Sydney Writer's Festival Opening Ceremony

(6.30pm, Tuesday 21 May 2013, Sydney Theatre)

Thank you, Deena [Shiff] and hello, everyone.

Welcome to the 2013 Sydney Writers' Festival. I would 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.

I would like also to acknowledge the Minister for the Arts, the Hon George Souris and the Consul-General of Canada in Sydney, Mario St Claire and U.S. Consul-General in Sydney, Neils Marquardt; Chair of Sydney Writer's Festival, Deena Shiff and Artistic Director, Jemma Birrell.

And most of all, to you, the writers, readers, thinkers and story-tellers who make this festival of books, words and ideas the fabulous celebration that it is - a very warm welcome.

I find it wonderful that books are still bringing people together in real space and real time, that right across Sydney - and particularly here at Walsh Bay - people will converge in their thousands to meet friends, to be engaged, provoked and delighted.

The extraordinary range of this festival makes for a heady mix that has guaranteed its present stature as one of the world's leading literary festivals.

It's also reflects the diversity of Sydney's people and in the spirit of Sydney, it remains one of the most accessible, with over half of its hundreds of events free of charge.

Some of the City's own wonderful venues will again host events: Nick Earls at Customs House, Anita Desai at the City Recital Hall, and Molly Ringwald and Ruby Wax at Town Hall.

Our recently released Creative City discussion paper is engaging Sydneysiders in passionate discussion about ways to foster and improve our already-rich cultural life.

And this year we've got our City garbage collectors promoting this Writers' Festival, with poems blazoned on the sides of our cleansing trucks.

The poet Luke Davies, winner of last year's Prime Minister's Literary Award, curated the selection of poems which range from Rilke to Yeats to Judith Wright and Martin Harrison. They're coming soon to a street near you!

Meanwhile, I wish you all - locals and visitors - a thought-provoking, inspiring and enriching 2013 Sydney Writers' Festival.