Queen at the Opera House: opening ceremony
Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the Sydney Opera House at Bennelong Point on 20 October 1973. This excerpt from the documentary Queen at the Opera House shows the one-million strong crowd, a helicopter fly past, marching bands and a procession of military personnel and people in national costume.
Bennelong Point is named after senior Wangal man Woollarawarre Bennelong (c.1764–1813) who was an important interlocutor between the Eora nation and the British. Aboriginal actor Ben Blakeney OAM (1937–2003), one of Bennelong's descendents, welcomes people to the site from the top of the building's tallest sail.
Here a narrator recounts his oration: 'I am Bennelong. And my spirit, and the spirit of my people lives. And their dance, their music and their drama and their laughter also remains.' This sentiment echoes Gadigal Elder Allen Madden's Welcome to Country at the Opera House in 2008. It was reported in the Sun Herald at the time that Blakeney went on to say, 'Here my people chanted their stories of the dreamtime, of the spirit heroes and of earth's creation – and our painted bodies flowed in ceremony'.
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and NSW Premier Sir Robert Askin address the eager crowd.
The Sydney Opera House is complete – 17 years after Danish architect Jørn Utzon won a competition to design the building. About 10,000 construction workers were involved in building the architectural feat at a cost of $102 million.
Notes by Beth Taylor