Mardi Gras Museum Opening

(11am, Tuesday 29 January 2013, 82-106 Oxford Street)

Thank you and hello, everyone. It's great to see you here. 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.

As Lord Mayor, I take tremendous pride in this rich diversity of Sydney, and in its open and tolerant attitudes. But as we all remember, it wasn't always like this.

The great changes that have been made can be traced back to a number of influences, and one of the most powerful of those is the activism of Sydney's gay community.

The story of Sydney Mardi Gras began in 1978 with a parade that met with police brutality. In the 35 years since, it has gradually evolved to a parade in which NSW Police representatives march alongside the LGBTQI community.

It has also become one of this State's - indeed, Australia's - international signature events. As the lunch-pin of what is now a three-week festival, it brings up to 20,000 or more visitors each year, and contributes about $30 million to the NSW economy.

It's equally important, though, for what it says about us as a society - a city that is diverse, creative, open and welcoming.

This exhibition tells the story of the progress made - in Mardi Gras and in Sydney - through key themes, events and personalities that have turned this raucous, colourful, crazy street carnival into an international event.

It draws from a fantastic array of archival and museum objects from both public and private collections.

It looks at the background to the gay rights movement and the protests of the 1970s, putting that first Mardi Gras into the context of its preceding decade of activism.

Much of the material in that section has never been exhibited before, so it's wonderful to have it here. It uses first-hand accounts of the events of 1978 to reveal the impact they had on the gay and lesbian community, and on the broader Sydney community as well.

The main section of the exhibition explores the evolution of the parade and the party as a platform for advocacy, as well as a celebration of the wit and creativity of the gay and lesbian community.

There is plenty to explore here, and to remind us all of how far we have come, of what a changed social landscape we inhabit. And this exhibition makes evident how much we owe to Mardi Gras for those changes.

I'm really delighted to officially open it.

Thank you.