Belonging - It's Not Where We Live, It's How We Live
Australia, perhaps more so than any other, is a country built upon human movement. Much has been made of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in January of 1788, and of the multitudes of European and Asian migrants who followed in these pioneering footsteps, but the impact of movement and migration stretches back way beyond this.
There is some debate surrounding the details of the first arrival of Indigenous Peoples to this land but most scholars agree that this occurred at least 60,000 years ago. Even today, shifting human geography continues to add to the rich fabric of our society. Between 2014 and 2015, net migration from overseas totalled over 182,000 people - up 3% on the previous 12 months - while interstate migration figures from within Australia rose by 8.1% to 366,400 people.
And yet, amid this maelstrom of tumult and change, it is still so easy to lose sight of what it really means to belong. We move and we migrate. We search for a safe and comfortable place to call our own, but so often this eludes us.
In many instances, it is the youth of our nation who bear the brunt of this disconnection. Research from earlier in 2018 found that increasing numbers of Australian students feel that they 'do not belong' at school - citing factors such as loneliness or an inability to make friends as key drivers towards this loss of direction.
These figures - which are reflected across the country and across a broad range of different social strata - represent a serious problem. We are so bound up in our search for belonging in a certain place or within a certain zip code that we have lost our understanding of what these words actually mean. When it comes to belonging, it is not where we live, but how we live. It is about how we interact with the people and the community we find ourselves in.
This is something we will be discussing in depth during the new Term at Mt Druitt Learning Ground. We will be exploring new definitions of belonging - definitions which go beyond simple geographic locations and instead touch something more intrinsic to ourselves.
We will be helping our young people to understand the choices available to them and the avenues which are open in their search for belonging. We will be forging connections between these young people and the structures they inhabit - whether these are educational organisations, family units, sports clubs, community groups, or something else.
The journey will be a challenging one but it will be worthwhile. And it all begins with a re-evaluation of what it means to truly belong.
Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.