What Does It Mean To Belong?

To celebrate Harmony Week and the 2022 theme, ‘everyone belongs’, we dive into how belonging manifests for Leadership Victoria and speak to some of our program participants to understand what belonging means to them.

Belonging is a human need to be connected and accepted by others and a way of making sense of the world around us by gaining and giving attention to others. So, when looking at belonging through the context of leadership, creating a sense of belonging is integral to mobilising others to achieve important outcomes.

Belonging doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to all of us, so what might this look like for community leadership?

We reached out to a handful of participants from our Active Citizenship Leadership Program, delivered in partnership with the Victorian Electoral Commission. Fifty emerging leaders from Victoria’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities have come together to develop their leadership skills, capabilities, and confidence to champion active participation in the democratic process within their communities.

We asked the question; what does it mean to belong? And what does it look like within the context of active citizenship?

“This is [a] question [that] will trigger millions of questions on every migrant’s mind [on] do I really belong here? Am I accepted to be part of the host Community? Do I get equal treatment, rights and opportunities like those who were born in this country? These are few of [the] hundreds of questions that pops up on many, myself included but when it comes to personal perspective of what it means and expectations, belonging means to be accepted or judged not by my appearance but attitudes and deeds because we are humans and we should be colour blinded and be connected by humanity not a race, colour or believes and be given equal Rights and opportunities.” – Yai Marach

“Belonging to me is a sense of safe and peace [of] mind. Knowing yourself is accepted, acknowledged and being approved. We feel secured when we belong to the community so that we can help each other in times of difficulties. Belonging makes me identify a place as home I might miss and be missed by people when I am away. This is exactly what I experienced in Australia. I never worried about the sense of belonging in the past back Taiwan, but it became so real when I moved here 2 years ago. At first, this place was foreign to me, and I was always able to leave for good without a second thought since I was just an isolated individual here. Now by making an effort to know my surroundings, the culture and people, I understand the beauty of the place and find myself a spot in this community. This shows how much belonging changes my life and makes me reconnected.

To me, when one side makes an effort to look not only at themselves but try to take everyone with her/ him to move forward defines an active citizenship. Active citizenship also shows when the other side attempts to reach out and participate as well. This evolving circle creates better interaction and connection among the community. Active citizenship makes the whole community to a better place” – Jo Kuan-Chieh Chen

“In Australia, belonging is a major issue for many migrants from different backgrounds. A sense of belonging could be related to a place, a group of people or events. Belonging means that you feel accepted, included, being part of something else. People can feel like they belong to a certain community, a group of friends, a sporting group, a specific place they feel comfortable in…etc. It is the warm feeling of safety and contentment, that you are not excluded or secluded.

Six years ago I migrated from the Middle East to Australia. I have spent the first few years wondering if I fit in! It wasn’t until I started to contribute to my local community, when I finally felt like I actually do belong. Being an active citizen means to me to get involved in the community, display values such as respect, inclusion and helping other people in that community. It means taking a positive step forward in practicing my leadership skills to help others in my community, empower them and motivate them to be active citizens themselves.” – Sarah Hussein

*A photo taken from the Hume City Council Women’s Leadership Program

Agatha Ioannou is a participant of the Hume City Council Women’s Leadership Program. We are running the program in partnership with Hume City Council and NORTH Link, empowering business and community leaders within the region to reach for self-challenging roles, expand their leadership skills to support others in their networks, and drive change and positive local outcomes.

Agatha was asked, what does it mean to belong? And what might it look like within the context of community leadership?

“We all as individuals deserve and need to feel part of a group or community. Having come to Australia as a refugee back in 1976 from Cyprus as a young child, I always had a strong desire to feel like I belonged, knowing that my Greek-Cypriot background was different from many other children I grow up with. Being accepted in school and in our community lead to strong relationship building and therefore lead to confidence building as an individual. Thus forming a strong foundation to develop and aspire to grow into a confident woman I am today.

Community Leadership is where a group of individuals strive to achieve a common goal with a vision or purpose. Many great achievements can be made through the dedication of community groups leading the way to change, shift our mind set and challenge the status quo. Community groups are the driving force behind some outstanding initiatives, they are the backbone to successful businesses and it is very important that we help support to maintain these groups. Brite in Broadmeadows started out this way as a group of parents coming together to solve a problem for the future of their children. As our society continues to change and evolve, we must not underestimate the power of communities and the influence they have on us all as individuals.” – Agatha Ioannou

So, what does belonging mean to you? If you have a story about belonging, please reach share it with us via email: info@leadershipvictoria.org

Happy Harmony Week!

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