I'm reading
Our partners on belonging
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Our partners on belonging
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Our partners on belonging
Pass it on
Pass it on
30 September 2019

Our partners on belonging

We went to our partners and asked them, “When in your life have you experienced a sense of belonging?” Here’s what they had to say.

This story originally ran in issue #60 of Dumbo Feather

Discussed in this Story

“When in your life have you experienced a sense of belonging?”


Eleanor Gammell, Managing Director of The School of Life Australia

Brené Brown talks about our sense of belonging to each other being something that can never be lost, but can be forgotten. That resonates with me because until recently, I didn’t think about the idea of belonging unless it was missing. Belonging had always seemed most significant in absence. It took the primal and pivotal experience of bringing my daughter Phoebe into the world to change that perspective. Holding her in my arms and understanding the true service that it is to parent a small human through life anchors me now with a very conscious belonging I hadn’t experienced before. This permeates through my interactions with others and the work I do at The School of Life.

I feel this way a lot when I’m reading one of Phoebe’s favourite books: Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers. It’s a whirlwind introduction to earth—from the land, sea, sky and space, to people and other animals. Seeing our place in the world as if from a star, far away in the universe, actually gives me a great sense of belonging— probably because it’s so humbling to remember the beauty in our insignificance. From this vantage point, there are very few differences between us (we’re just as deeply flawed as each other) so we might as well consider ourselves connected and belonging to this pale blue dot of a home together.

“People come in many shapes, sizes and colours. We may all look different, act different and sound different… but don’t be fooled. We are all people.”
Oliver Jeffers


Amanda Richman, Ethics Analyst at Australian Ethical

The first memory of belonging that springs to mind is from when I was six. There were kids my age living in the houses either side of ours. We came from different cultural backgrounds (Greek, South African and Jewish) but differences be damned, we shared our backyards, our clothes, ran through each other’s houses (the doors were always unlocked) and knew each other’s extended family. Even our pets were best friends.

Another time I had a strong sense of belonging, and it was triggered by something completely different, is when I was 19. While visiting family in Israel I ended up having to spend a day in a bunker. Other families were down there with us and a temporary community established itself. A sense of belonging was born through adversity and it was a nice experience in its own way (although I almost had a conniption when my grandpa decided to ignore the sirens and brazenly stroll to his apartment to bring everyone back a cup of tea).

Reflecting on both times, I see strong parallels with the environmental movement that’s been building for decades. People from different backgrounds, with different cultures, beliefs and skill sets, are coming together in response to what seems to be existential threats and working on solutions from many different angles. It is a fascinating chapter of human history and, as scary as it can be, I am grateful to be a part of it.


Mark Turner, General Manager Australia at ecostore 

When I consider what it means to belong, I think of community and connection. We live in an increasingly digitised world and have learned to connect in remarkable ways we would have deemed unimaginable even 100 years ago. But it could be argued that we’ve forgotten how to connect as a community. Information has become mass-consumed and mass-produced, and our interaction with one another has in some ways grown less personal, sometimes faceless, in the realm of technology. We can reach more people than ever before with a click of a button, but what impact do we leave when we do? What ties us together?

I think to belong in an everchanging, digital age is to remain relevant, meaningful and to be a part of a greater community with a shared purpose. A place where I feel this sense of belonging is South Melbourne Market. Markets have existed for as long as human beings have engaged in trade—to communicate, to exchange, to become familiar and build a communal, welcoming space for the benefit of all who visit. For this reason, in a myriad of small ways, South Melbourne Market provides me with that sense of connectedness that I think we all crave. It’s this same sense of belonging that we strive for at ecostore. To bring together a community of passionate, well-intentioned people in our shared mission of creating a safer world.


Adrian Piotto, Managing Director of G Adventures Australia and New Zealand

When I think of a sense of belonging two things come to mind. The first is when I became a father, and the instant emotional connection I felt with my sons. The reliance that my kids had on me, to love and look after them, gave me a renewed sense of purpose—my legacy was and is them. For those first few years of their life, you are their whole world. More recently, I felt a true sense of belonging when I was in the Sacred Valley at one of our Planeterra Projects—Parwa Community restaurant—and the community came out and put on a celebration for us while we were there. To talk, mix and dance with the locals was a gratifying moment. I’m lucky that through G Adventures we work to preserve local cultures such as the one in the Sacred Valley. I get to contribute to something bigger than me by helping them sustain a culture for my kids to see in years to come. That’s the feeling that responsible travel gives you: that you belong in the grander scheme of life. I believe travel is an experience that changes you. If you have an open mind, the world can open up to you. The next stage for me will be taking my kids travelling, and to see them have that life-changing experience and feel their own sense of belonging in the world.


Daniel Madhavan, Chief Executive Officer of Impact Investment Group

I got married 10 years ago and myoma (grandma in Dutch) died not long after our wedding. I was very close to my oma. For most of my life my grandparents lived on an apple orchard about a kilometre up the road from my parents’ place. For the last few years of her life myoma lived in a little house we built next door. This enabled my mum to support my grandfather in caring for oma as she battled Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It was incredibly difficult to watch as we lost her slowly to both. Watching as the resilient, funny, cheeky and caring grandmother slowly slipped towards the unfamiliar. A few years after her death our entire family where up in Cairns for the wedding of a cousin. Towards the end of the night most of the family found itself sitting outside around a large table in the warm Northern air. The conversation turned towardsoma. Uncles, aunties and cousins shared stories and memories. I shared a story about how she caught me driving before I had a license and instead of scolding instead said, “You had better hope your parents don’t find out!”

I remember that hour of storytelling with my family. I remember our sense of connection. Not to any idea or sense of identity but simply a shared connection to each other via someone else. Even though each of our own experiences was unique and personal, our affection, love and sense of loss was shared. In that hour, beneath the stories, was a rare quiet understanding shared by a group of people. And I belonged to that group.

Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

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