Hope and confidence in the future sometime seem in short supply, particularly in the current social and political climate.
While Australia continues to be blessed in many ways that other developed and developing countries are not, there are also signs of disenchantment with the way that politics and public debate are practised. There is a sense that trust in important institutions is declining, and an inkling that social and cultural changes beyond our control are taking important things in our lives in directions that are often uncertain and perhaps less than ideal. At the same time, voices from the margins of politics and religion appeal to feelings of anger, fear and disaffection to invite people to make a passionate commitment to a very different vision of the world. Something more than an appeal to strengthen Western values is required to meet this particular challenge.
Australia as a nation has a well-developed capacity for self-criticism, which can be a strength, but we tend to be not so acute when it comes to appropriately appreciating the magnitude of the Australian achievement. Considered against the overwhelming experience of human history, societies like ours are stunning anomalies. Australia is not, of course, a utopia, and there are deep problems, and real suffering and deprivation in too many parts of our community. That we consider this a failure, even an indictment, itself testifies to something unique in countries like ours.
The Strengthening Hope, Renewing Confidence work stream reflects on the evidence of what has been achieved and what remains to be done in Australia to help deepen an appreciation of the positive elements of our lives that we take for granted. It examines the sources of hope in our society, and the reasons for confidence in our ability to meet the challenges of the present day and the days to come. It also contributes to developing an appropriate language for reflecting on the Australian story, without triumphalism or superiority, to better equip us to give an account of ourselves to a sometimes hostile world, and to articulate the compelling proposition for human freedom and flourishing that a society like ours represents.