The La Perouse Headland encircled by the La Perouse Loop Road(Anzac Parade) is a nationally and internationally significant site because of its association with the Laperouse expedition and subsequent relationship established between France and Australia;  it is the  most important site in Australia linking Australians and French.  The Laperouse Museum collection was a Bicentennial Gift from the French Government to the people of Australia.  Prior to 1988, the  Friends of the Laperouse Museum raised funds for the restoration of the Cable Station in which the exhibition is housed.  When properly managed there was a comprehensive education and events program associated with the Museum and Monuments and other sites in Botany Bay National Park.

In those great seafaring days of the 18th century the landing of Laperouse in Botany Bay and the First Fleet in Sydney Harbour on the same day  would have been akin to the Russians and Americans meeting in Space during the Cold War.  To the scientific minded senior officers of the First Fleet it was a special opportunity to meet professional scientists.  Dagelet was a renowned astronomer who set up what was the first observatory in the new British colony  – he advised Dawes who was a keen amateur (details).  Dagelet had declined a request from one of his students, Napoleon Bonapart, to accompany him (details and further details).  The two chaplains on the expedition were scientists with the more senior, Mongez, being a published physicist.  The junior, Receveur, became the first scientist  buried in Australia.  The French set up the first garden, they built the first wooden boats in the new colony – a cottage industry at La Perouse into the 20th century.  The French made the first geological observations –  the ‘miniature giant’s causeway’ noted in Hunter’s diary.  Governor Phillip recorded that advice was  given by Mongez on the suitability of local clay for pottery.  Governor Brisbane(an astronomer) in 1825 provided land to explorer Hyacinth de Bougainville for the construction of the  Laperouse Monument and  Receveur Tomb. The French Government still pays for the upkeep of the monuments and land. The first Christian services would have been masses performed by the two chaplains.  The first mail to be collected and ‘posted’ from Australia were the journals and other papers of Laperouse.  The first telegraph connection between  New Zealand  and the rest of the world was via the Cable Station at La Perouse.  The Cable Station housed the workers and sometime later Yarra Bay House was built to house the manager.  The first Customs House in Australia is the Macquarie Watchtower referred to in a report by Duperry(1824), one of  a number of  French navigators sent in search of Laperouse. 

Google “La Perouse”  and the first hit is  Wikipedia –  about the suburb; the second is again from Wiki and  about the person, Laperouse .   The third hit contains comments posted about the National Park.  The official National Parks website does not figure in the top 100 hits –  such has been the lack of promotion of this area.

During the International Year of Astronomy National Parks failed to commemorate Dagelet.  Just prior to World Youth Day in Sydney the Receveur Tree Trunk and the Altar Stone from the Boussole were shipped off to France without replicas being made for display for the pilgrims who visited La Perouse.   Nothing has been done to investigate and promote the geological finds even though examples of the miniature Giant’s Causeway can be seen north of the bus terminus.   The plaques on the Laperouse Monument and in the Musuem (and storage) are testimony to  the high honour in which Laperouse is held.  The headland has for over two centuries provided the major physical connection between the Australian and French nations.  In French towns and villages of the western front(WWI) Australian soldiers are still honoured for their bravery – the headland has also provided a connection with those sites and by coincidence the priest scientist Receveur buried here was born April 25.

We have other historic sites in Sydney where one major story is told:  eg.  the Macarthur Family at Elizabeth Farm ;  May Gibbs at Nutcote ; Wentworth Family at Vaucluse House.    None of these compares with La Perouse yet under the management of National Parks the Laperouse story and the Bicentennial Gift from the French Government will be further dismantled.  The first cut was made in 2009 – see link.

