French emergency assistance charity welcomes new president
Le Courrier Australien recently interviewed John MacColl, founder of emergency assistance charity—French Assist—and its new president Michel-Henri Carriol.
French Assist is an Australian charity that helps French migrants in need of emergency assistance. The charity was founded by John MacColl five years ago following the dissolution of its predecessor, French Benevolent society.
“At the time, I thought it was important for us in Australia to revive or give birth to another French benevolent society,” MacColl says.
According to their website, the organisation’s mission is to bring aid to French citizens facing emergency situations like accidents or natural disasters. French Assist also supports vulnerable members in the community such as French elderly persons, young backpackers, and victims of sexual assault.
During his time as president, MacColl has been involved in several emergency relief cases. He recalls the October 2013 bush fires in NSW which left a French woman living in the Blue Mountains stranded.
“She had nothing left. Her house was destroyed by the fire, she lost her photographs, car—everything,” he says. But with the aid of French Assist, she was given new clothes and assistance to find a new car.
“She had nothing left. Her house was destroyed by the fire, she lost her photographs, car—everything.”
French Assist is run on a non-for-profit basis, meaning they rely on contributions from board members and occasional fundraisers to fund emergency relief initiatives.
Young French backpackers are an increasing percentage of their clientele with 22,000 Working Holiday Visas being granted to Australia from 2016-2017.
Young French backpackers are an increasing percentage of French Assist’s clientele.
MacColl says “some of these young backpackers have found themselves getting into trouble” such as being involved in sexual assault, illicit drug abuse, and crime. He says that French Assist often works in close harmony with the French consulate in such cases.
While the French consulate can provide basic consular services to these young people, they are unable to provide monetary aid. Yet French Assist is accredited in Australia; meaning they can provide financial loans, and facilitate overseas transactions between the young person and their parents when needed.
MacColl’s legacy at French Assist
MacColl has had a long-serving contribution to the French community in Australia since his arrival in 1991. He has been a member of the prestigious, Assemblée des Français de l’étranger, and a regional representative of the Union des Français de l’Étranger (UFE)—facilitating the integration of French people living in Australia.
Yet after 40 years in Australia, MacColl is returning to France in January 2018—leaving a big set of shoes to fill.
“I have a new plan in my life and a new chapter (…). For me, more than ever it was fundamental to passer le témoin,” he says.
Outgoing French Assist president, John MacColl.
For MacColl, ‘continuity’ was important to him when deciding who could take his place.
“It is important because Mr Henri knows the history of a lot of French associations here (…). This continuity is very important. It’s not just someone who is an outsider taking over.”
“For me, more than ever it was fundamental to passer le témoin.”
Henri-Michel Carriol is no stranger to the Franco-Australian community; a former member in French government, and an active participant in several French businesses and associations in Australia over the last 50 years. Carriol first arrived in Australia in 1966 when he was appointed as the trade attaché at the French embassy, advising French companies seeking business opportunities in Australia.
He later left his post at the embassy to start his own Cosmetics company, Trimex, which quickly became the leading importer of French perfumes and cosmetics in Australia and New-Zealand.
Carriol welcomed as the new French Assist president
Michel-Henri Carriol says an overcoming sense of ‘duty’ and desire to give back to the community made him accept the presidential offer.
Carriol says, “I’ve been involved in Australia for 50 years, I know the French communities and I have the time and inclination. And I always felt that I have this duty to give back.”
He adds that this moral obligation likely stemmed from his parents, “my mother was in the resistance, and my father joined general de Gaulle—so there is always that feeling.”
Carriol admits that French Assist has achieved a lot over the last five years, but he hopes to bring even more to the French community in Australia.
Some of his future projects include bringing in a team of volunteers to support the current four-person team. He also hopes to create a retirement home for French veterans and elderly people with services including bilingual caretakers and doctors.
“There is always a motto that I have always used in my life; to do better what we are already doing well.”
While his plans are ambitious, Michel-Henri Carriol is enthusiastic that French Assist can providing lasting support for the Franco-Australian community.
“There is always a motto that I have always used in my life; to do better what we are already doing well,” Carriol says.