(10.30am 5 June 2012, Centennial Hall, Sydney Town Hall)
Thank you, Andrew [Everingham, MC and founder] and good morning, everyone. Welcome to Town Hall. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nationalities who live in our City.
I also acknowledge the Hon Brendan O'Connor, Minister for Homelessness, and most importantly, I welcome everyone in the room. Our Town Hall is a place for everyone.
Since Andrew and Peter Drurie launched Sydney Homeless Connect in 2010, the idea has taken off as a practical way to make a difference. They have always said it's not about handing out leaflets but about making a tangible difference to people's lives.
Today, everyone here can connect with the services they need, whether it's getting medical attention or getting a haircut, getting advice or getting a bike mended, picking up some books or getting care for a pet.
It is fabulous to see all these great services and organisations together here in this room. And it's a wonderful opportunity for me to thank all of you for the tremendous work you are doing.
It is a hard slog but there is progress. In our last couple of street counts, both summer and winter, the numbers of homeless people have dropped from the highest-ever peak of 418 to 310. This is really encouraging, and it's the result of the co-ordinated efforts of everyone in this room. So thank you all.
I also thank everyone at Sydney Homeless Connect for putting this event together. Every one of you has a full-time job and this is a volunteer effort that is done in your free time, or in time donated by your companies.
So I thank all of you, your companies and all the businesses - large and small - that support the event. By bringing homeless people together with the services they need, you are providing the care that will help them flourish.
I'm very pleased to open the third Sydney Homeless Connect, and I hope that each year will see a reducing number of people here!