Topics: Launch of Australian Heritage Strategy, Sydney Opera House Welcome Centre opening
Many thanks to the amazing Louise Herron – and I use the definite article, because you're not just a person, you are a national institution like the Opera House.
To Scott McAlister from the Council of National Trusts, to Professor Don Garden from the Australian Heritage Council, to John Symond, a noted philanthropist and a great Australian, and to everybody who is a friend of the Opera House.
Last night I arrived back from Paris, and the Paris climate talks, and I came from one of the world's great cities to another of the world's great cities.
And my first instinct after travelling was to go for a walk, and to naturally gravitate to here, to the Opera House.
And in a sense this great building is not just a great New South Wales building, it's not just a great Australian building, it is one of the world's great cultural icons.
And the conversation between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge is something which is remarked upon around the world.
And indeed Segolene Royal, the French Environment Minister, said to me when we met that she wanted to thank me on behalf of the people of France for the fact that after the tragedies in Paris the Opera House was lit up in the colours of the French tricolour – and that image went around the world.
And in the same way that the Opera House is an icon, it is one of the world's great performing arts centres, it is also now a canvas in its own right, and the way in which it has evolved to tell the story both inside and outside, is something which contributes to the world's cultural heritage.
And I want to say briefly something about the Opera House and the Welcome Centre, Australian heritage and its role in our lives and cities, and also the Australian Heritage Strategy.
In terms of the Opera House – we know that it is one of 19 Australian inscriptions on the World Heritage List.
It's one of 103 inscriptions on the National Heritage List, but it is infinitely more than that.
Along with Uluru which represents the Indigenous heart of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef which is perhaps our most famous natural icon, our most famous contemporary cultural icon is undoubtedly the Opera House.
It forms that triangle – maybe it's a quadrangle if you add the Phillip Island penguins in my own electorate.
And together these things represent Australia's face to the world.
But it's part of the living environment of Sydney with over eight million people who visit this site, two million people who participate in some way with the cultural activities.
The fact that as Louise said there are 1900 performances, shows, displays, events every year, says that this is perhaps the world's most active cultural centre.
And so the fact that here in the new world as was said to me from the old world, you have such a brilliant building on such a vibrant place, says everything you need to know about contemporary Australia.
And the fact that it's now being renewed again is an extraordinary testament – $200 million being spent in the decade of renewal.
But it's the private philanthropy of people such as John, of Samsung, and others that make this Welcome Centre possible.
Of course there is a Commonwealth contribution of $500,000, but that's what we should do. But nobody compels Samsung or John to do what they have done.
And that's what makes this project truly collaborative, and it's what gives it the strength to go from stage one, to a new interactive centre, to the Indigenous representation which tells the deep pre-European story that people want to celebrate, and want to continue living as living history.
And so this Welcome Centre will be an enormous new addition. But this is only stage one.
That then brings me to the broader story of heritage in our cities and in our towns and in our communities.
First and foremost heritage is about the people who live here – it's about living heritage.
You look across the quay here at the rocks and people from Sydney who live and move and work within that environment – it gives a sense of place, it gives a sense of pride and continuity with the past.
The story of the first settlers in Australia, the story of our convict past, the story of the free settlers are all based here in Sydney.
If you go to Salamanca Place in Hobart, if you see the great buildings of the Gold Rush in Melbourne, these are the stories of the past, but buildings in which people live and operate in just this moment.
And then of course it's an economic driver – heritage. We know the work of the Australian Heritage Strategy shows that there is $15.4 billion associated with our leading world heritage icons in terms of value.
But it's much more than that. It's one of the reasons that people celebrate Australia.
And why they come to Australia and that's why I wanted to now move to the Heritage Strategy itself.
What is heritage? Heritage really comprises three pillars.
It's our natural heritage such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, of the beaches and coastlines.
It's our built heritage such as the Opera House or the exhibition buildings in Victoria.
And it's our indigenous heritage which is increasingly recognised and in many ways through the arts and dance and song and the stories of indigenous Australia is gaining renewed currency which I think is something which should be a point of immense pride not just for Indigenous Australia but for all Australians.
So then where does the heritage strategy take us? There really three great steps which are proposed in the Australian Heritage Strategy.
One is national leadership and that's about continuing to extend and develop both the National Heritage List but also the World Heritage List.
Only three days ago in Paris I was delighted to announce that the release of $58 million will now commence for restoration work for the Great Barrier Reef's runoffs – for reducing sediment and nitrogen nutrients.
That's part of our job as a country but that's about the extension in terms of national leadership.
In terms of partnerships, now it’s about innovative funding – to build on the work of John and others.
And I am delighted to announce that one of the centrepieces of the National Heritage Strategy will be to work towards a national heritage lottery for Australia.
This is the potential to raise tens of millions of dollars.
And we chose to do this launch here at Sydney Opera House because for almost thirty years the Opera House was created and funded by a heritage lottery, the Opera House lottery, which was part of Sydney's cultural landscape for so many years.
And we would like to see – and we will work with the states and we will work with the sector and we will work with the private sector to try to create – a new national heritage lottery.
There are steps to be taken but I think it is worth the battle and worth the fight because it can add additional funds for decades and generations to come if we are successful. And in the end I believe we will be successful.
And last of all it's about communities and above all else indigenous communities and working with them in developing and extending our National Heritage List.
And so we have 103 inscriptions on the National Heritage List. Today we open the National Heritage List and call for new nominations from now until 18 February.
I will be asking the Australian Heritage Council to expedite the listing of Kings Canyon. There have been some recent threats to that and I believe that Kings Canyon is both worthy of inscription and in need of inscription.
And with Don Garden here my hope and belief is that we can work together to expedite the listing of the magnificent natural land – in particular indigenous icon – that is Kings Canyon.
So with that those are all the elements and I am delighted to do two things today – to officially launch the Australian Heritage Strategy and to declare open the Sydney Opera House Welcome Centre.