Having failed to conserve and market La Perouse the latest proposal is to institute an Interpretation Plan.  This is supposed to reference the Draft Conservation Plan -still in draft – and the Botany Bay Plan of Management.  This is the link to the official Botany Bay National Park website.   Few significant La Perouse sites are mentioned.  There is confusion between which sites and activities are available at each headland site (Kurnell and La Perouse) even to the point of an entry cost being quoted when none exists at La Perouse.  There is no chance a prospective visitor could learn about the significance of the headland through reading the Park website.   There is no mention of a Friends organisation let alone links to websites:  Friends of the Laperouse Museum and Receveur. (Other examples of this lack of acknowledgement of the importance of volunteers include Wolli Creek Preservation Society – compare their website with National Parks on Wolli)

This is the link to the proposed changes to La Perouse Headland.

At the entry to the La Perouse headland – on the north eastern corner of NPWS land on Anzac Parade on The Loop –  National Parks propose a series of poles spelling out what they effectively propose to rename the area – Guriwal – La Perouse  -Lapa. This sign would set the tone  for the interpretation.

The sign would become the dominant suburb name sign as it would  be located at the ‘Gateway’.  Randwick Council in July 2008 published the City of Randwick Civic Signage Manual.  The authors state on page 5 that there is no jurisdiction over ‘other government agencies’.   However, that does not preclude other government agencies  cooperating with Council in its endeavour to provide a uniform approach(example left).

The word ‘gura’ is listed by linguist Jakelin Troy as meaning ‘wind’ (see Macquarie Aboriginal Words dictionary).  Given this area is subject to tornadoes(see link), the area could well have been referred to as ‘windy place’ .  However in Val Attenbrow (2001), Aboriginal place names around Port Jackson and Botany Bay, Australian Museum, Sydney, the Headland near Bare Island is recorded as Wadba Wadba.    The source given for this is Dawes 1790-91.  Attenbrow also lists ‘Bunnabee’ for the North Head of Botany Bay as recorded by Larmer 1832-1833.

NPWS in their interpretation plan don’t provide details for the naming rationale for Guriwal and have elevated the name ‘Lapa’.    A lot of suburbs have colloquial/slang names which are used with affection or to denigrate  but are such names appropriate to use in an official capacity, and in this case in a high profile tourist area with sites of international significance?

Would Council accept the following:

Merooberah  –  Maroubra –  The Bra

Boora  –  Malabar  – The Bar

Bobroi  –  Coogee –  Coodge

Gulgadya –   Kensington –  Kenso

Guriyal – Matraville – Matto

(Note:  Merooberah, Boora and Bobroi are recorded in Attenbrow; In Troy, Gulgadya is listed as meaning grasstree and Guriyal as parrot.)

It is difficult to understand  what National Parks management is trying to achieve with this plan or to assess the veracity of  data on which they base recommendations. (Note:  This has been prepared by consultants, but working to a specified brief.)

NPWS already have a Botany Bay Plan of Management which was ratified by NSW Cabinet in May 2002 but the majority of actions which were listed to be completed within 5 years have not been (see link).  The Historic La Perouse Headland Plan of Management which was a joint venture between NPWS and Council remains largely ignored despite all the cooperative work that it involved.  NPWS spent over 3 years preparing the La Perouse Headland Conservation Management Plan. Once again people gave up time to attend meetings and write submissions;  NPWS allocated staff recources and paid more consultants.   Fourteen sets of comments were received during the exhibition period:  St Andrews Catholic Church, Ivan Barko, Yvonne Simms, Doug Morrison, Lynda Newnam, Charles Abela, La Perouse Precinct Committee, Friends fo the La Perouse Museum, Randwick City Council, Corkery Consulting, French Consul General, Randwick Tourism, Vic Simms, David Ingrey(representing the DECCW Cultural Heritage Group).   The 14 submissions were summarised and and released in a Summary of Submissions paper in October 2009.    As yet there is no record of the Plan being finalised.   In the summary of submissions  local people of aboriginal descent are recorded as asking for references to Dharawal language to be removed. Yet it is suggested that ‘Dharawal’ be used in the draft Interpretation Plan of the headland.  On the 28th February 2007 Ms Lisa Corybn, the CEO of the Office of Environment and Heritage(OEH) – see, signed an MOU with descendents of the Darug.  Mr Bob Debus, then Minister for the Environment, had previously given approval.  La Perouse was recognised in that MOU.  Kurnell was not – the southern side of Botany Bay is generally recognised as being part of ‘Dharawal country’.

