Australia

Sydney New Year's Eve show to welcome refugees with 'unity' theme

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With a theme of "unity", 2020 has been declared the "year of welcome" by organising of this year's New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Sydney will celebrate New Year's Eve this month with "the biggest and brightest" fireworks spectacular yet.

But it'll be more than just some pretty lights, with the City of Sydney announcing the Refugee Council of Australia as its new official charity partner for the event.

Organisers say this year's theme will be one of unity. 

Syrian refugee George Najarian said it's a chance to visualise a future where all Australians can open their hearts to those in need.

"Let us not forget that we are all humans and we all live in this beautiful country on this beautiful earth, and let us all welcome refugees and people who are seeking asylum because this is what we really need," he told SBS News.

Mr Najarian and his family of Armenian heritage were refugees in Lebanon before they found out Australia was looking at a special intake of 12,000 Syrians and Iraqis for resettlement in 2015.

George Najarian fled the war in Aleppo, Syria, for Lebanon before finally settling in Australia.
George Najarian fled the war in Aleppo, Syria, for Lebanon before finally settling in Australia.
SBS

They were granted Australian humanitarian visas and arrived in Sydney in February 2017.

"I couldn't believe that I was in a safe country, that's one of the most important things that I felt when I first came," he said.

"It's not about money, it's not about financial aid, it's about just making us feel part of this beautiful Australian community."

Calls to cancel New Year's Eve

But not everyone is supporting this year's $6.5m celebration.

As more than 100 bushfires continue to burn across NSW, online petitions calling for the show to be scrapped have gathered thousands of signatures.

Today, the Lord Mayor Clover Moore refused to cancel the fireworks and instead pledged to use New Year’s Eve to help raise money for drought and fire victims.

The bushfire emergency has prompted calls to scrap the NYE celebrations.
The bushfire emergency has prompted calls to scrap the NYE celebrations.
AAP

"We're harnessing the enormous power of this great event to raise more money for the Australian Red Cross' Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund," Ms Moore said.

"We encourage all people to visit our city on New Year's Eve and those watching at home to donate to this fund via our online fundraiser."

'Our gift to the world'

The City of Sydney says the symphony of light, colour and sounds will be the most choreographed display to date.

“The Sydney New Year’s Eve show is our gift to the world," Ms Moore said.

"It’s about saying welcome to Sydney and welcome to 2020 – to locals, visitors, migrants, refugees and more than one billion viewers across the globe."

Sydney will welcome a new decade with a symphony of light, colour and sounds.
Sydney will welcome a new decade with a symphony of light, colour and sounds.
City of Sydney

Fireworks director Fortunato Foti has worked on every New Year's eve since 1997 and said more than 100,000 pyrotechnic effects would be used in this year's celebration.

"The displays will feature a palette of contrasting colours and dynamic effects to complement and enrich Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks," he said.

"These include colour changing stars, stained glass designed shells, glittering willow effects and ‘pyrograms’ producing 2D shapes."

Lighting designer Ziggy Ziegler said audiences would be wowed by a sparkling beam of light, which will shoot up into the sky from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The lighting display will attempt to project the brightest beam in the southern hemisphere.
The lighting display will attempt to project the brightest beam in the southern hemisphere.
City of Sydney

"We're thinking it's going to be between 16 and 20 billion candelas in brightness which should make it the brightest beam in the southern hemisphere," he said.

Mr Ziegler said the beam symbolised "the people of Australia coming together."

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