Living In Harmony Festival Gala Event

(1pm 21 March 2012, Centennial Hall)

Thank you, Armondo Hurley, MC. Hello, everyone, and welcome to Town Hall.

Thank you, Auntie Millie, for your Welcome to Country, and on behalf of the City I would like 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 200 nationalities who make up our City.

Harmony Day - March 21 - was started by the Federal Government as a day when all Australians could reflect on our multicultural society, re-commit ourselves to the respect, good will and understanding necessary to maintain it, and say "No" emphatically to racism.

If Australia is one of the world's great multicultural success stories, its heart lies here in Sydney, where 43 per cent of our city's population were overseas born, and close to a third speak a second language at home. This year festival theme - "Everyone Belongs" - has special resonance for us.

Our multicultural success cannot be taken for granted - and the City's Living in Harmony Festival is one way we can break stereotypes and foster understanding and respects and remind ourselves of the universal human need to belong.

So it is encouraging to see that this year, more people than ever are taking part in the City's Living in Harmony festival. This festival - which truly does seem to have something for everyone - provides us with opportunities to learn about the diverse communities who call Sydney home, and to appreciate the contribution each makes to our city.

This contribution can be seen not only in terms of Sydney's vitality. It also has direct economic benefits, as the many international corporations which make Sydney their regional base will attest.

So we are right to celebrate our cultural diversity, and to protect it as the great asset it is.

You've already had a taste of it in the opening number, in the Aboriginal dance and the Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Korean, Jewish and Colombian groups as well as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir. And more is to come.

And this is just the beginning of a fabulous program that runs from today until April 28, so keep your eyes out for the range of activities that will give you the opportunity to experience some of our diverse City cultures.

Today, we're also launching the diverseCITY catalogue which has a fantastic range of stories from members of our city community - people of different nationalities, genders, ages and cultures. It's a great tribute to our diversity.

So are the many organisations which join with the City of Sydney to present the Festival. There are no less than 30 involved, so I'm not going to name them all. But these celebrations would not be possible without your support, that of our wonderful volunteers, and of our City staff and students, led by Susana Ng.

A very heartfelt thank you to all of you.

Enjoy the Festival, everyone!