(6pm, Tuesday 30 April 2013, Lord Mayors Reception Room, Sydney Town Hall)
Hello, everyone, welcome to Town Hall. Or in Verity's case, welcome back!
I'd 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.
Welcome also to The Hon Adrian Piccoli; The Hon. Carmel Tebbutt MP; The Hon. Senator Jacinta Collins; The Hon. Verity Firth; His Excellency Mr Michael Bryce; Jenni Neary and the many other supporters and donors here this evening. I also welcome City Councillors.
With education funding and education policies very much at the forefront of political discussion in Australia, how timely it is to be celebrating achievements in public education.
The fact that our system of public education is, generally speaking, run-down and struggling only makes those achievements all the more remarkable.
I think it's tragic that our public education system has been allowed to run down to a point where for too many people, it's seen as the option of last resort and that education has become a political football, rather than a fundamental right.
Yet if we are to be the egalitarian society we claim to be, and the smart country that we aspire to be, public education should be at the forefront of our priorities.
It is the great equaliser, and the great enabler. It breaks down barriers created by differences of income, ethnicity and opportunity, and provides opportunities for a richer diversity of people, more truly reflective of our society as a whole.
Against the odds, the public education system continues to foster young minds, to develop future leaders and it is wonderful to see that celebrated through these awards.
The students here tonight come from a whole range of backgrounds - some have been refugees, others are Aboriginal students showing what a vibrant, living culture is theirs.
There are gifted musicians and future doctors and scientists from western Sydney, all products of our public education system.
The donors here this evening will know that they have been able to make an incredible important contribution to these young lives, that their funds will mean these terrific young people will get the opportunities to fulfil their talents, and to show us what they're really capable of.
It's an inspiring thought, and I look forward to seeing their future careers.