Media releases

NYE launches with spectacular welcome

Published 14 December 2016

Red flares fired from the top of the Sydney Opera House and a golden sun blazing on the Harbour Bridge will mark the official opening of the 2016 Sydney New Year’s Eve celebrations in an awe-inspiring Welcome to Country.

This year’s Welcome to Country ceremony has been extended to six minutes and will feature a kaleidoscope of cultural imagery projected onto the Harbour Bridge pylons and a smoking ceremony on board two boats travelling from Black Wattle Bay to Sydney Harbour.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the ceremony reflected Australia’s respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the traditional custodians of our land we now call Sydney.

“This spectacular and moving visual ceremony is a recognition of the wonderful diversity of this city. The Sydney New Year’s Eve powerful Welcome to Country celebrates the talent, culture and creativity of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“And with our festivities streaming live, we’ll be paying tribute to the world’s living oldest living cultures across the globe.”

The ceremony is directed by Sydney New Year’s Eve creative consultant Rhoda Roberts AO, who first unveiled a spectacular five-minute Welcome to Country harbour bridge effect in 2015.

“The ceremony was received so positively, the impact was incredible and I was blown away. The challenge this year was to do something very different,” Ms Roberts said.

“We’ve created a complex visual display of light and sound for this year’s theme, ‘always walking on Aboriginal country’. We’ll be welcoming guests to Gadigal land that speaks to our communities, including international visitors.”

A smoking ceremony will start at 7.30pm when the Tribal Warrior Association vessels Tribal Warrior and Mari Nawi travel from Blackwattle Bay to Sydney Harbour carrying a cauldron of melaleuca (paper bark) and eucalyptus leaves cleansing the waterways and harbour and seeking safe passage into the new year for everyone.

At 8.38pm the harbour-wide Welcome to Country begins with flares fired from the Sydney Opera House sails, followed by kaleidoscopic projections on the Harbour Bridge pylons.

Streams of blues and greens will bubble over the bridge, representing the three bordering rivers of the Eora Nation – the Hawkesbury, Cooks and Nepean rivers.

Aboriginal totems of native flora and fauna, representing the spiritual emblems of clans or language groups, and images of symbolic ochre skin markings that traditionally decorate the body and environment will be among the images projected.

Red angel bursts will fire from the four 9pm barges in the harbour and the words ‘always walking on Aboriginal country’ will be projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons in English and Gadigal.

The Tribal Warrior and Mari Nawi will cross paths in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge before joining the Harbour of Light Parade.

“My intent is to honour the relationship between traditional custodians and the land by saying, ‘We acknowledge this country, its tradition and custodians,” Ms Roberts said.

“We’re in such a special place on Sydney Harbour and we’re looking at ways that we can celebrate our history, our culture and our heritage using modern elements like pylon projections and pyrotechnic effects, and that makes it fun for everyone.

“Having the welcome on the pylons of the Harbour Bridge for all the world to see is a commitment from the City of Sydney that’s really important.”

Audiences can watch the live stream of the Welcome to Country, the 9pm fireworks and the midnight fireworks on, the one-stop shop for planning your night on the harbour, at home or across the globe.


For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Belinda Wallis on 0467 810 160 or email


For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Paul Mackay on 0432 182 647 or email