Recently, we spoke with Raphaëlle Delaunay, Director of the Alliance Française of Adelaide. In the months to come, we propose that you meet via interviews the directors and presidents of the various Alliances Françaises across Australia. We start in Adelaide with Raphaëlle Delaunay.
Raphaëlle Delaunay, you have been the director of the Alliance Française d’Adelaide since the end of last year. Tell us about how you came to be in this role.
I worked for 15 years in adult education and training, including managing a French as a second language school in France. I’ve always liked the idea of knowledge, meetings and experience. I have always loved foreign languages and travels, and I have dreamed of living abroad for a long time. Finally, I wish to develop cultural projects. That’s why I looked towards the network of Alliances Françaises and of Institut Français. I therefore put forward my candidature with the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères and followed the recruitment process to become the Director of the Alliance Française d’Adelaide.
By way of reminder, the AF are independent associations under local laws. Nonetheless, the French government supports many across the road with their missions.
Why did you decide to come to Australia, and in particular to Adelaide?
My strongest languages are German and English. In my posting requests, I therefore gave priority to countries in which I could reconnect with one of these languages. The post in Adelaide particularly attracted me because of the diversity of the audiences: young ones and less young ones, for learning and for leisure, the passion for French culture but also for professional reasons. And I didn’t know Australia at all, so it was a wonderful opportunity to discover!
What were your first impressions of Australia and what were the false ideas that you had before your arrival (for example that you would see kangaroos everywhere)?
Many things fascinated me when I arrived in Adelaide: the quality of the welcome from South Australians, the layout of the city like a huge garden and the number of people who speak French or have already travelled to France! If I had a false idea, it was around surf: I think that I expected to see surfers everywhere, until I discovered the richness and diversity of beaches notably the Fleurieu Peninsula, and that you need to go a bit further to surf, towards Middleton. I also discovered that bikes have a place here.
Before coming to Adelaide, what were you doing?
In the last few years before moving here, I was directing pre-law school in France: an exciting field that governs our entire way of life in society! But as I was saying, I also wanted to move abroad. So I went back to my studies in international relations, more so to work for an NGO. Bu the cultural dimension tickled me and I think it suits my curious nature.
What interests you in the profession of teacher and instructor?
I am fascinated by the transmission of knowledge and experience, even if I am not sure that I am a good educator. I take a lot of pleasure in working with teaching teams, accompanying them to develop their excellence and expertise in the service of our students, and conciliating different problems linked to the management of a not-for-profit structure.
Why do you think that the French language is so important, even in Australia, when Asia is much closer to us geographically?
The notion of importance is relative to an objective: for geographic mobility, a job, tourism or simply access to the richness of another culture.
French is the official language in 29 countries around the world, that is 15% of countries recognised by the UN. It’s the second most learned language in the world: 125 millions people learn it each day.
It’s also one of the official working languages of many of the international organisations: the United Nations, UNESCO, the OCED, the committee of the Olympic Games, Red Cross International, are a few examples.
How have you been affected by COVID-19? What have been the challenges for you and for Alliance?
Like most activities in Australia, the COVID-19 crisis has led to us taking decisions to protect our students and teams, and limiting the spread of the virus.
We therefore closed our premises to the public in March, and cancelled the AF French Film Festival the day after its opening.
It was necessary in a very short timeframe – only a few days – to move all of our courses online. The international network of AF was a force to meet this challenge, but also the professionalism and involvement of the team here at the Alliance Française Adelaide of whom I would like to underline the quality of the work. Our students were also great in adapting to this new modality and supporting us during this period. A big thanks also to them!
We also adapted our online program and took the occasion to put our activities on line and the 110th anniversary of the Alliance Française d’Adelaide this year! There are therefore suggestions for 110 activities to do at home to keep connected to the language and to French culture: chilren and adults, sports and culture, everyone can find something for them.
When you look for Raphaëlle Delaunay on Google, you find a Parisian dancer and choreographer. Have you done any dance in your career?!
No, well yes as a child but it doesn’t count! Effectively, it’s an homonym. When you continue to search, you can find a book that I co-wrote 10 or so years ago “Manager une équipe” published by Editions Nathan in partnership with the information website LesEchos.fr.
And so the Alliance Française d’Adelaide is celebrating its 110th anniversaty this year. Tell us how the Alliance Française d’Adelaide was founded and how it has changed since its opening in 1910. Why and how was the Alliance Française d’Adelaide one of the first Alliances in Australie?
The Alliance Française d’Adélaïde was created 110 years ago by Berthe Mouchette and her younger sister Marie Lion. These two French artists, painter and writer, decided to move to Australia at the end of the 19th century, firstly in Melbourne and then in Adelaide. They loved Adelaide and rapidly became key community members.
The Alliance française d’Adélaïde is one of the pioneering Alliances in the world; there are now more than 800.
In the beginning, it was a meeting place for those who were passionate about the French language. Today it’s a place that embodies so much the learning of the French language as the French Film Festival (the most important one outside of France) and the French market just before Christmas.
Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 events that you had planned to celebrate are unable to go ahead. What events did you have planned?
Indeed, with the COVID-19 crisis, we have had to cancel a number of our events, but for most of them we hope that it is merely a postponement, as for the AF French Film Festival.
And we are preparing some surprises for the end of the year: stay in touch with us on our Website and Newsletter.
Are you a member of the Alliance Française where you are? What events do you take part in normally?
The Alliance Française French Film Festival is in its last days. Read our interview with the AFFFF 2020 Artistic Director here.