El Alamein Fountain Relaunch

(28 July 2012, Fitzroy Gardens, Kings Cross)

Hello, everyone. Welcome. I'd 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.

I also acknowledge Margaret Woodward, Jane van Hagen, Denis Williams and the RSL members here today. You're the people most intimately connected with this fountain, and it is wonderful to have you with us as we celebrate its restoration.

It's a familiar and much-loved Sydney icon, loved especially by the people of this area. But it's also a listed item of the heritage of NSW, and as such, it has been restored in accordance with Heritage Office guidelines.

Fortunately, we were able to work with Bob Woodward when we first began researching the restoration five years ago, and since his death in 2010, the work has continued with the guidance of family members, and that of Denis Williams.

The work has included replacement of all 211 wands; restoring and waterproofing the weirs, replacing mosaic tiles and repairing the surrounds. There is also the less visible but essential work carried out on tanks, pumps and filtration systems.

I'm sure you are all delighted to see the hoardings down and this beautiful fountain - "probably one of the most beautiful man-made things in the land", a journalist wrote in 1967 - back in operation - or about to be!

It commemorates the battles near El Alamein where the army of the legendary Field Marshal Rommel was first halted and then routed in 1942.

The Australian 9th Division played a crucial role in that battle - but also suffered almost 6,000 casualties. Field Marshal Montgomery, leading the Allied forces, said later that battle could not have been won "without the magnificent 9th Australian division".

This is their memorial, and also a great memorial to its designer, Bob Woodward, and all those who collaborated on its creation. I also thank all of those who have done such a meticulous job on its restoration.

We have taken the opportunity to improve the surrounding area, with new, sustainable lighting, restoration of broken pavers and new plantings from cardamom to clivia.

In just a moment, we'll be switching the fountain on, but first I'd like to draw your attention to the stall over there where you can look at concept plans for the new playground, developed by local children and their parents. This is a great opportunity to see how it might be, and to give us your feedback.

But now, I thank you all once again for coming here, I thank all those who collaborated on this work and now it's wonderful that we can see the El Alamein Memorial Fountain sparkling again.