On Monday 15th of August the Council of 2012-2016 sat for the final time. Below is a copy of my final speech to Council.
As I prepare to leave this role I look back on 8 years in office with a sense of pride and of regret.
Pride at what this City has achieved and what it stands for.
For its leadership in crucial areas of sustainability and the challenge this places at the feet of other governments. Pride for the way in which we have responded to the task of preparing diverse and resilient communities for a carbon constrained future. Pride to have been connected to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Panel since it started. Pride to have been the co-chair of the Environment Committee.
The regret I feel is one that many activists feel. Regret that important social environmental and economic change can only move so fast. It had seemed during the last 8 years that while the City has worked hard at strengthening our communities, federal and state governments have pulled the rug out from under us – selling out our public housing communities, cutting services, slashing the arts, retreating from the promise of renewable energies and handing iconic and precious public land over to the private sector to build a casino that will be a blight on our landscape and world famous harbour.
I also deeply regret the loss of Robyn Kemmis; a pillar of this Council for many years.
Sydney has always been my home. I was born in the Cross and have been a long time resident of Redfern. I’ve seen significant change over my lifetime. I’ve also seen the enduring resilience of disadvantaged communities across Sydney and the important community work that has allowed them to thrive. My fellow public housing tenants are an important part of the city’s fabric. These people deserve a place in the city’s future. Yet more and more, they are being shut out.
The strength of communities across Sydney is their understanding that our well being and our destinies are inexorably linked. As the political leaders of this city it is our responsibly to ensure that we all move forward together. When we move disadvantaged people out to the suburbs, out of sight, we are all poorer.
My great hope for Sydney is that it continues to embrace and celebrate its diversity. This is an act that requires more than just platitudes and parades. It is an act that requires strong leadership and deliberate planning. We must work to strengthen our community organisations and foster understanding across our great city. Our future leaders must understand that the market does not deliver opportunities to those who, for a myriad of reasons, are struggling for inclusion.
Equally, it is important our elected representatives reflect this diversity. While we haven’t always agreed on everything I have really enjoyed the opportunity to work with my fellow Councillors, and appreciate those of you who have reached out a hand of support and friendship when most needed.
What makes the City of Sydney successful is its engagement with our communities. I want to place on the record my thanks to all those in the community that took time to contact me and keep me up to date on their neighbourhood. The job of a Councillor is a difficult one and we would not be able to do the job effectively without the generous work of many community members.
In 2008 I was as surprised as anyone to find myself elected to the City of Sydney. I never saw myself as a politician. I am humbled to have been selected to represent my community and to play a small role in Sydney’s long and rich history. As a community activist, it has meant so much to me to have this platform to advocate for others. I’m so proud to be associated with the City of Sydney and I send my love and best wishes to those of you that will be continuing the task of guiding the City through the next 4 years. Most importantly I send my heartfelt thanks to all of you across the organisation and the community that have supported me in my role as Councillor. I have so much respect for you all and the work you do. You all have a special place in my heart. Especially my team Catherine, Gillian and previously Robert, who have made my work that much easier.