Chinese New Year Festival Launch

(6pm 20 January 2012, Belmore Park)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the launch of our 2012 Sydney Chinese New Year Festival.

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 200 nationalities who make up our City.

It's a pleasure to welcome this evening:

  • Mr Mark Coure MP, Member for Oatley, representing the NSW Government
  • His Excellency Duan Jielong, Consul-General of the People's Republic of China in Sydney
  • Mr Zhong Laizhao, Deputy Director of the Chengdu Foreign Affairs Office, representing the City of Chengdu
  • Ms Briony Buchan, General Manager of Medibank, our principal sponsor
  • Mr Maurice Newman, AC, Chairman of the Taronga Foundation, our charity partner
  • Our Festival Ambassadors, Dr Cindy Pan, Lawrence Leung, and Adam Liaw and
  • Deputy Lord Mayor, Cr Robert Kok and City of Sydney Councillors.

And of course welcome to our Sydney Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities, celebrating Lunar New Year with stalls and performances here at the markets and your spectacular presence in our Twilight Parade.

This is the City of Sydney's 16th Lunar New Year.

In 2012, we're celebrating the Year of the Dragon - one of the most powerful and lucky signs in the Chinese zodiac. People say there is a balance between heaven and earth in the lives of people born in this auspicious year.

Dragons are said to be blessed with good fortune, to be innovative, flexible, self-assured and passionate, making good artists, diplomats and politicians. Though they also said to be stubborn and quick-tempered. But 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon, and water has a calming influence on Dragons, and makes them more perceptive about others.

This year, our Festival is the biggest ever, with over 80 events.

The market runs from tonight until Sunday evening with a fabulous new feature - the AYAM Demonstration Kitchen. This will feature live demonstrations from the former MasterChef contestants, Alvin Quah, AYAM Ambassador, and Adam Liaw, one of our Festival Ambassadors and some of Sydney's leading chefs.

The Twilight Parade again is our largest ever, with 3,000 local and international participants. This year, we are delighted to welcome a team from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan [see-shwan] province in south-west China. It's an area renowned for its fiery food, and you can sample some of it at the Markets.

The Chengdu artists will be performing here tonight and across the weekend; at Town Hall on January 30, and, of course, in the Twilight Parade.

There are new features in this year's Parade, including giant projections along the Parade route which will transform some of Sydney's buildings into a neon-lit Asian city.

Other new events this year include the Red Gate Gallery: A two Generations exhibition being held in Town Hall until January 28. Red Gate, established in Beijing in 1991 by Australian Brian Wallace, is the oldest and one of the most respected contemporary art galleries in China.

There's also Dragon to Dragon: A Photographic Retrospective of the Chinese New Year Parade, being held at Customs House until March 1. It's a stunning series produced by Sharon Hickey, a Sydney photographer who has focused on the magic and beauty of the parade every year since 2005. Don't miss it!

The Festival will conclude with the traditional Dragon Boat Races at Darling Harbour, held over the weekend of February 4 and 5.

This year we have completed the first of a series of upgrades in Chinatown which we're opening tomorrow at 11.30am.

The improvements include wider footpaths, better lighting, new trees and street furniture and lower speed limits to create a more pedestrian-friendly space. Coincidentally, the last time this area was refurbished was in 2000, the last Year of the Dragon.

This year, our Chinese New Year Festival Charity Partner is the Taronga Foundation, raising money to support conservation of Komodo dragons in the wild. They are among the one in four mammals, one in eight birds, and one in three amphibians now facing extinction. We're pleased to support the work of this leading conservation body.

Many people and organisations contribute to the success of our Chinese New Year Festival, and I sincerely thank:

  • the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Sydney, especially His Excellency, Duan Jielong, [duan ja-lung] for their help in bringing our international participants to the Festival
  • the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China and
  • the Chengdu Foreign Affairs Office
  • our Principal Sponsor, Medibank
  • our Major Sponsors, Volkswagen Group Australia, The Star, St George and AYAM
  • our Media Partners, 2UE, SBS, the Daily Telegraph and TVBA
  • our Government Partner, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
  • our Supply Partners, Bannershop and Lebara
  • our Corporate Partners, Sydney's Paddy's Markets, Slater & Gordon, Mandy Lights and Racetech Australia
  • the many Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese community associations, arts organisations and individuals
  • with special thanks to Deputy Lord Mayor Robert Kok, and our Chinese New Year Festival Advisory Group and finally
  • the brilliant City of Sydney Events Team who every year do an extraordinary job in bringing this amazing Festival to our City.

Thank you all. And I wish everyone here a fantastic year ahead.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!