The authors of the Plan also refer a number of times to the importance of access but the larger area of the park where Aboriginal Cultural Walks – interpreting plants, animals, marine environment –  would take place are not incorporated.  Part of a major coastal track was closed a few years ago (still recorded on the tourist map) but there is no suggestion to re-open and extend this even though it would be important for cultural interpretation. See link for details.

Toilets are basic facilities at any park yet those controlled by National Parks at Cape Banks are not available for public use. The only public toilet available is near the top of the stairs to NPWS controlled Congwong Bay  but the authors of the Plan suggest moving that toilet to RTA land near the bus terminus.  If it happens beach goers, including divers,  will need to cross the road to access this basic facility. In the Draft Conservation Plan NPWS suggested a drawbridge for Bare Island.  It is clear that people who make such suggestions are not thinking about their customers/clients.    Would this happen at Nielsen Park Vaucluse also controlled by NPWS?

From the NSW State Plan (2006) onwards there has been a recognition that NPWS has to do better at attracting volunteers, providing for visitors and marketing key sites and experiences.  Volunteering workshops have been held and  a Tourism Taskforce formed.  The most recent count of visitor traffic to the headland was recorded in the Energy Australia Botany Bay Cable Environment Assessment of 2007.  The Energy Australia consultants noted that on busy weekend days vehicle traffic reached 7400 movements per day. Rather than use this data the authors refer to the Botany Bay (now prefixed with Kamay) Plan of Management which was written in 2000, prior to the opening of the M5 and the subsequent increase in visitors from SW Sydney.  The figures quoted in the Plan of Management, unlike the Energy Australia figures, were guesstimates.  Data from the museum is incomplete even though income and expenses should be accurately recorded.  There is no visitor profile data – no studies commissioned.  There is a history of embarking on projects without a plan, eg. last year’s Watchtower Restoration

There is a proposal for a commercial food service but no suggestion that research has been undertaken or the established La Perouse cafe owners consulted. (Note the Friends of the Laperouse Museum with a grant recently outfitted the kitchen with basic catering items but again no acknowledgemet.) Yet recommendations such as the following are made:  A mini “kitchen” facility will be incorporated into the main desk(of the Museum) so that it has a more multi-function capability, with a coffee machine, refrigeration and possibly a microwave or toaster for reheating of snacks. The expectation is that the information officer at the desk  is capable of processing visitors entering the museum, handling questions about the exhibitions, providing basic directions, advising on purchases of publications and artefacts as well as producing coffees and heating snacks.  I quote this to illustrate the poverty of observational (and consultation) ‘skills’.

In the introduction to the Interpretation Plan the authors state:By way of background, immediately surrounding La Perouse, the Local Government Area (LGA) of Randwick is a mostly residential area with significant commercial, institutional and military uses. With a population of just over 130,000, the LGA has one of Sydney’s largest Aboriginal populations. NPWS fail to recognise the significant industrial component:  5 of the 42 Major Hazard facilities of NSW are located on the DP terminal which comprises 70% of Port Botany.  Maritime transport is a major theme on Botany Bay but goes unrecognised.    If you check the 2006 census for municipalities in  SSROC you get the following figures on aboriginal identity  The City of Sydney council area is higher than Randwick. The % average for all Sydney is 1.1% so Randwick is not significant in the bigger scheme: Botany Bay City Council 1.7%;Marrickville 1.5%;Sydney 1.3%; Randwick 1.2%.    According to Tourist figures quoted in the Plan :  During 2010 Sydney received over 2.6 million international overnight visitors. Most  were on holiday or visiting friends and family. The largest group of international tourists are from the United Kingdom (12.9%), followed closely by Mainland China and Hong Kong (12.5%).2 France is ranked tenth with 2.9% of the market share. A major push for the overseas tourist industry lies in attracting visitors from mainland China.  But no mention is made of the fact that the first chinese to land in the new colony did so at La Perouse.  They were the 11 sailors aboard the Boussole and Astrolabe.  These men joined the expedition in Macau and one of their number was killed in the massacre of Laperouse’s men in Samoa.  There is a story line that runs from 1788 to the  Chinese presence at the historic La Perouse Market Gardens up to today.  Chinese born residents of Randwick comprise the second largest group (after UK) of those born outside Australia.

