International Day

(8.45am 27 July 2012, International Grammar School Ultimo)

Thank you, Mr Maniska and good morning, everyone. Thank you for inviting me to your International Day celebrations. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nationalities who live in our City.

Your school is a very important part of our city - and a great microcosm of the kind of city we want Sydney to be. Your motto - Unity through Diversity - could well stand as the motto for Sydney, one of the most diverse cities on earth.

There are the many thousands of years of Aboriginal culture, now increasingly recognised and honoured as the world's oldest living culture. And intertwined with that are the many, many other cultures that have found a place in Sydney.

To weave all those strands into a harmonious whole demands that we develop inclusive attitudes; that we respect difference but recognise commonalities; that we provide a helping hand where needed but we also stand ready to learn from others - to listen as well as to speak.

Sydney has deservedly earned a reputation as a harmonious multi-cultural city, but we all must work to preserve and strengthen that reputation. Community is the responsibility of each and every one of us.

Here at this school you have wonderful opportunities in the range of contacts you have, simply by being here. You have a bilingual education which can provide you with a great window into other cultures; a global perspective is built into your curriculum and you will be well equipped for an increasingly globalised future.

I believe you also have an active exchange program, with students from France and Italy have already visited, and more to come from Germany, France again, and Spain. That of itself is a great opportunity for learning, and for building friendships outside the immediate range of many of your peers.

This International Day has as its focus the theme of Global Learning. There are many different systems of learning used around the world, but one of the most stimulating surely must be learning from our interactions with others, learning from what is different.

Certainly, the City of Sydney has seized the opportunity to learn from other world cities. When we were invited for the first time to the C40 Cities Conference in New York, back in 2007, we went at fairly short notice, chiefly because of the opportunity it gave to learn from what other world cities were doing.

At the time, climate change was scarcely on the political radar here, but since I'd become Lord Mayor in 2004, it was firmly on my agenda and we had been gradually assembling a team of people who could help Sydney address what I believe is going to be the most pressing issue of this century.

In New York, and at subsequent C40 meetings, we have learnt of the tremendous problems facing cities in India and South-East Asia where even small sea rises can have catastrophic effects on delta cities. It has also underlined our responsibility as a global city to help deal with this global problem.

State and national governments weren't terribly interested at that stage, but cities were beginning to find new and ingenious ways of mitigating their impacts.

At the Seoul C40, we made it our business to investigate sustainable district heating and cooling, and waste-to-energy. We're now working on a tri-generation system for Sydney that will heat, light and power our city buildings far more efficiently and with much less pollution than our current wasteful practice of relaying coal-fired power from the Hunter Valley.

Our work on making Sydney a beautiful, prosperous and sustainable city - in line with what we have learned from our international contacts - is now coming full circle. Now, other major cities - particularly those in China - are coming here to learn from what we are doing.

Learning does not stop when you finished school, or university. My wish for all of you is that that will become a life-long opportunity, one that you will continue to embrace long after you've left this school.

Thank you for inviting me to be here this morning. Have a great day, everyone - and for those soon to sit their trial exams - all the very best!

Thank you.