UbiFrance Asia/Oceania Regional Association Presidents' Meeting
Monday, 27th November to Thursday, 30th November 2006


This biannual meeting, held in Australia for the first time, was jointly organised by the three Australian French Associations for Science & Technology in ACT, NSW and Victoria, the Economic Mission of the French Embassy and UbiFrance.

  Presidents in the Asia/Oceania region from India (Mumbai & Delhi), Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Japan, Philippines, Thailand (China was unable to attend) participated with Australia (Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney) and the French Embassy Economic Mission and UbiFrance.
The program commenced on Monday 27th November in Sydney, where the Presidents stayed at the Menzies Hotel (a member of the Accor Group).  The meeting was held in the Jubilee Room at the NSW Parliament.  John Murray (AFAS-NSW) gave the opening address which included a brief history of the building from its beginning as a hospital to today’s home of the NSW Parliament.  Jean-Louis Latour, the Senior Trade Commissioner, followed with a summary of the Australian economy and the strong French-Australian business relationships.

Jacques Dasset, Project Manager for Asia/Oceania at UbiFrance, outlined the program and introduced the participants.  Each President then took the opportunity to introduce their Association, their Program for 2005/2006 and their projected activities for 2007.

Lunch in the Speaker’s Dining Room gave the participants a rare glimpse inside the NSW Parliament and the opportunity to meet the Vice-President of AFAS-NSW, Earl Owen and Trade Officers from the Economic Mission.

The first workshop Associations Framework, discussed the associations as part of the UbiFrance/French Embassy global network; sourcing new members within each association’s membership policy; incentive activities for attracting and motivating members; partnership policy; budgets and sponsorships.

The evening was spent at the home of the Senior Trade Commissioner, where the French Ambassador, François Descoueyte, presented John Murray with his Ordre National du Mérite.  This occasion also gave the visiting Presidents the opportunity to meet other members of the AFAS-NSW Board of Management.

The following day the group visited the French Embassy Economic Mission where Jean-Louis Latour gave an outline of the focus of his organization.  After a pleasant walk to Darling Harbour, the group boarded a boat for a tour of Sydney’s famous harbour, including a visit to the Fish Market to collect fresh provisions.  John Murray’s choices were well received as we lunched on the boat in a quiet cove in Sydney harbour.

In the afternoon, the group flew on Qantas to Melbourne then by mini-bus to the Mercure Hotel (also a member of the Accor Group).  The balcony rooms overlook the Treasury Gardens with views to the Victorian Parliament and to the MCG.  The Buffet Dinner at the Mercure allowed members of the AFAS-Vic Committee of Management to meet the Presidents.

On Wednesday morning, after the Welcome from John Acton, in the Communication Session workshop, the Presidents discussed their association’s website, their content and method of updating; external communications with other associations and the media and the UbiFrance “extranet” for networking the associations was presented and discussed as a means of linking the associations together.

After a working buffet lunch, the afternoon workshop Activities/Programs covered specific activities (cultural, social, ...); scheduling the association’s activities and linking to UbiFrance program database; locally organised seminars; programs in France for individual and group study tours; new services developed by the associations; organizing seminars on behalf of corporate members; developing the association’s links with business people, media people, politicians, ...

In concluding the meeting, Jacques Dasset thanked the Presidents and their associations for the time and effort that they spend “benevol” in promoting French science and technology.  He emphasized this with UbiFrance’s commitment to supporting the existing Asia/Oceania associations in Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand and not to start any more associations in this region.

However, the program did not finish there!  The French Cultural & Scientific Attaché in Melbourne, Dominique de Gasquet, joined the group for dinner on the famous Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, giving the Presidents glimpses of Melbourne as they enjoyed the food and fine wines.

Australia is home to some unique animals and a visit to the Healesville Sanctuary gave the Presidents the opportunity to see the suburbs of Melbourne and the Yarra Valley vineyards on the way.  One of the guides had lived in Thailand and spoke Thai, so naturally she selected the President from Thailand to be in her group!  In addition to seeing kangaroos, wallabies, emus and koalas we saw the Bird of Prey Presentation.  After lunch, the platypus (an egg laying mammal) fascinated, as did the reptiles and the extremely venomous Australian snakes.

On returning to Melbourne, there was a brief shopping opportunity before the final event in the program - a cocktail at the Alliance Française de Melbourne.  This gave another opportunity for the Presidents to network with AFAS members and other Melbourne Francophiles before departing home on Friday morning.

John Acton
President - AFAS-Vic.