What Makes the Soul of a Nation?

I challenge you to write a list.

brain cosmos art Swain

Sally Swain
© original art inspired by Radio National program ‘All in the Mind’

Go on – write a list of 10 items that make the soul of a nation.

There’s no right or wrong.

Heart-storm it.

See what flows from the tip of your pen, your keyboard, your deep nature.

Let it be idiosyncratic, utterly personal, surprising or specific.

Then share.

I would love to know

what – for you – makes the soul of a nation.

My list is fuelled by the latest cuts to staff and programs at the beloved ABC Radio National station.

I hear that almost every music show is being axed. Earshot, Pocket-docs and other programs are to suffer radical damage. These bureaucrats who bash and slash creations crafted with love and deep skill – are they insane? 

Well, that’s my rant. I could escalate into fiery outrage, but, (breathe, Sally, breathe) where possible, I choose to channel my energy into gentle connection with creativity in community. Hence, The List.

What makes the soul of Australia?

I muse. I wonder how I might perceive the soul of America, of Thailand, of Nepal. What makes the soul of a city or town? Paris? Rio? Oodnadatta? Maybe we’ll have a future post: What makes the Soul of a City?

In the meantime here’s my Soul of a Nation list.

It’s for the Land of Oz, for me, for now.

Scribbly Gum (good and quirky)

Scribbly Gum



  1. Scribbly gum (quirky)

  2. Paperbark (messy)

  3. Lorikeets (squawky)

  4. Magpies (melodic)

  5. Michael Leunig. He gets a whole item all to himself. See below for link.

  6. The indigenous people who lived with and on this land for tens of thousands of years without destroying the joint.

  7. Multiculturalism. We have welcomed Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, Italian, Jewish, Muslim people into the belly of our daily life. Should we not continue to do so? (Oh dear. I feel another rant coming on. Shh, Sally, Shh.)

  8. Universal health care, free speech, accessible education and a welfare system that looks after our vulnerable community members. Yes. I lump these together in a general Kindness and Social Justice grouping.

  9. Women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are into creativity and healing. What can I say? I’m biassed.

  10. Radio National. Dear Radio National. Eroded, burned, besieged, yet still offering up material to stretch the wings of our brains.



magpie melody


What’s your list?
I am sooo curious to know.

It could be your own nation or another nation.

Please tell.

In a previous period of nasty cuts to the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), I created the verse-picture below. The CSIRO, our treasured source of scientific knowledge, was also savaged at that moment.

ABC, CSIRO, government cuts

Sweeping Pain
Sally Swain
© original art

Inspired by Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘My Country’ 

Here’s Michael Leunig link, as promised.

See you next Friday.
with love, art and soul, Sally

brain cosmos art Swain

Sally Swain
© original art inspired by Radio National program ‘All in the Mind’


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