It is probably true that Australians, more so than others, are a people sceptical of symbolic gestures. And yet in spite of this, one cannot help but feel some measure of surprise, if not alarm, at the failure of last year's centenary of Federation to deliver on its promise of an opportunity for national reflection and redefinition. Now, as much as ever, we seem befuddled about what it means to be Australian. For a nation which has come so far after little over a century, Australia has clearly a lot further to travel.
In a time of unprecedented global upheaval, we are by no means the only nation in the world facing a multitude of challenges. However, the internal pressures associated with Australia having become more cosmopolitan and pluralistic over the past three decades have cast in bold relief our own protracted struggle with the adequacy of our conception of the national self.