Bertrand Cadart's journey from France to Bicheno

Bertand Cadart is a difficult man to wrap your head around. 

Not only is he the most quintessentially French man you have ever laid eyes on, but he is also a 21st century symbol of the East Coast of Tasmania.

The colourful Frenchman, known affectionately as Le Frog, has been a unique character in the social landscape of the East Coast over the last two decades, however he still divides opinion to this day.

While he garnered widespread consternation for his comment that some people on the East Coast are “the most bogan of bogans” during his time as Glamorgan Spring Bay mayor, he is still a well-loved character in the eyes of many in the municipality. 

However, to truly understand the enigmatic Frenchman, it is crucial to first venture back to Bertrand’s roots in Northern France.

Bertrand was born in the small village of Nampcel – not far from the bloody battlefield of the Somme, and a part of the Western Front in World War I.

“I was raised in a place that was absolutely perspiring misery and war, and massacres,” Bertrand recalled. 

“As children, we were playing in graveyards with 80,000 dead soldiers.

“I think it has left an imprint in my mind for the rest of my life – it has made me a man all my life that is very very realistic.

“It gave me a Machiavellian view of the world and of people.”

Bertrand spent much of his life with Machiavelli’s The Prince at his beside table, and consulted the pragmatic political manual at times of crises. 

His steadfast belief in self-determination and the protection of civil liberties can also likely be traced backed to his childhood.

His upbringing in the visceral, painful shadows of two world wars sticks with him to this day still.

However, despite his tendency toward Machiavellian thought and action, Bertrand never intended to enter politics.

After landing in Australia in 1972, he presented on Radio Australia with the ABC in Melbourne for 14 years.

His part-time involvement in the repair and modification of motorcycles even landed him a part in George Miller’s 1979 classic Mad Max.

“One day I got visited by a young movie director called George Miller, who said ‘apparently you are the only one in Melbourne that can make futuristic bikes for a movie I want to shoot’,” he recalled.

“This lead me to prepare and design all of the Mad Max motorycycles.

WESTERN FRONT: Cartard grew up in Nampcel - a village destroyed in World War I. Picture: Corey Martin.

WESTERN FRONT: Cartard grew up in Nampcel - a village destroyed in World War I. Picture: Corey Martin.

“He then said ‘do you want a part in the film?’ – then I ended up playing the part of Clunk in Mad Max.”

After moving to Geelong to be closer to his wife’s family, Bertrand’s marriage broke down in the early 90’s.

By 2000, he was almost 50, and at a point in his life where he was “not suicidal”, but far from happy.

His life, however, was irrevocably altered after responding to a classified advertisement in an local French language magazine.

“The classified said in French 'I am eve, and I have found the Garden of Eden. However, my Adam chose to leave me alone in the garden. Is there another Adam that would like to share my Garden of Eden?’”

After corresponding with this mystery woman for several months, he finally asked her where exactly this Garden of Eden was located.

Her answer? Bicheno, Tasmania.

“I almost put the phone down, and hung up,” Bertrand exclaimed.

“I thought, ‘Tasmania?’ To me, Tasmania was populated by a bunch of nutters. Half of them wanted to cut down all the trees, and the other half wanted to hug all the trees.”

He was convinced to meet his penpal after she told him about the “perfect” motorcycle riding conditions.

“When I met her, I thought she's alright, but i wanted to see the roads,” he said.

“I saw she didn't lie to me – I realised that riding a motorcycle out there would be the quintessential holy grail for anyone who likes to ride motorcycles.

“This was my first motivation to go to Tasmania.” 

In 2005, after 5 years of living in Bicheno, Bertrand was elected as a councillor for Glamorgan Spring Bay.

His unlikely involvement with local politics became even more surreal when he defeated incumbent mayor Howard Harris by 2 votes for the mayorship in 2007.

In his time as mayor Bertrand became a public face for the East Coast. 

He was seen as the popular, smooth talking raconteur who traversed the coast on his colourful tricycle, making waves wherever he went.

However, in actual fact the man lead a much more solitary personal life than most would have imagined.

In 17 years, Bertrand seldom visted the local Bicheno pub, and never attempted to make close friends with his constituents during his mayorship.

“I did not want to get too close to the people themselves,” he explained 

“The General can be fair and nice to his soldiers, but he does not socialise with them, because when the battle arrives he has no authority and can't get anything done.

“I've applied this rule everywhere.”

It is through this lens that we can see and understand Bertrand’s time as mayor.

He is a man loved by many, but known by very few.

His tendency to shy away from close, personal contact with people in his community in favour of more distant relations highlights his “brutal” upbringing and subsequent scholarship of Machiavelli.

However, that is not to say that Bertrand is not also a kind, generous and loving person.

Furthermore, he understands his decision to live his life in this manner, and he holds no regrets, even in spite of losing the mayorship in 2014 after his “most bogan of bogans” comment.

“If you want to become a soldier, don’t cry when bullets are whizzing past your ears,” he proclaimed.

“I arrived here at age 24 on a motorcycle and I ended up the mayor of a Tasmanian municipality, how could I regret any of it?”