Chain Reaction Foundation Ltd

A Sense of Place

by Margaret Bell | November 13, 2017

Why a Sense of Place and What happens without a clearly defined, deeply held sense of place?

We have seen the negativity that comes with disconnection from the place we call home and people we have loved. A lack of pride for – and respect for – our self and our environment often follows.

In some communities this manifests itself in carnage and terror, as rioting and widespread violence spreads. In Australia manifestations are likely more insidious such as increased crime levels, drug and alcohol use, and low employment or education rates, for example, can all be traced back to a disconnection between people and place.

In many ways, the second set of manifestations represents a problem more familiar in our community than the flashpoints of rioting and civil disturbance, although neither are positive symptoms.

Even at relatively minor levels, disconnection from our sense of place is a serious impediment to our ability to work together with and make positive changes for our society. At Mount Druitt Learning Ground our work is designed to help our young people reconnect with and fully appreciate a sense of place, wherever that may be.

Differing Perceptions

Australia is a nation with a long and diverse cultural lineage. Over the past two hundred or so years, this land has been a beacon for immigrants arriving in search of a better life. Many factors having driven them here – often war or poverty. But, today they are united by one common element; Australia is their home.

Before the first arrivals at Botany Bay – even before then early Afghan, French, Dutch, and Chinese crews first began to make contact with Indigenous Australians – Australia was not a homogeneous land. Today, there are hundreds of distinct peoples and cultures living in all corners of our nation, with many more subdivisions within each culture. We cannot know for certain how many peoples have shared this common homeland over thousands of years of habitation.

With such diverse and wide-ranging lineages crossing and communicating at different points in our long history, it will come as little surprise that there are a multitude of different ways by which we perceive our sense of place.

This need not be a barrier to understanding our own sense of place. It is this multitude of heterogeneous viewpoints that we seek to explore and understand. Regardless of whether someone is of Indigenous, European, Middle Eastern, African, East Asian or any other background, they can connect with the community, environment and locality in which they live.

Fostering Love and Pride for Place as an Extension of the Self

The approaches and belief systems we utilise may be different depending on our cultural background but the end result of connection is achievable.  We can find a situation in which we have love and pride in our sense of place and our self-worth in that place.

It is possible then to arrive at a point wherein our sense or neighbourhood, area, state or territory, country, or planet, become extensions of our self. This is the case, not only in spiritual terms, but in physical terms too. The ways in which we interact with our environment, the things we build and contribute, all of these are linked to how we feel about ourselves and about our communities.

This understanding is critical to the future of Australia. Without engagement and investment in our local communities, how can we be expected to develop and push forward as a people in the future? Whenever one loses pride and sense of place, a chain of events is set in motion which is difficult to break, and results are not good.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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