The current proposal will remove the  story of the Laperouse Expedition and only present trivial aspects of it.  These recommendations have been made by managers and consultants with no understanding of the significance of this site.  Concerns should be emailed to:  Ms Robyn Parker,Minister Environment & Heritage: Ph: 9228 5253  and Mr Chris Eccles, Director General Department of Premier and Cabinet, (02) 9228 5555    Email:      Governor Macquarie Tower,Level 39, 1 Farrer Place, SYDNEY NSW 2000    GPO BOX 5341, SYDNEY NSW 2000   The Office of Environment & Heritage is within the Department of Premier and Cabinet.


In response to an email to Ms Robyn Parker concerning the consultation process I received this from the Head of Parks Ms Sally Barnes.  It doesn’t address the issue of transparency but does mention that the submissions will go to the Regional Advisory Committee.  This is chaired by former MP Garry McIllwaine and membership includes  Simon Balderstone.   There has been no attempt by the Committee to liaise with the neighbours of the National Park even though this is supposed to be part of their brief.  See link

8 Responses to “La Perouse Headland National Parks Interpretation”
  1. Robert, Little Bay says:

    Napoleon may not have come here but National Parks management operate like dictators.

  2. admin says:

    There are so many opportunities here going begging. Space at Bare Island could be leased for a Bushtucker Cafe and Gallery. Another lease for a Dive Shop. Various volunteer groups could have access – Reptile Centre for the Cann Family, Military History Centre etc. Perhaps some cost savings at the Museum if they leased out a section for a French Cafe and partnered the Friends in running tours of the exhibition on Laperouse and maritime history of Botany Bay. Maybe something could be arranged with Sydney Ports. They could save money on airconditioning expenses with solar panels. Why didn’t they lobby local member Peter Garrett when they had the chance. Cate Blanchette got $hundreds of thousands for the Sydney Theatre Company. The more spaces the better for tourists to walk around. What better than a walk in the Park followed by attractions at Bare Island and Museum and then a walk to Yarra House or even the La Perouse school. There must be rooms available there for cultural displays. Why everything jumbled together at the Museum where we should be focusing on science, exploration, transport and communications.

  3. Julio says:

    Randwick is multicultural. This is the breakdown of La Perouse in 2006 census. People were allowed to tick more than 1 box: Australian – 179; English – 83; Irish – 34; Greek – 22; Scottish – 20; Australian Aboriginal – 13; New Zealander – 9; African – 10; Chinese 10; Italian – 9; Maori – 7; Cypriot – 7; – Swedish – 8; Maltese – 6; European – 6; Oceanian – 4; French – 3; Russian – 3; German -3; Danish – 3; Bulgarian – 3 Languages spoken, other than English, are as follows: Greek – 16; Cantonese – 8; Italian – 8; Mandarin – 6; Swedish – 6; French – 3; Arabic – 3.

