Red Cross Red Crescent Welcome

(6.30pm, Monday 11 November 2013, Sydney Opera House Northern Boardwalk)

It's a great pleasure to welcome the delegates from 188 countries to our multicultural Sydney - only the third time the General Assembly and Council of Delegates have met in the Southern Hemisphere.

Since 1864, when the Red Cross was mandated under the first Geneva Convention, it has steadfastly maintained its guiding principles of humanitarian aid that is neutral, impartial and independent.


It has adhered to these principles even as it has spread to a global movement of more than 180 societies, with more still being formed. Any organisation that can attract 97 million volunteers must be doing something right!

Here in Australia, the Red Cross has operated since 1914, a constant presence in the aftermath of bush-fires, floods and cyclones. It runs or supports our blood bank, just next to Town Hall, as well as emergency services, first-aid projects and education projects.

The Australian Red Cross was active in the Maldives following the dreadful 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and it trains volunteers to work in the Asia-Pacific region.

Locally, it partners with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to address disadvantage in remote communities and it supports refugees, asylum seekers and immigration detainees, the people too often demonised in our recent political discourse.

It represents everything we want our City to be: multicultural, generous, outward-looking, recognising that our diversity is underpinned by our common humanity, and making a principled stand in support of the best of human values.

Most of us who live in Sydney recognise that we are privileged to enjoy the freedom and peace of this beautiful corner of the world. I hope that we will never lose sight of that privilege, and that we will remain steadfast and compassionate in support for those who - at some time in their lives - are not so lucky.

The Red Cross Red Crescent movement will always stand as a great reminder of both our good fortune and our obligation to others.

So once again, I welcome you all to Sydney and wish you a very successful assembly, and a very enjoyable stay in our City.