Harbour City Bears 17th Annual Bear Essentials Festival Opening

(8.30pm, Wednesday 20 February 2013, Ginger's Darlinghurst)

Thank you Marcus.

Hello, Bears - and all of the Bears' friends and admirers!

I'm pleased to be joining you again for your annual Bear Essentials Festival.

As the name of tonight's event - Greet and Grope - suggests, Bear Essentials is about getting together and having fun.

But Bear Essentials has another important purpose. It reminds us of not only the diversity of the gay and lesbian community, but the diversity within that community. And this diversity should be celebrated.

It also helps challenges many of the perceptions and stereotypes of gay men - that not all gay men are sculpted, gym-toned and waxed to a smooth and glossy finish, that there are gay men who delight in being burly and hairy.

Most importantly Bear Essentials enables you to promote friendship and tolerance within the GLBT community and the wider community - a role you've undertaken since Harbour City Bears was formed in 1995.

And this has helped you to become one of the largest community groups of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and part of a world-wide network.

I wish you every success with the rest of Bear Essentials. Happy Mardi Gras!