Some claim our nation was founded two hundred and nineteen years ago. In fact, the human history of this continent extends back thousands of years before the beginning of white settlement. I would suggest there is much to learn from those first custodians of this great land.

Today we argue and agonise over how we should allocate scarce resources such as water while, at the same time, we plunder others such as fossil fuels for financial gain in the unrelenting pursuit of progress and growth.

We continue to ignore a previous history of managing this land that did not desecrate it. The time has come to realise that we, white men and women, have been on this continent for a mere millisecond of evolutionary time and by our misguided actions we have come close to irreparably damaging this fragile land.

With a degraded, denuded and devalued environment none of us, black or white, immigrant or native born can look forward to an enduring future on this continent. Right now it is time to recognise the wisdom that the original inhabitants held for countless generations. That wisdom instructs that we do not own or control this land. We are part of it. It does not belong to us; we belong to it and we shall survive or perish according to its determination.

Our future lies in an ability to adapt to the vagaries and extremes of this place and change our ways to ensure it, and consequently we, survive. We have an obligation in this federal election year to insist that those we elect have a vision and a commitment to this responsibility.

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.