Sydney Opera House and the Global Goals
Inspiring positive social and environmental change
At the Sydney Opera House, we believe that art and culture is a catalyst to drive positive change. As a global icon, we have an important role to play when it comes to building a better, more sustainable future for all. Together, we have the power to make a difference.
That’s why, in October 2019 we committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with the release of our latest Reconciliation, Accessibility and Environment community action plans. Since then we have continued to build on this commitment, including through our Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Strategy and Heritage action plan.
A to-do list for the world, the Global Goals address the world’s most pressing issues, including climate action, equal access and social justice.
While we reflect on some of the progress we have made at the Opera House to drive positive change here, we know that there is still a lot more to do, so as we celebrate our 50th anniversary we are continuing to do all that we can to inspire positive change.
Thank you to our Global Goals Partners who help us work towards the Goals for a better future.
Our Global Goals
When we originally committed to the Global Goals in 2019, we identified that we could drive the most positive change in these nine areas. We are continuing to review where we can add the most value to our community and identify evolving focus areas.
Goal 4: Quality education
The Sydney Opera House will promote quality education and learning opportunities.
Create employment and professional development opportunities for First Nations students through our career pathways program.
Celebrate reconciliation by raising awareness of our Reconciliation Action Plan RAP.
Offer school leavers with disabilities, performing arts opportunities that will help them develop useful employment skills.
Pilot the Sound Systems Music Residency program with emerging artists from refugee and migrant families.
Develop a pool of internal audio-describers for Opera House performances and events.
Train more front line staff as Access Ambassadors.
Embed sustainability themes and messages in our productions and performances
Enable our people to contribute to and lead workplace sustainability through education, awareness and a green champions program.
Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
The Sydney Opera House will champion diversity and human rights in its workforce and business operations.
Establish and maintain an effective RAP working group to drive governance and implementation of RAP commitments.
Promote employment pathways for First Nations artists and arts workers at the Opera House.
Enhance our First Nations employment, retention and professional development outcomes.
Develop roles for employees with intellectual disability.
Enhance access and inclusion provisions in our existing recruitment process.
Introduce new workplace support for existing employees with a disability.
Develop an integrated framework tool for procurement that promotes positive social (First Nations, Modern Slavery, disability enterprises, Small to Medium Enterprises), environmental and economic impacts
Ensure that the goods and services we purchase have the lowest environmental impact and promote the responsible consumption of resources.
Goal 10: Reduce Inequality
The Sydney Opera House will improve inclusion and accessibility on and off stage.
Incorporate First Nation’s heritage and culture into Opera House programs and the precinct.
Continue to develop First Nation’s artists, content & communities through Opera house programming.
Increase audiences for Opera House First Nations programming and digital content.
Develop new creative community engagements with vulnerable adults; seniors and those with chronic health conditions.
Commit to a minimum number of events that focus on artists, themes or audiences with different access needs.
Develop an audience strategy that aims to increase attendance by audiences with disabilities.
Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
The Sydney Opera House will safeguard and revitalise cultural practices, heritage and sustainability.
Achieve a 6 Star Green Star Performance Rating (GBCA).
Support and encourage sustainable transport options through development of an Active Travel Plan.
Achieve sustainable event management certification by 2023.
Enhance our understanding of Tubowgule, the land on which Sydney Opera House stands and its connection to First Nations Australians.
Increase our employee’s understanding of First Nations culture, knowledge, history and rights through cultural education.
Demonstrate respect for our First Nations People by embedding cultural protocols into the organisations’ processes.
Improve building accessibility as part of the Opera House’s Decade of Renewal.
Ensure accessibility is considered as a key customer requirement during the design phase of all new building projects.
Investigate the installation of an Adult Accessible Changing Place facility in the Western Foyers.
Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
The Sydney Opera House will reduce our waste generation and promote the efficient use of resources.
Increase our resource efficiency
Embed environmental risk into the Opera House Risk Management Framework in alignment with ISO14001
Develop an integrated framework tool for procurement that promotes positive social, environmental and economic value
Build accountability and transparency through reporting RAP achievements, challenges and lessons
Identify the diverse industries at the Opera House and provide guidance around increasing First Nations employment opportunities
Increase spend to First Nations suppliers to support improved economic and social outcomes.
Goal 13: Climate Action
The Sydney Opera House will implement a pathway to become Climate Positive by 2023.
Reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2023 compared to our baseline year.
Invest in renewable energy in NSW through our annual electricity spend.
Prepare for, and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
Goal 14: Life below water
The Sydney Opera House will promote the sustainable management of natural resources.
