Mardi Gras Festival 2013 Launch

(12.30pm, Friday 8 February 2013, Town Hall Steps)

Thank you, [MC]. Hello, everyone, welcome to Town Hall. 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.

This morning I especially welcome Michael Rolik, CEO of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, it's co-chairs Siri Kommedahl and Pete Urmson and the board members; Mr Michael Kirby and Alex Greenwich, Member for Sydney.

How fabulous to be celebrating this year the 35th anniversary of Sydney Mardi Gras! Who'd have thought those turbulent beginnings in 1978 could have brought us this far?

So it's appropriate this year to celebrate the 35th anniversary under the banner, "Generations of Love". It honours all those who've worked and stood up for respect, equality and acceptance.

It especially honours those early pioneers who took the first steps, despite arrests and prosecutions, despite naming and shaming in the media and in the community. They started the momentum which has brought us to where we are now.

This year, an estimated 10,000 people will take part in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade. Once again, it will be a spectacular display of creativity, of wit and humour - a visual feast that is now embraced by all of Sydney.

It's now the second-largest event in Sydney, after New Year's Eve, and despite challenging economic times, it continues to attract over 20,000 national and international visitors. It also generates up to $30 million for the NSW economy.

Mardi Gras is defined by the parade, but that is really only the lynch-pin for a fabulous three-week festival that this year will present over 180 artists and performers from 10 countries in 40 venues around the city.

There are also over 20 sports events, from beach volleyball to dragong boat racing, tennis to bushwalking, mud-runs to ten-pin bowling.

There are also more than 30 youth, community and social events. These range from art projects to act workshops, zoo walks to burlesque classes and trivia nights. And then there's the Dykes on Bikes bike and tattoo show.

It will be an amazing three weeks!

I'm proud to be Mayor of a city which not only accepts but actively promotes a rich cultural and social diversity, which promotes acceptance and embraces the possibilities inherent in all of us.

It is what helps make Sydney the vibrant centre of possibility and achievement that it is, a city which reaches out and embraces the world and which, in turn, attracts the brave and the adventurous from around the globe.

All those who fought for acceptance, tolerance and diversity in 1978 - and before and since 1978 - have played a part in making us the Sydney we are today.

The City of Sydney is proud to be associated with Sydney Mardi Gras and it continues to make important cultural and economic contributions to our city, our State and our country.

We wish you all the very best in this 35th anniversary year.