Forever Young – A Vision for Australia

| January 13, 2016

Everyone will have a different vision for Australia. This is one. 

Bob Dylan once sang a song full of blessings for his children. He wished them courage, he wished them fortitude, but above all he prayed they’d stay forever young. Australia is still a young country, exhibiting all the graces and faults of its tender years, but that youth is more precious than all its iron ore and more powerful than uranium and should shape its vision for generations to come.

Australia is a young country, though its soil dates back to the dawn of time. Both blessed and cursed by geographic isolation, it can now take centre stage in an interconnected world, strengthening itself and inspiring others with the vigour, imagination and spirit that all can share, but only the young can embody.

Australia is a young country, but has changed much and is still changing. The young embrace change because they change every day. Knowledge should be the sea we swim in and technology gives us wings to fly, but without youth’s eagerness to learn and experiment, the world’s knowledge and technology turn to dust in our hands. The willingness to change views in the light of new evidence, the ambition to break new ground to reach ever higher goals – these are the tools that will build a new future. A problem is solved when it becomes an opportunity, and the young see opportunity everywhere.

Australia is a young country, but it has threats both old and new. Whatever the problem, it is best faced squarely and overcome with the virtues of youth – courage, energy and, above all, optimism. It is easy to bemoan one’s plight in any situation, but untold others have overcome far more with far less far too often for us to sit back and be satisfied with doom. Today is all we have and it’s a good day to be alive. The best day of all and tomorrow will be better. Although many still must struggle amid unspeakable suffering, the world is richer, freer and, yes, more peaceful than ever before. Like we would expect of our own children, we must extend a hand of friendship, stand up to the bully and offer comfort to those in most need. We must make the most of our advantages, for they are the key to overcoming our faults. Like the young, we must treasure and see the wonder in every leaf and blade of grass, and yet, like children, let us build new cities out of sand and dirt, fashion spaceships from scrap metal and stretch our arms towards the dawn.

Australia is a young country, pliant but strong. Let us rekindle the energy to embark on new ventures and draw renewed desire from missteps along the way. Mountains are seldom ascended on the first attempt, nor a piano piece mastered without practice or tears. Let us forge our own path, rather than trudge in the service of others. Let us learn from their mistakes and not fear missteps of our own, for a life without failure proves only a dearth of ambition.

Australia is a young country, and youth can be turbulent, packed with absurdity and passion for the smallest things. May the joy we find in sport be shared with science and art, justice and moral endeavour. May we feed the imagination of the world, as well wealthy bellies in our region. May our still untapped resources power great domestic endeavours, as well as Chinese factories.  May we contribute all we can to the world by allowing all of us to make the best of ourselves. However fierce the sun, may we be known for the warmth in our hearts. Once a prison camp for the banished and benighted, we have built a paradise on earth, or as near a paradise as we deserve. May this journey, short in years, but long on effort, inspire others less blessed by geography and circumstance to do the same.

Australia is a young country, but the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, the scientists who’ll unlock the deepest secrets of nature, the explorers who’ll step out once again towards the stars. Our vision is the sum of 20 million dreams, our hopes made real by every choice and action every day. We were fortunate in our forebears, from wherever they came, but every child must grow and make its own life and blame no other for its destiny. If we achieve, the world will thank us. If we fail, amid all our splendour, we’ve only ourselves to blame.

Australia is a young country, but Robert Kennedy, a man who must stay young forever, observed that youth is not a time of life, but instead a state of mind.*) For all of our exhausted soils or greying citizens, our future will burn bright if, through the thoughts and hopes and deeds of every citizen, we choose to stay young at heart. Forever growing, forever learning, forever young.


*) Robert F. Kennedy.  “Day of Affirmation” Speech.  University of Cape Town, South Africa.  N.U.S.A.S. June 6th, 1966



  1. Max Thomas

    Max Thomas

    January 22, 2016 at 4:27 am

    But I was so much older then…

    Pete Seeger reputedly blamed Dylan for 'the beginning of the end of idealism'. Maybe he ought to have worked on "Maggie's Farm" for a while before making that judgement. Bill Chameides (Prof. Emeritus, Duke) says: "life simply got in the way of our ideals. Compromises to get by ultimately led to the one thing we railed against as youths — we became co-opted by the establishment." With employment prospects and economic conditions being so much more problematic for the young now than in the 60's, we need a generation of 'idealistic extremists' supported by like-minded, well-informed and benevolent leaders to reach the heights to which Nicholas Mallory aspires. Bobby Kennedy's observation that 'youth is not a time of life, but instead a state of mind' informs us that we cannot be over-reliant on the young to put things right. Kennedy's involvement in the Cuba fiasco demonstrated his true position on idealism. Dylan's advertising appearances have shocked many who projected their ideals onto that reluctant champion. But let him have the last word: "I'm younger than that now."