Thank you, Cory Thomas, MC and hello, everyone. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land.
And I welcome you all to the annual Bear Essential Festival and the third year of the art exhibition Ė though as Coryís pointed out, the first year in ďa proper gallery spaceĒ.
There are 15 artists represented here tonight, with a fascinating range of works in a variety of media Ė a tribute to the diversity of talent among the Harbour City Bears.
This year, the Bears celebrate the 15th anniversary of the groupís formation and itís now grown to become one of the largest member-based organisations in the Sydney gay and lesbian community.
More importantly, itís also one of the most active social groups, with a strong sense of responsibility for helping and supporting others. The City, in turn, has been pleased to support the Bears through our community grants scheme to address various issues to do with health and psychological well-being.
Last year, and again this year, the chosen charity for the Bear Essential Festival has been the Inspire Foundation, which supports GLBT youth at risk of depression and suicide.
This is vitally important work to support people at their most vulnerable, and I applaud your support for the Foundation.
Thank you also for helping us promote Sydney as the happy, diverse and tolerant city that it largely is.
Have a great time at Mardi Gras, and Iím pleased to declare this marvellous exhibition officially open.