Sydney Writers' Frestival Opening

(Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay)

Thank you, Sandra Yates, and good evening, everyone. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge the Minister for the Arts, the Hon George Souris, MP; the distinguished chair of the Festival, Sandra Yates, AO; its artistic director, Chip Rolley; and, Sydney City Councillors Marcelle Hoff, Phillip Black and Chris Harris.

I would like to offer a special welcome to Sydney to Fatima Bhutto, who will shortly present the Festival's opening address.

Once again, this Sydney Writers' Festival brings a world of ideas to Sydney, and once again, Sydney embraces this world with passion. The crowds that gather in Walsh Bay, from this theatre across to the harbour-side venues show Sydney at its culturally dynamic best.

Novelists and historians, poets and philosophers are all part of the heady mix that has taken this Festival from its low-key beginnings in the late 1990s to its present stature as one of the world's leading 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.

We're delighted to be hosting a number of sessions at Sydney Town Hall - on political leadership, on the subject of climate change - both very timely issues - as well as the international phenomena of the United States, China and Wikileaks.

On a lighter side, Town Hall will host Free at Town Hall, a day-long program of events presented by leading children's authors and held free of charge for over 1,000 children from disadvantaged schools.

This second festival programmed by Chip Rolley takes as its theme the subject of power - the power of the author to create and shape worlds, the power of the individual to effect global change - and how technology can shift the very nature of power, as Wikileaks has shown.

In a world seemingly controlled by increasingly remote forces, it can be salutary to remember the power of individuals to effect change, the power of ideas to inspire and, in some cases, to save us from ourselves.

The City of Sydney is proud to support this Festival as both an expression of, and stimulus to, our lively cultural life and for the doors it opens both for readers and writers.

And I would like to say, on behalf of the City, that this year is the final Festival for the Festival board's chair, Sandra Yates, AO.

Sandra's dedication, passion and commitment from the festival's first days has kept it lively, relevant and engaging and while it has grown in stature internationally, it remains a beloved Sydney institution.

On behalf of all of us, thank you, Sandra. You will be missed but you leave us a tremendous legacy.

Enjoy, be inspired by the Festival.