Become a single use plastic free venue by 2023.
Enhance biodiversity around Bennelong point.
Goal 15: Life on land
The Sydney Opera House will promote the sustainable management of natural resources.
Halve paper consumption by 2023 and ensure 100% of office paper is FSC certified.
Increase the use of recycled office consumables and equipment.
Seek partnerships which enable the Opera House to connect with, and positively contribute our local environment.
Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals
The Sydney Opera House will deepen and enrich our relationships with partners.
Adopt the Global Goals across all relevant Opera House Strategies and Plans.
Ensure partnerships strategically support the Global Goals.
Enhance sustainability outcomes within performing arts and cultural institutions by developing a strong network for peer collaboration and support.
Develop mutually beneficial relationships with the First Nations community.
Celebrate National Reconciliation Week and support First Nations community events.
Increase partnerships, government and philanthropy support on First Nations projects.
Expand our community reach and impact through development of current and new Access Program partners.
Find a corporate partner for the Access Program to ensure the programs long term sustainability.
Global Citizen Live
In spring 2021, with much of Sydney still locked down, the Opera House hosted the Australian chapter of a unique worldwide event. Global Citizen Live, a 24-hour broadcast featuring the likes of Billie Eilish, Elton John, Paul Simon, Jennifer Lopez and Ed Sheeran, was a once-in-a-generation day of unity calling on world leaders, philanthropists and corporations to defend the planet and defeat poverty.
Taking place on September 25-26, the marathon broadcast was part of Global Citizen’s year-long campaign to kickstart global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside participants in New York, Paris, Lagos, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, London and Mumbai, Delta Goodrem represented Australia from the steps of the Opera House. Her performance, featuring special appearances by Hugh Jackman, Cathy Freeman and Celeste Barber, was framed against a sails lighting montage on both the eastern and western sides of the Opera House.
The livestream was watched by more than 95 million people worldwide. And the impact was clear: commitments of more than US$1.1 billion, 157 million trees and 60 million COVID-19 vaccines were announced during the event as a result of partnerships between government, philanthropy, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.
Suspended high above Sydney Harbour, a woman scrambles to protect a 2.7 tonne piece of ice from the elements as it slowly melts into the water below. Over three days in January, crowds lined the Western Broadwalk to witness the world premiere of Thaw, an ambitious, urgent work by Legs on the Wall, co-presented by the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Festival.
Broadcast live on Stream, this stunning performance spanned eight hours each day as the ice disappeared in the summer heat. To accompany the installation, we presented Enough Talk, a set of climate change-focused soapbox mini-speeches. Thaw combined beauty with environmental alarm, encouraging visitors to reflect on their role in the unfolding climate emergency. At the Opera House, we believe art and culture can drive positive change, which is why we provide the stage for artists to explore the issues that matter. As Time Out put it: “Part art installation, part performance art, and part slow-drip suspense thriller, Thaw delivers a climate change message you won’t soon forget.”
Building on the robust and constructive conversations that contributed to the Opera House’s new Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (DI&B) Strategy, as well as the work of our passionate Global Goals-related staff groups, this year we launched a new forum for staff to discuss ideas, experiences and challenges related to diversity and inclusion. Fittingly, the first event was held on March 21 – Harmony Day.
Once a month, all Opera House employees are invited to the DI&B Hub to discuss some of today’s most pressing issues in a safe, welcoming environment. There is no set agenda and no question is too large or small. The only requirement is that everyone comes with an open mind and curious attitude, as we work to foster a safe, inclusive workspace that values diversity of thought and experience. Wherever the conversations take us, we use the sessions as a way to empower us all to drive change.
Culture Up Late
Support from the NSW Government’s Culture Up Late stimulus enabled the Opera House to present 70 community engagement activities that attracted more than 20,000 people to the precinct and generated more than 370,000 online views.
The Forecourt hosted Everybody Dance Now, a series of free, COVID-safe dance classes, and four free concerts of contemporary and classical music, including: the Sydney Symphony Orchestra; Australian singer songwriter Jack River and friends; and Barrabuwari (meaning "tomorrow" in the Gadigal language), an Indigenous-led showcase of some of the country's most trailblazing voices in music, and a concert by Ziggy Ramo.
After a hiatus of more than a year due to COVID-19 restrictions, a new edition of Badu Gili was launched in 2021. In a collaboration to mark the Art Gallery of NSW 150th anniversary, we presented Badu Gili: Wonder Women, curated by the Gallery's Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Coby Edgar.
