100 Voices Launch

(6.15pm, Wednesday 27 February 2013, Paddington Town Hall)

Thank you Lex [MC]. Hello everyone.

I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our city and the largest GLBT community in Australia.

I acknowledge Her Excellency Governor Marie Bashir, Councillor Robert Kok and the many gay and lesbian activists here tonight who have battled for the significant changes in both community attitudes and the law.

It is your stories we are celebrating tonight.

I congratulate the Pride History Group on the 100 Voices Project. This is a marvellous initiative for making the GLBT community's history available and accessible to everyone, told by the people who helped make it.

I am pleased the City of Sydney has been able to support this initiative through our grants programs, along with your earliest history publications.

Your community's history is a rich history and deserves to be more widely known. I am proud that I have been able to contribute to this history as a good friend and supporter of the GLBT community and through my close personal friendships with many lesbians and gay men.

It has been an extraordinary journey. I can still remember the first gay gathering I ever attended - a Gay Business Association Dinner in the early 1980s when I was still a South Sydney Councillor.

I can remember battling to get Sydney City Council to pay for a photocopier for the Gay Counselling Service against the opposition of the Labor Party Right - now we have an extensive grants program which helps several GLBT organisations.

And this was when consensual homosexual behaviour was still illegal.

I can remember voting for the late Bill Hunt's motion in support of homosexual law reform with an equal age of consent at a Council meeting was back then.

I can remember the impact that HIV and AIDS had on the gay and lesbian community and community's strong compassionate response - setting up groups like the AIDS Action Committee - later the AIDS Council of NSW - to advocate and educate, and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation to provide care and support to people living with AIDS.

As an MP I supported their work, made submissions to the first National AIDS Strategy, worked to ensure people living with HIV and AIDS had access to treatment and housing and did not experience discrimination.

There was also the personal impact of HIV and AIDS. Viewing the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and recognising lovingly made panels celebrating the lives of people I'd known. Reading out names at AIDS Candlelight Vigils and recognising many of them.

Learning that friends, colleagues and supporters were courageously living with the virus, and then watching them become ill, and attending and often speaking at their funerals. In those years, my experience was repeated too many times in Sydney's gay community.

But throughout the years of the HIV and AIDS crisis, the community did not lose its capacity for joy and celebration. Mardi Gras continued as a beacon of hope, as a signal of resolve that we would see the crisis through.

Mardi Gras was, and remains, a highlight of my year, whether it was judging the parade while balancing on an awning on Oxford Street, or judging the costumes at the Mardi Gras Party, or taking part in the Parade itself. I'm looking forward to this Saturday and I hope to see you all there.

I am sure all of you have your own GLBT community memories and your own stories to tell.

I am pleased that many of these stories can now be heard by everyone.

I wish the Pride History Group every success with the 100 Voices project, and hope that over the years, more voices will be added.

Happy Mardi Gras.