Australia lost a true friend today with the passing of Dr Patrick Simon AO in France.
As Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux in Northern France, close to the memorial sites so significant for many Australians, Dr Simon continued the tradition established by former Mayors of Villers-Bretonneux of holding commemorative activities in the town each year to mark Anzac Day.
Dr Simon oversaw the renovation of the Franco-Australian First World War museum in Villers-Bretonneux, was a strong supporter and voice in the establishment of Australia's Sir John Monash Centre, and always extended a warm and hospitable welcome to Australian visitors.
In recognition of his continued efforts to strengthen the Franco-Australian relationship, Dr Simon was awarded an Order of Australia on 26 April 2015 by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
With his passion and commitment to Australia, he launched a fundraiser after seeing reports of the devastating bushfires across Australia earlier this year.
"The idea came from my heart. Everyone here was talking about the fires, and we were all appalled," Dr Simon said at the time.
By late February Dr Simon had organised for some $37,000 to be collected from the school children and residents of Villers-Bretonneux.
Dr Simon will be greatly missed by all Australians who met and worked with him.
I thank him for all his work in promoting the Franco-Australian shared history, particularly in future generations, and welcoming Australians to the region each year.