Media releases

Welcome to Country comes to life for NYE

Published 14 December 2017

A stunning animation featuring a grandfather and grandson’s journey along the rivers of the Eora Nation will come to life on the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge this New Year’s Eve as part of the Welcome to Country ceremony.

All-new firework effects of local fauna shapes including turtles and eels will accompany the animated story, red waterfall shells and comets will be fired from barges on the harbour and red flares will shoot from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Titled 'A Day in the Life of Country’, the evocative Welcome to Country animation has been created from a narrative by Sydney New Year’s Eve consultant Rhoda Roberts AO, who says the images tell a uniquely Sydney story.

“This is a story that shows all of Australia is Aboriginal land, and that Sydney is the gateway to Aboriginal Australia,” Ms Roberts said.

“Sydney has always been a very special place – it was one of the first contact points for First Nations Peoples, who have adapted and grown with the nation, while never forgetting who they are.

“The First People’s connection to Sydney’s story is unique, there’s nothing like it in the world. Our Welcome to Country is continuing what those old people would have done – travelling up and down the state’s river systems calling out to other neighbouring clans and being welcomed.

“We’re welcoming Sydneysiders, interstate visitors and people from around the world to Sydney to gather for a Welcome to Country, with the help of new technology and a great fireworks display.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the New Year’s Eve Welcome to Country, first introduced in 2015, has allowed Australia to honour Australia’s First Nations Peoples on a global stage.

“It is critical that we acknowledge that we are always on Aboriginal land. Sydneysiders, visitors and global onlookers have responded positively to the beautiful displays that have featured in our New Year’s Eve celebrations.

“Having the Welcome to Country projected onto the pylons and the Tribal Warrior and Mari Nawi vessels travelling and smoking the harbour as part of the Harbour of Light Parade is a wonderful way to share the stories of Sydney’s Indigenous peoples.”

A Day in the Life of Country animation was produced using state of the art motion graphic digital design to create the effect of a moving painting. The images take the audience on a journey down the three river systems that surround the Gadigal land – the Hawkesbury (Deerubbin) in the north, Nepean (Jandhai) in the west and St Georges River (Tucoerah) in the south – all of which connect to Sydney Harbour.

“It starts with an old grandfather and a young boy and is about the intergenerational exchange of knowledge as they travel down the river fishing,” Ms Roberts said.

“The further we travel down the river, the more we see the environment changing – the trees and stars are replaced by buildings and lights from the city. The young boy is no longer in a traditional canoe, he’s in a dinghy and fishing with a rod rather than a spear.

“Slowly we see the transformation of Sydney Harbour with the parting of the reeds to reveal the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

“It shows traditional people moving through time, but shows that we are always on Gadigal land, connecting the past and the future to the present.”

This year the Welcome to Country will include a tribute marking the 50th anniversary of the Sydney-San Francisco sister city relationship that will be celebrated in 2018.

A message from the Muwekma Ohlone peoples of the San Francisco Bay area will be projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons at the close of the evening's ceremony.

Ms Roberts said the message marked a close connection between the two cities' First Peoples.

"There is a lovely connection between Sydney and San Francisco – both cities are very similar in their geography and both cities have a strong and vibrant Indigenous culture," Ms Roberts said.

"There's a great synergy between the histories of the First Peoples of these two great cities. The language, the stories and the rituals of the Indigenous peoples here and in San Francisco have survived, been recognised and honoured, and are still strong today."

At the close of the Welcome to Country, the following words in the language of the Muwekma Ohlone people will appear: "Makkin Mak Muwekma Wolwoolum, Akkoy Mak-Warep, Manne Mak Hiswi!", which translates: "We Are Muwekma Ohlone, Welcome To Our Land, Where We Are Born, San Francisco Bay Area".

The 2017 New Year’s program highlights include: 

  • 6pm                Pre-show entertainment
  • 8.38pm           Welcome to Country ceremony
  • 9pm                Family fireworks display
  • 9.15pm           Harbour of Light Parade
  • midnight        Spectacular 2017 Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks display
Visit for detailed information on this year’s event.


For more information and images, please contact Belinda Wallis, City of Sydney Senior Media Relations Advisor, on 0467 810 160 or

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, please contact Julia Lenton on 0410 748 039 or email