‘How do you belong to your community?’

THE annual Kerferd oration will be delivered by author and social researcher Hugh Mackay in Beechworth on July 24.

In the first of a series of lead-in articles, oration chairman Ian McKinlay asks: ‘How do you belong to your community?’

I HAVE “belonged” to the Beechworth community in many ways over 40 years.
The first way has been as a resident of Indigo Shire. I lived in town but worked outside of the town which, looking back didn’t much make me “belong” to the community other than through connections made through church.

Being a parent of school-aged children and becoming involved in the Beechworth Primary School council set me on a path of community involvement that has been richly rewarding and personally developing.

So the second way I have belonged is through serving on community organisations – a range of committees from small to large and in community importance and financial status.

In my professional life, in more recent times, I have belonged as a community resource to those marginalised by society, particularly in the field of disability.

Community is a little like making compost – you need a diverse mix of materials, some catalysts, water and time to get healthy and nutrient rich compost. So I see myself belonging as one of many “community catalysts” – quietly working in the background to help community grow.

Being part of the Kerferd Oration committee is part of that catalytic work – bringing ideas and other ways of thinking into the community to help create a community that is active in deepening its sense of citizenry and the ongoing (re)creation of its sense of community.

I’m looking forward to hearing Hugh Mackay at this year’s oration because the “art of belonging” speaks to me about the parallels between the creative processes that not only develop great “works of art” but also develop great community – one that has character, value, compassion, space and time for all.

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