SGLBA Long Table Networking Event

(6pm, 48 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont)

Thank you, Will, [Noble, SGLBA], and good evening, everyone. And happy Mardi Gras!

I would also like to acknowledge His Excellency the Hon John Berry, United States Ambassador to Australia; Hugh Llorens, United States Consul-General in Sydney; and Niels Marquardt, CEO of AMCHAM in Australia.

Congratulations to the association for hosting these regular events and especially this evening for snaring such a distinguished guest.

His Excellency was named as his country's 25th Ambassador to Australia in 2013, arriving here in September of that year, with one of the most interesting and varied backgrounds of any of his predecessors.

Or course this group and at this time of year is delighted to welcome him as "first openly gay US Ambassador to serve in a G20 nation". And he has had a very interesting career.

A graduate of Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Administration, he began his government career in 1982 as a county intern and later as a legislative aide in the Maryland General Assembly.

From 1985 to 1994 he was legislative director to a US Democratic Representative, later becoming acting Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement in the US Treasury. He followed that by moving out of government to become director of Government Relations and Senior Policy Advisor at the Smithsonian.

In 1997, he went to the Department of the Interior, with oversight of 66,000 employees, and had a proud record of improving diversity in every division of the Department.

With a total change of scene and air, he worked from 2000-2005 as Director of the not-for-profit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, followed by four years till 2009 as director of the National Zoo in Washington.

He went from there back to government as head of the Office of Personnel Management - or as the role is sometimes described, as the government's "chief people person", in charge of a two million strong workforce. Again, he made his personal priorities clear, with a strong focus on hiring veterans and people with disabilities. In fact, such hirings reached a record level under his regime.

It was from there that he was appointed by President Obama to his current role, and brought with him to Australia his long standing interest in conservation, in art, and his love of dogs.

He was fortunate to be able, in the month before he came to Australia, to marry his long-term partner, Curtis Yee, in an Episcoplian church in the US. I am sure everyone in this room hopes that it will not be too long before Australians, too, have that right. Though whether the present Australian government would appoint an "openly gay" Ambassador - married or not - has to be open to doubt!

The American alliance remains key to Australia's relations internationally and it is a privilege for us to have such a distinguished representative of the US as its Ambassador.

Please join me in offering a very warm Sydney welcome to John Berry.