first commercial vineyard in Australia, establishing important vineyards and cellars at Camden in 1820. In July 1830, he provided a large quantity of grapevine cuttings to the Sydney Botanic Gardens for distribution, to encourage plantings in the colonies. He undertook wine making, importing several families of German vineyard workers, and by 1849 his 10 hectare vineyard produced over 73,000 litres of red and white table wines, as well as brandies. In addition, there were 130,000 litres of wine in storage. He won many prizes for his wines, including in Paris, and also judged wines in local competitions.

On 30 October 1839, William and James petitioned the Governor, seeking to avoid any interference with the right of Australian vintners to distil from the juice of the grape. They wrote that ‘for more than twenty years past [we] have been engaged in a series of experiments with a view ultimately to establish the cultivation of the vine upon an extensive scale’. They argued that wine is a ‘cheap and wholesome beverage’ and a most effective check upon the consumption of ‘ardent spirits’. In May 1840, William and James again petitioned the Governor along the same lines, this time also advocating procuring the services of German vinedressers until local workers were trained.

William Macarthur gave advice freely and published ‘Letters on the Culture of the Vine, Fermentation, and the Management of Wine in the Cellar’ (1844), first published in the Australian (1842-1844), under the nom de plume of ‘Maro’. He also published ‘Some Account of the Vineyards at Camden’ (1849). As President of the New South Wales Vineyard Association, he continued to publish informative material regarding vineyard management and wine making. He also published on fruit growing and preserving, notably strawberries, and wheat diseases.

In 1822, Governor Brisbane proposed offering a magistracy to John Macarthur. However, this proposal aroused so much opposition that Brisbane was forced to withdraw his offer. A magistracy was then offered to James and William, who both declined. However, both men were made Justices of the Peace on 9 February 1825, their appointments renewed on 21 June 1827. William Macarthur’s appointment was further renewed on 7 January 1830.

In July 1840, he helped organize an association for promoting assisted immigration. In 1845, he declined an invitation to nominate for the seat of Camden in the New South Wales Parliament and, in 1848, he stood unsuccessfully for the seat of Parramatta. Although never a keen politician, in March 1849 he was elected to represent the Port Phillip district in the first Legislative Council. He was in favour of the separation of the Port Phillip district from the remainder of the colony of New South Wales, separation that took place in 1851. He considered that the evils of the convict system were due principally to bad masters and negligent or corrupt officials rather than to bad conduct by most convicts. On 1 September 1851 he was appointed an Elective Member of the Legislative Council until 31 January 1855. He was a Life Appointment to the Legislative Council, under the Constitution Act, from 26 October 1864 until 22 August 1882, when his seat lapsed due to non-attendance.

In 1854, Macarthur was appointed Commissioner representing New South Wales to prepare products from the Colony for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1855. He resigned his seat in Parliament and went to Paris at his own expense with the exhibits. These included wools, wines and native woods, of which he had 130 different kinds from the Illawarra alone. The NSW exhibit was voted a credit of £1500, of which £900 was spent on salaries – Macarthur was not paid – leaving only £600 for all other expenses. Hence, various articles of furniture and veneers made from Australian woods were sold off following the Exposition, producing a ‘trifling credit.’ His command of French was useful in Paris when he remonstrated successfully with French officials regarding the New South Wales exhibit. Macarthur complained that the space was much smaller than requested and that the transport of the exhibit materials was very slow. He succeeded in securing ‘300 superficial feet in one of the very best situations in the Palais d’Industrie’, according to The Maitland Mercury and Hunger River General Advertiser. During the Exposition¸ Queen Victoria, accompanied by Emperor Louis Napoléon, visited the NSW exhibit; the latter pointed out the NSW wines as having received high honours. Macarthur became chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur by imperial decree dated 28 September 1855, apparently the first such award to an Australian, and was knighted by Queen Victoria on 12 March 1856. In 1855 and 1856, he toured European vineyards, before returning to Sydney on 17 November 1857.

In 1861, he collected items for the Great London Exhibition of 1862 and travelled to London. He was invited to be the Second Commissioner, but declined, believing the success of his former service entitled him to the chief position. He returned to Sydney in March 1864 and was appointed to the Legislative Council later that year. In January 1879, he resigned as a commissioner from the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879, citing infirmity.

Macarthur played an important part in the intellectual life of Sydney, being on the committee of the Australian Museum from 1836 and a trustee from 1853. He was vice‑president of the newly founded Acclimatisation Society of NSW in 1860, and president, then senior vice-president, of the Agricultural Society of NSW. He was a member of the Senate of the University of Sydney (1860‑1880). In February 1861, he was made an honorary member of the Société Impériale Zoologique d’Acclimatation. He became a trustee of the Free Public Library in 1870 and, in the same year, was elected vice‑president of the Australian Club, later becoming president (1879-1882). He was regarded as an important amateur photographer, as evidenced by albums of 1850s photographs collected at Camden Park. Although closer inspection of these suggests that other photographers were mainly responsible, the informal photographs of family groups at Camden Park are probably by Macarthur.

In his declining years, Macarthur suffered from deafness and paralysis of the legs. He also had disagreements with his brother Edward, regarding his stewardship of Edward’s properties. He died on 29 October 1882 and was interred in the family vault at Camden. His estate of £38,000 was left to his niece, Elizabeth.

Image: Australian Town & Country Journal, 4 November 1882, p.17

Author: William Land, Sydney, June 2021


Conway, Jill, ‘Macarthur, Elizabeth (1766-1850)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1967, 2, 144-147.

Gippsland Guardian, 11 July 1856, 2.

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The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 13 October 1855.

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The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 2 January 1875, 5.

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Willis, Anne-Marie, ‘Sir William Macarthur’, Design & Art Australia Online,, accessed 4 June 2021.


camellias; horticulture; Légion d’Honneur; Legislative Council; Macarthur family; Paris Exposition Universelle of 1855; vineyards; wine making.