Sydney Writers' Festival Opening

(6.15pm 15 May 2012, Sydney Theatre Walsh Bay)

Thank you, Deena [Shiff, SWF Chair] and good evening, everyone. 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 200 nationalities who make up this wonderful city.

I also acknowledge

  • Niels Marquardt, Consul General of the United States
  • Mario Ste-Marie, Consul General of Canada, Sydney
  • The Hon George Souris MP, Minister for the Arts
  • Deena Shiff, Chair of Sydney Writers' Festival
  • Matt Doyle for the Welcome to Country
  • Chip Rolley, Artistic Director, Sydney Writers Festival
  • City of Sydney Councillors

and to welcome all our guests - especially tonight's speaker, Hisham Matar - to our city.

Once again Chip Rolley has put together a festival which reflects Sydney's passion for the written word, for exploring other worlds and other ideas.

It reflects our commitment at the City of Sydney to bring the world to our city and to present our city, in all its multiplicity, to the world.

This year's festival focuses on the line between what is public and what is private - an ever-more pertinent issue in the age of Facebook and Twitter.

Memoir, biography, journalism and fiction, too, have engaged with this issue and while broadening the scope of what story-telling can be, it also poses its own ethical and artistic questions.

These are fit subjects for debate - and debate is always engendered at the Sydney Writers' Festival.

From the days when there was a lively Speakers' Corner in the Domain, Sydneysiders have relished a good stoush. That tradition lives on!

Festivals like this are generally said to be "good for the economy" and for "building a city's brand". But I would rather say that they are good for us all: they stimulate and can inspire, they open doors in the mind and offer possibilities of change.

These are what have helped establish Sydney Writers' Festival as one of the city's best loved events, and one of the world's most important literary festivals.

And in the spirit of Sydney itself, it certainly remains one of the most diverse and accessible, with over half of its 300-plus events free of charge.

I'm pleased that Sydney Town Hall will host several important panel sessions on Friday and Saturday nights and will also host a schools events for both primary and secondary students, including for over 1,000 children from disadvantaged schools.

Once again, we're anticipating a fantastic week in May - a week to both reflect and re-energise Sydney's lively cultural life.

It's my pleasure to welcome all of you - most especially our overseas guests - and to wish you a wonderful 2012 Writers' Festival.

Thank you.