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Unley to host new 'Maison de France'

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French organisations in South Australia are set to move to a new central hub in Unley under a plan to grow the council’s diplomatic ties with France.

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The City of Unley expects to open the “Maison de France” (France House) at a council-owned building near its library on Oxford Street in about one month.

Tenants will include the Consulate of France in Adelaide, the French Australian Chamber of Commerce, the French Australian Schools Association, French Benevolent Association and Adelaide Acceuil – a not-for-profit body that organises French events and cultural activities.

The organisations will use the building, which is currently used as office space for council staff, to run services for French businesses operating in South Australia and to provide information to businesses wishing to relocate to the state.

The hub will also offer services to South Australian-based businesses seeking to establish relationships with France.

Unley Council has a 100-year-plus history with France dating back to the First World War when its then mayor served in the Battle of Pozières.

The local government area is home to the Alliance Française d’Adélaïde cultural association, as well as South Australia’s two French-English bilingual schools, Highgate School and Unley High School.

Unley Mayor Michael Hewitson said basing French diplomatic organisations in Unley made sense given the local government area’s growing population of French migrants.

“The French business connections in Adelaide are strong and because of the location and high quality education here, many French people, particularly those in the defence industry, have made Unley their home,” Hewitson said.

Many French nationals have moved to South Australia following the Federal Government’s decision in 2017 to award its $50 billion submarine contract to French company Naval Group.

Relations between the Government and Naval Group have recently been strained by a bitter contract dispute over the next phase of work.

Hewitson said he was not concerned by the tensions, claiming “the French community (in Unley) precedes the submarine contract”.

He said the council was “delighted to provide access to accommodation” for French organisations in South Australia.

“We are looking forward to building on this relationship and exploring other opportunities to deliver social and economic benefits for our community, which may include joint cultural initiatives across our city’s annual events calendar, with occasions for Unley residents to experience French culture through different avenues and activities,” he said.

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