One century and six short years ago our forbears declared the scattered colonies of this vast country united by a bond of federal connection. With just pride and mighty hope a national government for all Australians came into being and called itself “The Commonwealth of Australia”.

We find ourselves now faced with twin upheavals: the present and the future, over which our founding fathers and the women of Australia would have wept.

Lost are the pride and hope of their glorious past. Lost are the human rights of every citizen and the water rights of every state. Lost is federal direction and leadership in matters of health, education, climate change and scientific endeavour. Lost is the “common” in common-wealth. Lost is the “mate” in mate-ship. Lost is the “choice” in work-choices. Lost is the “moral” in morality. Lost is our beloved country, and lost are we, and adrift.

But not forever, nor for long. Today we find ourselves not on the rocks of despair but on the fatal shore of hope. A great task awaits us. Let us arise as one and climb together the mountains of difficulties that beset us. Let us conquer them together. Let us restore kindness and fairness, justice and truth, safety and health, work/life balance, and dignity and respect to every aspect of every life of every citizen in this great nation.

Let’s dedicate ourselves to this task with all the passion and energy of our forbears. Let’s show them what we’re made of. What others have destroyed let us rebuild — a country we have pride in: Australia sustained, Australia reconciled, Australia restored, Australia fair — our home.

Write a speech for Australia 2007 — something like the Gettysburg address, that defines the Australian moment and projects our nation into a new unified destiny — in 272 words. If 272 words was good enough for Abraham Lincoln … Send your small gem of timeless rhetoric to [email protected]. The eventual winner (we don’t want to set a deadline just yet) will be performed by former NSW premier and orator supreme Bob Carr on Radio National’s Late Night Live.