Green Square Champions leadership celebration

(6.30pm 17 November 2011, Reception Room, Sydney Town Hall)

Thank you, Rod Kirkman and welcome to you all. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of this land, and to acknowledge the 200 nationalities that now make up our city.

I'd also like to acknowledge the City's CEO, Monica Barone and City staff; Councillors; the Green Square Champions we're celebrating here tonight, and their guests; and of course, our own fantastic City of Sydney Green Champions.

Congratulations to all of you. This was a pilot program devised by the City to see if we could engage our communities more closely - with their neighbours and neighbourhoods, and with the City, in our efforts to build a sustainable Sydney.

I think you've shown us - outstandingly so - that it can be done, that we can have a genuine, green grass roots movement that will generate cleaner, greener and more cohesive neighbourhoods.

The pilot program began in March.

Its aim was to build the capacity of the Green Square community to identify local needs and to devise projects to improve local sustainability.

When we called for volunteers, 20 residents applied; 16 took part in the program's introductory session and 13 have now completed the program and begun work on their projects, using the Tote building as their meeting place and hub.

It's a fantastic result.

The Sustainability Leadership workshops and coaching session they attended between July and October helped them refine their ideas and methods to identify and lead local projects.

They are taking part in a mentoring program with the City's Green Champions - whom I'd like to thank for their participation.

I hope that all those who took part gained from the workshop topics which ranged from "What is leadership" to "What is community" to "How to create and influence change".

They were also helped to identify risks and barriers and given an overview of the City of Sydney resources available to them.

Finally, they received training in presentation and media skills - which we'll see for ourselves tonight when they present their projects.

Two projects were identified and are now being developed.

These are:

• Green Square Growers, which is a garden group focusing on community cohesion and communal space and balcony gardening (70 per cent of the Champions live in apartment buildings). It will also foster green roofs, food security and, potentially, nature strip plantings.

• And the second project is the Friends of Victoria Park - a community action group focused on working co-operatively with Council and the community, especially those in multi-unit dwellings - to get positive sustainability outcomes at Green Square.

Both projects are designed to inspire and involve the community in the cause of a sustainable - and, I might add, more beautiful - neighbourhood. That, in turn, will contribute to a more sustainable Sydney.

We will continue to support them and have a newly appointed Community Development Coordinator for Green Square, Cara Levinson, who will be a focal point for sharing information and resources.

If Council decides to extend this pilot program, the Champions have also decided to organize "alumni" events each year, so that people who've completed the program can meet to discuss them and to evaluate challenges, successes and lessons learned. City representatives will attend these events to continue our support.

As I said, this has been an inspiring project and we're so pleased with its success to date that we see it as possible template for other City villages, the start of a network of greener, more connected and sustainable communities.

Thank you all for your outstanding efforts and I look forward to seeing your projects mature and develop. Congratulations to everyone involved!