Lunch & Learn staff program
As part of our SOH Connects staff program, which provides opportunities for informal learning and social connections, we launched online Lunch & Learn events to highlight community dates of significance and raise staff awareness of the UN Global Goals.
The series kicked off during NAIDOC Week 2020 with First Nations artist Richard Frankland in an event that was enthusiastically received by employees, with some saying it was a “recharge for the soul” and “one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever heard”.
A Lunch & Learn event on World Autism Awareness Day featured guest speaker Rachel Worsley from Neurodiversity Media. It was especially well received by those with lived experience of neurodiversity, with a staff member saying, “As I say to my fantastic son who has autism, it’s not a disability, it means that you have different abilities, and that’s what makes you the person you are!”
Meet our SEALs
Environmentally Aware Staff Culture Our Sustainable Environment Action Leaders (SEALs) continued to foster a positive and sustainable workplace culture.
A new environmental awareness training program was launched for all staff, as part of the Opera House’s Learning and Development program. A staff engagement panel for World Engineering Day, Engineering for a Healthy Planet, further raised awareness of environmental issues.
Staff participated in a range of activities throughout the year that support community awareness and action, including Clean Up Australia Day, clean-up by kayak for World Oceans Day, Earth Hour, Wear the Change, and a community bike-riding challenge, Biketober, to promote wellbeing and sustainable transport.
Partnership for the Goals
In 2021, we welcomed our new Global Goals Partners, aligning with Global Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals, which encourages organisations to share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources.
In a three-year partnership, Honeywell and the Opera House will collaborate on initiatives aligned with the Global Goals, including helping the Opera House become climate positive by 2023; collaborating on events to discuss how engineers are contributing to positive social and environmental change; and launching a program to support First Nations tertiary graduates with their chosen profession.
In a two year partnership, Dettol will enable activities in our new Centre for Creativity and promote good hygiene habits for children through creativity, including supporting free creative play activities that bring together art and wellbeing.
From Our House to Yours
In March 2020, in response to closing our doors to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we launched our digital program From Our House to Yours, supporting the local industry and maintaining a vital connection between artists and audiences. As of September 2020, we have presented almost 50 shows and produced over 100 hours of digital content.
The program has been enthusiastically received with close to 6 million views and downloads and more than 21 million minutes watched.
The program was praised by media as a “game-changer” and won three ‘Time in’ awards. FOHTY provided a crucial platform for NSW, national and global communities at a time when it was most needed.
Pride in the House of Love
The Opera House participated in the 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade with a float called House of Love.
Thanks to the generous support of our Major Partner Energy Australia, 80 staff resplendent in multi-coloured fluoro outfits took part in Sydney’s iconic annual parade, with 189 more involved in the production, costume and craft workshops.
In addition to the Mardi Gras float, an Opera House Pride group leads initiatives with the goal of supporting LGBTQI staff and promoting inclusivity.
Artificial Reef Project
A series of eight modular artificial reefs were installed alongside the Opera House sea wall in 2019. The reef is made up of eight pods placed underwater around Bennelong Point. The project, led by UTS Professor of Marine Ecology David Booth and funded through a NSW Environmental Trust grant, aims to explore ways to increase marine biodiversity and native species in Sydney Harbour.
Since then, eight new marine species have been spotted near the reefs. To help raise awareness about the reef and the importance of marine habitat protection and conservation, educational resources were developed and distributed to schools.
Improving support services for visitors with vision impairment
In 2019 - 20 Opera House staff undertook training in improving support services for visitors with vision impairment by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and Audio Description training by Vision Australia.
Following this training, Opera House staff can better support visitors who are blind or have low vision when onsite and can now run audio described tours about the Opera House via our website.
Badu Gili and Badu Gili LIVE
Since 2017, the Opera House’s Bennelong sail has been transformed by light and sound to host a free daily lighting experience that explores ancient First Nations stories in a seven-minute projection. In that time, it has attracted more than 500,000 visitors with 183,000 visitors watching the projection in 2019 - 20.
In November 2019, the Opera House launched Badu Gili LIVE – which gave a new dimension to the popular experience with First Nations artists performing a free concert under the luminous sails projection.
In 2019 performances were by First Nations artists Leah Flanagan, Ursula Yovich and Bow and Arrow. Since the temporary closure of the Opera House due to COVID-19, Badu Gili content was featured in the From Our House to Yours digital program to continue engaging audiences.
Both Badu Gili and Badu Gili LIVE are enabled by the Opera House, its Idealist donors and the Australia Council for the Arts.