Our History

The origins: History dating back 140 years

The Alliance Française is an independent, not-for-profit language and cultural organisation. It was founded in 1883 in Paris as a national association to promote the French language around the world under the guidance of Pierre Foncin and Ambassador Paul Cambon. The Paris Alliance was created the following year by a board of directors featuring famous figures such as Jules Verne (author), Louis Pasteur (chemist and biologist) and Ferdinand de Lesseps (diplomat). The first Alliance Française abroad was created in Barcelona that same year.

An international phenomenon

Today there are 829 Alliances Françaises in 135 countries, with more than 500,000 students worldwide, from Argentina to Canada, from the furthest tip of Africa to northernmost Scandinavia and across Russia, Asia and Oceania. Even in France – from Paris to Nice – the Alliance Française offers international students the opportunity to discover the richness of the French culture whilst living right in the midst of it. Each Alliance Française is an independent association bound by a common purpose to the Fondation Alliance Française. Each is, however, part of a worldwide network and is recognised for its high quality programs as well as the strong bonds forged with its local cultural, educational and business communities in addition to the French Government.

Today the Alliance Française has set the benchmark for teaching French as a foreign language. The Alliance’s recognition by the French Ministry for Education and European organisations such as ALTE (the Association of Language Testers in Europe) clearly demonstrates its leadership in this field. The Alliance Française courses and programs creatively bring together French language and culture in a very diverse student body, proving that a language truly lives only when shared.

Alliance Française and the host country

The Alliances do not play a French diplomatic role at an international level. However, they can provide information on how to contact the French embassy or consulate. In Australia, passionate supporters and volunteers have worked alongside one another since 1895 to establish a dynamic network of Alliances that symbolises the strength of the friendship between France and Australia.

For over 120 years, Alliance Française de Sydney has been working to fulfil its mission of promoting the French language and enhancing knowledge of Francophone cultures.


The doors are opened

Before opening its doors as a language centre, Alliance Française de Sydney opened as a Media Centre with 600 books donated by the Paris Committee Donation


A focus on education

The centre as we know it today first opened in this year, with a focus on education as opposed to cultural events. Georges Biard D’aunet was the first president of the Alliance. 


A happy and dynamic era

On 6 October, under Albert Pinard, the first social event took place: the Bal-Concersazione. French conversation evenings and recitals were also launched for AFS students.


Period of Hibernation

Following Germany's declaration of war, the Alliance returns to its state as a library, with the absence of so many members of Sydney's French families and disruptions to daily life.



Due to "problèmes relationnels", the Alliance moves to 36 Moore Street, on the corner of Castlereagh Street.


The Inter-War Period

The Alliance moves again to 42 Bridge Street, and remained here throughout the inter-war period. 


The French Hub

The Alliance shared a building at 2 Bond Street with FAACI and Le Courrier Australien, the French Consulate and the French Benevolent Society.


Cross Cultural Tension

France restarts nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean, much to Australia's displeasure. This causes some cross-cultural tension which is felt by the Alliance.


Harry Seidler building

The spiralling staircase which cascades toward the entrance foyer was the last commercial and public design by famed architect, Harry Seidler. Joel Hakim and Bruce Bland lead this project.


Transition to e-learning

Over the period of a week, the Alliance develops and transitions to a remote learning model, as Sydney is plunged into lockdown in attempt to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus.


Celebrating 140 years of Alliance Française

In 2023, we commemorated 140 years of the global Alliance Française network, spanning over 800 locations in 132 countries with 500,000+ students. It was a landmark year for Alliance Française de Sydney as well, achieving record-breaking results with the language school.

Be a part of our history


The presidents of the Alliance Francaise de Sydney

F. Romanet
L. Tuit

D. Kent

J. Hakim

2000-00 R. Heras

1998-99 W. Weemaes

1997-98 K. Hanett

1984-97 B. Hillman

1983-84 B. Bland

1980-83 I. Barko

1973-80 P. de Boos Smith

1972-73 P. Dressler

1967-72 M. Pile

1953-66 A. H. Brenac

1949-52 L. Blanc

1947-48 I. Henning

1944-46 L. Duplatre

1943-43 J. Playoust

1941-42 E. Doucet

1936-40 H. Poynter

1928-35 A. Wunderlich

1926-28 P. Bonnet

1924-25 P. de Champmorin

1922-24 E. G. Waterhouse

1921-22 A. Soubeiran / E. Doucet

1917-21 P. Lamerand

1915-17 E. de Baillou

1910-15 P. Durieux

1910-10 A. Soubeiran

1905-10 E. Rougier

1904-05 L. Nettement

1899-1904 G. Biard d'Aunet