The Wikipedia article about the History of Western Australia mentions that the British set up a military garrison at King George Sound in 1826 and established a colony on the Swan River in 1829 in order to discourage the French from settling the west coast. If they had, Australian history would have been very different due to sharing the desert continent*. So I wonder how likely was the colonisation of Western Australia by France.

Or specifically: Did France actually intend to colonise West Australia; and were any resources assigned to this objective prior to 1829?

French sources one way or the other would be excellent.

* A land army for one coast to conquer the other would have been suicidal due to the deadly expanse of the Nullarbor Plain. No prosaic land war in the style of 1812.

  • How likely something is requires you to either calculate the exact likelihood of all influencing factors, or repeat history a statistically significant number of times. None of this seems reasonable. So the question "How likely" isn't very good IMO, as it can't actually be answered. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 10:20
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    @LennartRegebro I'll reword it to "Did France intend to colonise West Australia and were any resources assigned to this objective prior to 1829?". It shunts the interesting counterfactual history question into what we should be able to prove or disprove; providing we have some members with familiarity of French colonisation at hand. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 10:56

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To be honest, I don't know the chances, but here are the following facts, hopefully they give good picture on topic:

The continent was spotted by various people before James Cook - collected evidences are from the related wikipedia page's sources:

K.G. McIntyre (1977) The Secret Discovery of Australia; Portuguese discoveries 200 years before Captain Cook. Souvenir Press, Medindie, South Australia The discovery is claimed by Portugal long before Portugal.

An another claimant is a less known French sailor Binot Paulmier de Gonneville who stated that from the Cape of Good Hope (South-Africa) he sailed 6 weeks to east and hit a new coast, but the commonly accepted that he didn't reach Australia but nowadays Brazilia.

Later Dutch sailors reached Australia, but the first one who took Australia seriously was Captain Cook, so they claimed the whole territory of Australia. Of course there were competitors.

the west coast of the continent (later Western Australia), which Louis de Saint Aloüarn officially claimed for France in 1772 — even though it had been mapped previously by Dutch mariners.

Take a note, France was involved to American freedom fight, had cultural renewal by Enlightment, and of course the 1789 revolution happened, then Napoleon focused all the resources to Europe, they even sold Louisiana to finance war. We can say, the focus wasn't on Australia in France to press any claims, so Great Britain had relatively a green light to do whatever they want there.

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