The University of Western Australia's Honorary Research Fellow Noelene Bloomfield today joined the ranks of Dirk Bogarde, Rudolf Nureyev, George Clooney and fellow Australians Kylie Minogue and Cate Blanchett after being awarded the Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French Government.
French Ambassador Christophe Lecourtier travelled from the French Embassy in Canberra to present Mrs Bloomfield with the award, which recognises her outstanding contribution to literature and culture.
Each year, up to 200 recipients are awarded the Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, established in 1957 to recognise eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.
Mrs Bloomfield has worked at UWA for 46 years and written books, chapters and articles, as well as creating a DVD, a CD-Rom and an exhibition currently circulating in France, about the strong ties between France and Australia. Today's award follows the Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Palmes Académiques she received in 2004, recognising her distinguished contribution to French culture and education.
Mrs Bloomfield said she was lucky to have had an inspirational French teacher at Coffs Harbour High School in NSW, where she also studied Latin.
Coming to UWA to take up her appointment as a senior tutor in the then French Department in 1968, she was struck by how many French place-names there were in WA - and discovered that there were 260, the most in any State.
This discovery led her to France where she saw the French explorers' original maps - and to writing a book, Almost A French Australia: French-British Rivalry in the Southern Oceans, published in 2012.
With research into illnesses afflicting the French explorers by her medical scientist husband, Emeritus Professor John Bloomfield, and an introduction by their son, strategic analyst Dr Alan Bloomfield, the book is a family affair.
It tells of the 18th and 19th century French scientific and commercial expeditions to find the legendary ‘Terra Australis Incognita' and details the hundreds of French names in every State and the Northern Territory.
"It now seems likely that only a coincidental chain of events in Europe prevented the French from establishing colonies in Australia and the surrounding region," she writes.
"And if the French Revolution had not occurred just when it did, the history of this region of the globe might have taken a very different path to the present day."
Mrs Bloomfield's other publications include a co-publication with her former colleague Professor Beverley Noakes, of a history of the first 100 years of the Alliance Franҫaise in Perth.