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Monday, 15 July 2019
Sydney Opera House
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC

I am delighted to be asked to speak on this occasion on which we come together to listen to this evening’s gala concert and, in future days, to the beautiful voices of our World Choirs uplifted to the sails of our much-loved Sydney Opera House.

The land on which we stand here – at what is known as Bennelong Point and known to the local Gadigal people as Dubbagullee, has always been a meeting place, a gathering place and a place of cultural celebration.

For many millennia, Eora women would fish in the evenings in their nawi canoes on the waters we now call Sydney Harbour, their faces beautifully illuminated by the light of a small fire on a clay pad and they would sing as they rowed, their voices lifting to the night heavens

This was where the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of this land, the Cammaraygal from across the Harbour, and Aboriginal people of our coastal regions met - to talk, to trade in fish, shells and other items, and to perform ceremonies that included song, music and dance.

This place, therefore, has always been a place of song. I pay my respects to the Gadigal and the Cammaraygal people – indeed to all Indigenous peoples of Aboriginal Nations – and to their Elders, past, present and to our emerging leaders, as I welcome you all this evening.

I especially welcome our international guests, guests from around the nation and from regional areas of New South Wales. It is a great honour for our city of Sydney to be hosting this magnificent Festival of song, commencing with tonight’s ‘Sounds of Australia’ concert, featuring choirs and cultural artists from around Australia.

Some of these choirs have travelled many thousands of kilometres – from the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland, including our magnificent Gondwana Indigenous Choir; from South Australia, and from our NSW regional areas to perform.

On behalf of the people of New South Wales, I thank them.

The pure glory of song is magical in itself. But it is much more. Song creates connections between people.  One example of this serendipitous power of connection:  the son of Dr Ian Jacobs, Vice Chancellor of the University of NSW, one of the partners of this Festival, is the Director of Artistic Planning at the Boston Children’s Chorus, one of the international choirs performing at this festival.

Song creates friendships and collaborations, many of which will be forged over the coming week. May I congratulate and thank all our international friends - choirs and conductors from across the world - for performing at this inaugural Festival.

There are many voices in our diverse and multicultural community as there are many ‘sounds of Australia’. On the back of NAIDOC Week, we celebrate these extraordinary voices.

This evening, one person, in particular, stands at the apex of our Festival. Lyn Williams AM, Festival and Gondwana Choirs’ Artistic Director, has curated, directed and ‘lived and breathed’ this Festival for the past few years.

Indeed, the genesis of this World Choral Festival can be traced back 30 years, when one small ensemble, the Sydney Children’s Choir, came together under the direction of Lyn Williams AM.

That small ensemble has expanded, and her Gondwana Choirs have become an integral part of the fabric of our city and our nation. An extraordinary national legacy. Lyn: ‘Thank you’.

On behalf of the people of New South Wales, congratulations on the 30th Anniversary of the Sydney Children’s Choir, and may I again welcome you all to the Sydney Opera House for the ‘Sounds of Australia’.

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