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6 ways we’re swiping right on social responsibility this Global Goals week

How to ghost emissions, block inequality and help champion the world's biggest to-do list

Esther Crowley

We’re one of the most photographed buildings in the world, but we’re not just about our looks – there’s a lot of sustainable substance that you might not know about. This Global Goals week, we’re determined to make sure we make an impact in more ways than one.

Here are six surprising Opera House facts that you can ponder next time you’re snapping a selfie for your new dating profile pic.


1. Water light, lit night

In ordinary times, if you found yourself wandering along our podiums at twilight, you would have noticed our Eastern Bennelong sails lit up with dancing depictions of First Nations stories. 

Known as Badu Gili, or ‘water light’ in the language of the Gadigal people, these projections are designed by a talented roster of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Their work is seen by tens of thousands of visitors yearly (plus hundreds of thousands online).  

In late 2019, Badu Gili became decidedly multidimensional when we started offering monthly live events to accompany the projections, featuring performances, cocktails and spectacular sunsets. 

As the summer months stretch out ahead, if you find yourself pining for the magic of Badu Gili, open your laptop and play this special online edition from our Digital Season.

Global Goal Number: 8, 10 & 17

2. It's easy being green (clean)

Meet one of the Opera House’s most "hearted" characters, Steve Tsoukalas: recently-retired maintenance guru and leader of a green clean revolution. His careful restoration of materials around our venues using a mix of cooking ingredients and love successfully avoided lots of non-enviro friendly cleaning products. 

Steve’s love affair with the building began when he worked as a scaffolder during construction, and he stayed on for almost 50 years afterwards. His methods help mitigate wear and tear as the decades passed, using tips he picked up from his grandmother in Greece like bicarbonate of soda, white clay, olive oil and Lux laundry flakes that are now included in the official green handbook for all our cleaners.  

Global Goal Number: 12

3. Sea is for cool

If you’ve ever quickly dipped in the ocean on a sweltering Sydney day, you’ll know how effective the sea is as a natural air conditioner. 

Lucky for us, our architect Jørn Utzon was ahead of his time in recognising the potential of the salty resource that surrounds the building. He incorporated the sea water as part of an integrated cooling system that’s still used today to keep sweat on the faces of joggers outside, and off audiences inside. It also helps heat the building up during Sydney's winter (albeit fleeting).

Global Goal Number: 7 & 12

4. Mardi Gras

We participate in Sydney’s loudest, proudest and most glittery celebration of diversity and inclusion. This year, we brought a little Opera House flavour to the costumes and float for our theme - “House of Love”, featuring fluro costumes and more glitter than can be washed out of one’s hair in all the months since (speaking from experience). 

Global Goal Number: 5, 10 & 17

5. All about audio

Did you know that we now have a free, online audio described tour of the Opera House?

Over the last year, we’ve been helping 100 customer service staff better assist visitors with vision impairment with the help of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. 

Tour guide, trainer, audio describer and Opera House staff member Steve McAuley says:

“As an audio describer, I make theatre and tours accessible to people with vision impairment. I do this by describing what I see. It sounds simple, but it is a skill that takes time, practice and lots of experience to get right!”

Global Goal Number: 10 & 17

6. Auditorium seats

Every single seat in our theatres is a certified original, all 5581 of them. This means that every week, we check, repair and restore any that need a bit of love, so that we don’t have to replace any. 

This is good for: a). our heritage, because we keep everything true to how it was built, b). the environment because we aren’t using any additional materials replacing chairs, and c). your backsides when you sit in the audience (seats are better worn in). 

Global Goal Number: 12

Feeling inspired? You can find out more about Global Goals Week and how to get involved here


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