Global leader helps build a stronger, more inclusive Sydney

Posted .

One of the world’s most inspiring leaders, the former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, will bring her expertise to the challenges of improving social outcomes for Sydney’s growing population.

A forceful human rights advocate, Mrs Robinson will speak about the benefits of a just and inclusive society in her keynote speech at the free CityTalks on 17 March at the State Theatre, hosted by the City of Sydney in partnership with University of Sydney and Guardian Australia.

Mrs Robinson’s work on ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and addressing climate change has seen her awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. She is also one of the late Nelson Mandela’s original eight appointed Elders – an independent group of global leaders working for people and human rights.

Her address comes as the City develops a Social Sustainability Policy aimed at creating a more socially-just and sustainable city where everyone has equitable access to social services and facilities.

[caption id="attachment_15332" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Mrs-Mary-Robinson-at-World-Women-Leaders-New-York-November-2007-Getty-Images[/caption]

As the President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, Mrs Robinson said it is important to address inequality and focus on social inclusion to build communities and cities.

"The city is possibly the most complex system we interact with, composed of political, social, and cultural systems,” Mrs Robinson said.

“This complexity has distanced us from knowing our city, our place, from that essential part of the environment we live in.

“Cities have been, and will continue to be, the engines of economic growth but we must ensure that economic considerations do not over-ride environmental and social concerns as they have in the past.

“In re-thinking our urban environment we are also re-thinking our society, our economy, and our culture."

[caption id="attachment_15335" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Mrs-Mary-Robinson-with-Nelson-Mandela-May-2010-in-Johannesburg-South-Africa-Getty-Images[/caption]

Mrs Robinson will be joined on stage by Lord Mayor Clover Moore and a panel of experts, including SKY NEWS International Editor Stan Grant and Chief Economist of the Australia Institute Dr Richard Denniss.

The panel will discuss how governments, business and people can work together to create strong, just and inclusive societies with the wellbeing of all citizens at its core.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said lessons from the CityTalks and upcoming community consultation, would help guide the City’s social sustainability policy.

“We need to address challenges presented by Sydney’s population growth, urban renewal and environmental change,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Our footpaths, parks, schools and hospitals will all become more crowded in future years, and we’re already seeing issues with cost of living, the cost of housing and not enough affordable housing for our residents.

“We’re seeing more families and children living in our city, and by 2030 more than 90 per cent of our residents will be living in apartments, where many people suffer from isolation and don’t even know their neighbours.

“Social sustainability is about improving the quality of life our city offers for future and current generations, so our community thrives no matter what challenges we face.

“Social justice and inclusion are fundamental to our community’s wellbeing and for Sydney’s progress as a global city, and if we are to meet those challenges, then we need to start taking real action now.”

[caption id="attachment_15333" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Mrs-Mary-Robinson-reading-to-students-in-Cape-Town-South-Africa-August-2012-Getty-Images[/caption]

The event is the first CityTalks for 2016 – a series of free City of Sydney hosted talks that are designed to inspire, inform and engage Sydneysiders by examining significant local, national and global issues.

Mrs Robinson served as President of Ireland from 1990-1997 and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002. She is a member of The Elders and the Club of Madrid and was awarded the highest civilian award of the US, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

CityTalks – People First: working together for a strong, just and inclusive society Keynote speaker: Mrs Mary Robinson. With SKY NEWS International Editor Stan Grant, Chief Economist of The Australia Institute Dr Richard Denniss and other speakers. Presented by the City of Sydney in partnership with The University of Sydney and Guardian Australia. Thursday 17 March 2016, 6.30pm State Theatre, 49 Market Street, Sydney Free; tickets have already booked out for this popular talk, but the City encourages people to join a waiting list on the night from 6pm where a limited number of tickets will be released.


[caption id="attachment_15336" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Mrs-Mary-Robinson-Bombay-India-January-2004-Getty-Images[/caption]

For more information, visit Twitter: @cityofsydney       Instagram: @cityofsydney  Facebook:


For media inquiries: City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Jodie Minus 0467 803 815 or

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore: Matt Levinson 0499 319 385 or email

Subscribe for updates

Choose the news that interests you

Sign up