Friends of the Sydney Alliance Launch

(Barnet Long Room, Customs House)

Thank you, Randa, and good evening, everyone. Welcome to Customs House. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

We have laws, organisations and movements designed to ensure equity, justice and the social good of the greatest number, yet many of us have to constantly battle to ensure those rights and values are upheld.

Sydney today is, in world terms, still a relatively cohesive and equitable city - but only relatively. We know there are significant pockets of disadvantage and significant barriers to full participation for many people in this society.

Unless we actively address those barriers and disadvantages, they will only grow and become entrenched.

And when I say "we", I mean all of us - social leaders, elected representatives, interest groups, trade unions, churches and individuals.

So the formation of the Sydney Alliance a few years ago was something I welcomed. Now with 28 members from all those groups I just mentioned, the Alliance is revitalising relationships between these groups and individuals with the aim of holding politicians to account.

As an Independent Member of Parliament, and Mayor, that's something I strongly support.

People are entitled to honourable, transparent and accountable service from their elected representatives and we do need non-partisan scrutiny of the decisions that are made in the name of the people of this City.

The Alliance is certainly non-partisan, including organisations variously labelled as "progressive" and others labelled "conservative".

Its 28 members to date include the Arab Council of Australia and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, it includes the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and the Teachers' Federation, the Hindu Council of Australia and Unions NSW.

It aims to set broad priorities and empower people to take action to achieve them to ensure "a fair, just and sustainable city". Indeed, as the founders have said, "Our principle is that we don't do for others what they can do for themselves."

That way lies genuine empowerment for people and the beginnings of real dialogue about the shape and potential future of civil society.

As an independent movement, however, the Alliance will not accept any government funding. So tonight, we are launching the Friends of Sydney Alliance, open to anyone - not necessarily members of the member organisations - who want to make a contribution in this way to the Sydney community.

With the skills, knowledge and dedication already embedded in the Alliance, I think we can hope that it will make a contribution. And all of Sydney will be the beneficiary, so I am happy to be here tonight to welcome you and commend this Friends group to you.

Thank you.