  4. JJ says:

    I read this: “There is also further potential to meet the needs of international tourists to Sydney in general, who seek an authentic Indigenous experience through the development of specific Aboriginal content in the museum and face to face interpretive experiences with local Aboriginal people.” The ‘face to face’ interpretive museum experiences would for cost reasons be confined to digitised images and this is outlined in the Plan. There is no mention of the fact that visitors seeking ‘authentic’ experiences are more likely to have booked their fares to the Kimberleys, NT and Nth Qld. If confined to Sydney then Sydney Harbour aboard the Tribal Warrior for cultural experience on NPWS controlled Sydney Harbour islands is more likely but not mentioned. La Perouse is unique in the fact that there were, from the late 18th century onwards, aboriginal people who earned money from tourism. They mastered introduced crafts such as shell art and sold boomerangs and items traditional in other cultural areas of Australia, eg.didjeridus. They were possibly the first exponents of ‘aboriginal tourism’ – a european notion alien to traditional aboriginal cultures. Mr Laddie Timbery is one very notable present day exponent. Mr Timbery has been operating on the Loop for decades without the most basic of assistance from NPWS. For example, the Watchtower which NPWS have earmarked for more ‘renovation’ (over $200,000 on improvements such as steel -already showing signs of rust- door surround and handle was spent last year) could have been used by Mr Timbery to store a basic shade shelter and other items. Bare Island, as suggested by Randwick City Tourism and others, could be used and incorporate an Aboriginal Gallery and Bush Tucker cafe along with commerical enterprises like a dive shop and volunteer driven displays of military history and even reptiles. There is a history of overlooking the needs of aboriginal people who already operate in the National Park as guides, selling craft items or as employees. The signs, the digitised images the trivialisation of significant scientific history and historical events of international significance appears to be an attempt to distract from the basic work that should have been done in conserving natural, built and aboriginal heritage in the park and addressing basic visitor needs for facilities(tracks, toilets, dressing sheds, interpretive signage etc) and providing opportunities to experience aspects of aboriginal culture through guided and statically interpreted Bush Tucker walks.”

  5. admin says:

    No-one would suggest taking the Wentworths out of Vaucluse House, the Macarthur’s out of Elizabeth Farm or May Gibbs out of Nutcote but NPWS intend to take most of the Laperouse story out of the Laperouse Museum. There are internationally significant stories of exploration and science to relate. There are present day links to be made with neighbouring industry – Sydney Ports in particular. There are partnerships to be forged. But nothing creative here just more destruction of the work achieved by volunteers and community over the past two decades. What politics are in play behind the scenes.

  6. Matra says:

    All politics. Look at school funding on the My School site. La Perouse primary has only 50 kids and they get over $26k per student. There are 40 aboriginal kids. Soldiers Settlement in Matraville has 204 kids and 51 of them are aboriginal and they get around $9.8k per student. Hello! Check out the attendance rate. Soldiers Settlement 94% and La Perouse 82%. The kids at La Perouse might be better off going into a mainstream school instead of politicians making political capital out of them.

  7. Lynda Newnam says:

    Link to recent ABC Hindsight Program on French Exploration of Australia –

  8. LAPEROUSE » Laperouse Museum items – France’s Bicentennary Gift – consigned to the tip by National Parks says:

    […] The Museum attracted school visits and international and local tourists.  There was a heavy emphasis on science and maritime history – particularly relevant today when Botany Bay is home to Australia’s largest airport and second largest sea port.  In 2002 National Parks centralised visitor services  on Sydney Harbour and there was a subsequent decline in numbers.  Although the Friends of the Laperouse Museum were willing volunteers for guided tours and research the National Parks Service (the managers for the Museum, Bare Island and other areas of Botany Bay National Park) didn’t take the opportunity to enlist them into a viable program.  In 2009 on the pretext of ‘revitalising’ the exhibition the Museum was closed for painting.  This occurred a few working days before a planned Tourism network event aimed at obtaining new sponsors.  The Museum remained closed for late Spring and most of summer (the La Perouse high tourist season)  while the painting took place.  When re-opened it was found that the stencilling had been painted out – see some of what was lost – and the Laperouse exhibition which had occupied 6 rooms was reduced to 2.  The items that had been removed were stacked in a store room (see photos above).  The story of the Laperouse journey of the Pacific and French exploration was lost and while some new panels were added these were of questionable value.  For example on one panel the Laperouse Monument is recorded as being commissioned in 1824 (it was 1825);  on another Frenchman’s Bay is recorded as Frenchmen’s Bay.   This new arrangement was not a success and now National Parks are planning to consign the Laperouse legacy to ‘one of many stories’.  See previous post on proposed Interpretation Plan […]

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