Benevolent Society 200th Anniversary Event

(11am, Tuesday 7 May 2013, City Recital Hall)

Thank you, James [O'Loughlin, MC], and good morning, everyone.

I would 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.

All of you who work for this amazing organisation, the Benevolent Society, would be well aware of the diversity of our City, and the diversity of needs in our City. And all of you would be aware of the changes in your own organisation since Edward Smith Hall began it in 1813, dedicating it to the task of "relieving the distressed".

It is one of the Society's very great strengths that it has adapted with such flexibility to changing times and changing needs, diversifying its services while always adhering to its core goal of improving the lives of our fellow citizens.

The record is impressive: opening Australia's first refuge in 1821; providing legal aid for deserted wives and unmarried mothers from 1879; campaigning to outlaw child labour in the 1890s and campaigning for the Old Age Pension, a world first when it was introduced in 1901.

The Society has a proud tradition of pioneering moves in women's health, from opening the Paddington hospital in 1905, to introducing reliable pregnancy tests in 1931 or and establishing the first cancer detection clinic for women.

As you will all know, that is only a selection of the many firsts that the Society can claim and today you continue to pioneer new ground, finding new ways to take action to address need and social disadvantage.

The City of Sydney has been a supporter of your Society for the past 150 years - you pre-dated the City's incorporation by quite a few decades! - and we are delighted to support your bicentenary.

You play a significant role in our City - indeed, your Rosebery hub provides support for people at all ages and stages of life, whether it's through parenting courses, financial education, high-quality foster care or in-home support for older people, and for people with a disability and their carers.

I have personally enjoyed a warm relationship with the Society. I was a member of your community advisory committee when you were re-developing the former Paddington Hospital for women site and the community park on Glenmore Road was one of the initiatives the committee successfully sought, and I was grateful of your strong support for my Same Sex Adoption Bill of 2010.

I'm also a supporter of your Sydney Leadership program and have joined in leadership days at Redfern and Woolloomooloo and the City has also funded indigenous scholarships for the program. In fact, a number of our staff have completed the program.

These include Dom Grenot, who was involved in that remarkable cultural development project which helped transform the troubled Northcott Estate into a World Health Organisation recognised "safe community".

Another graduate is Liz Giles, who worked on a collaborative project to get 70 rough sleepers off the street in Woolloomooloo and into homes. This work culminated in a $2.8 million Federal-State investment in private accommodation for homeless people.

And a third graduate is David Beaumont, who supports young indigenous men. All three have brought the skills learnt through Social Leadership back to the work in the City, and so the Society's influence spreads.

In this, your bicentenary year, I want to thank you all for all that you do to make our City a fairer, more equitable and more compassionate place.

We will continue to support your work to provide positive change and an opportunity for all.

Thank you.