Keys to the City
Symbollically presenting a Key to the City is the highest honour a city can confer on somone or an organisation.
The tradition dates back to medieval times when many cities were enclosed within walled fortifications. The key symbolised the political relationship between a city and the king or ruler of the land where it was located. When the ruler visited the city for the first time after assuming power, authorities would formally greet him at the gates and hand over a key to signify the city was now under his control. The key would then be returned by the ruler to acknowledge he intended to respect the political authority of those who administered the city.
The Key to the City of Sydney is traditionally presented by the Lord Mayor at a civic ceremony to acknowledge the contribution of an individual or organisation in furthering the ideals of the City, or to recognise outstanding achievement in sport or humanitarian work at an international level.
The picture above shows Lord Mayor Harry Jensen presenting the keys of the city to Tania Verstak, Miss Australia and Miss International, in 1962.
Freedom of the City
Freedom of Entry to the City is a ceremonial honour, which became popular during the nineteenth century and draws some inspiration from medieval history. A military or civilian unit accorded this privilege is granted the right of entry to the City "with bayonets fixed, colours flying and drums beating". This award is restricted to Australian military and civilian units that have, through their command, a significant attachment to the City. It is conferred in recognition of their achievement while on active service or overseas duty or as a mark of respect and gratitude for their efforts in the defence of Australia.
Freedom of Entry to the City is celebrated with a parade of the unit through the city streets to Sydney Town Hall and the presentation of a scroll and the City's flag.
Last updated: Tuesday, 21 May 2013