(5.30pm, Wednesday 12 March 2014, Centennial Hall)
Thank you, Janice, [MC] and good evening, everyone. A very warm welcome to Sydney, and to Town Hall.
We are delighted to have you here.
I'm also pleased to welcome Councillor Robert Kok and participants from:
University of New South Wales:
Professor Wai Fong Chua, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Students)
Mr Aleksandr Voninski, Executive Director (International)
University of Sydney:
Mr Gary Sanderfield, Deputy Director Student Recruitment (International Recruitment)
Ms Jordi Austin, Director Student Support Services
Professor William Purcell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor International and Development
Mr Simon Watson, Manager Mobility and Services
Australian Catholic University:
Kirk Doyle, Associate Director International Relations & Partnerships
Anston Ratnayake, ISLA Ambassador
This is the 10th year that the City of Sydney has hosted a welcome to our international students. We feel proud that you have chosen to study here and we hope it marks the beginning of a life-long connection with our City. There are twelve Universities participating in tonight's event.
Thirty-five thousand international students arrive here each year and almost a third of that number - including I imagine, many of you here this evening - will also live in our city.
Sydney has always been a magnet for people from many cultures. Today. Half of our residents are born overseas - from countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Apart from English, the most common languages spoken at home are Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Korean and Spanish.
It is this mix of cultures, histories, experiences and stories that makes our city a great place to live and to visit.
Sydney has a great deal to offer you: a first class education experience, a relaxed lifestyle and beautiful location, and a wonderful array of cultural activities and experiences.
Your choosing to live and study here can mean great opportunities for you, and it gives our City great opportunities as well. You help build our cultural diversity and help us, as Australia's only global city, to strengthen our regional and international connections.
We now live in the era of instant global communications but I believe there will never be any substitute for personal contact and personal experience.
Your varied experiences and skills also bring many benefits to our educational institutions and we are keen to recognise and nurture your contributions.
We want you all to have a safe and enjoyable time here, to form lasting friendships and hopefully return in the future, either for business or pleasure.
Sydney has been ranked the world's safest and friendliest city by the
bi-annual Anholt GfK City Brands Indexâ€”in the top five best cities overall with London, Paris, New York and Rome.
You will find that Sydney offers a range of fantastic experiences, whether at cafes, small bars and great restaurants or at some of the most inspiring natural and cultural environments: superb beaches, of course, but also the Sydney Opera House, places like CarriageWorks and a fantastic range of galleries and music venues.
I hope you will make time to explore Sydney's vibrant cultural scene and get to know our diverse city villages while you are here.
We're delighted to welcome you all here and wish you a happy, productive and memorable stay with us.
Sydney is also famous for its celebrations - Christmas, Sydney New Year's Eve, Sydney Festival, Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras which we celebrated earlier this month, and our mid-winter VIVID festival of light. So I hope you'll join in some of these events.
From March through to the end of April, we also host our annual Living in Harmony Festival.
This includes a huge range of forums, cultural days, performances, exhibitions, festivals and workshops, and you will find a guide to all of those in the goodie bags which you'll collect as you leave.
The bags also provide information on safety, library networks and cycling in Sydney.
We have a number of programs running at our Youth Centres to which international students are always welcome and you are entitled to discount entry to our aquatic centres, such as the new open-air Prince Alfred Park Pool.
Prince Alfred Park also provides tennis courts, basketball and fitness equipment; and you can enjoy our iconic parklands such as Hyde Park and Sydney Park, or Rushcutters Bay and Pirrama Parks on the harbour.
We also have excellent, multi-lingual library facilities for you to explore and you'll find a lot of useful information on the City of Sydney website, which is available in 10 different languages.
We hope this information will make you feel at home and welcomed and comfortable, though you are far from you own homes.
Last year at this event, I launched a pilot program the City is running - the International Student Leadership and Ambassador Program. It provides training, mentoring and practical experiences to international student leaders.
It has enjoyed many successes over the last year, and one of the Ambassadors, Anston, will speak to you tonight. I'd also like to thank all the ISLA ambassadors here tonight who have assisted in making this event such a success.
I encourage you to find out more about the program and hope some of you will join it next year. Those who participate engaged with our local community in a meaningful way, develop employment and life skills and enjoy wonderful networking opportunities.
Already the program has deepened our engagement with our international students, and enriched their experience of living in Sydney.
I also encourage you to engage in your local community, and take up volunteering opportunities to learn more about Sydney, its people and its culture.
I hope this is the beginning of a life-long connection to our great city. I wish you a wonderful time here and once again, I welcome you all most warmly.