Thank you, Rod, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to our flag-raising ceremony for Mardi Gras 2011.
I’d like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land. I’d also like to welcome Steph Sands and Peter Urmson, the co-chairs of Mardi Gras, Michael Rolik, CEO of Mardi Gras, Penny Sharpe, Councillors and all of you here this morning.
This is the second year that we’ve raised the Rainbow Flag here at Town Hall to mark the beginning of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival. Flying the flag is a proud declaration of the diversity of this great city – diverse in its residents, its workers and visitors.
We also mark a significant anniversary this month. Forty years ago, in February 1971, around 50 lesbians and gay men gathered together in a church hall in Balmain. It was the first such meeting ever held in Australia. That night those 50 men and women agreed to establish the Campaign Against Moral Persecution or CAMP. This marked the birth of Australia’s gay and lesbian movement.
I am pleased that some of the early members of CAMP NSW are with us today. Your activism and commitment has contributed to achieving the diversity and tolerance which are now recognised hallmarks of Sydney.
The City values this diversity and is proud to support it. This includes support for Mardi Gras and small community organisations via our community grants programs.
We also have a dedicated GLBT Project Co-ordinator on staff, making us the only council in Australia with this level of commitment to ensuring that GLBT issues are considered across all facets of council as well as in the community.
We’ve certainly come a long way since that first meeting in Balmain. Last year we achieved another important milestone when my Same Sex Adoption Bill was passed by the NSW Parliament.
Nonetheless, discrimination still exists. To change that – as this year’s Mardi Gras theme reminds us – we need to “Say Something”.
We need to say something about the positive value of diversity and we need to say something to highlight the fact that the GLBT community still does not have equal rights under some Australian laws.
If we Say Something, we let the broader community know that equality is a right for all, no matter what background we come from or what group we belong to.
So far all those reasons, we welcome the raising of the rainbow flag over Town Hall as a sign of our commitment to strength through diversity.
Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!