SCU working with community to capture young people’s sense of belonging and connection

SCU working with community

SCU working with community to capture young people’s sense of belonging and connection

Feeling like you belong matters. This theme is explored by a group of young people with disability from the Northern Rivers region as they share their experiences, hopes and dreams in a new photography exhibition.

The Belonging exhibition features the work of 11 Northern Rivers photographers, aged between 18 and 24, who tell their own story about the places and people that support their sense of belonging and connection.

The images feature friends, pets, family members and activities synonymous with the lives of young adults, like music and social media.

The exhibition is being coordinated by Realising Every Dream Incorporated (RED Inc) and the Southern Cross University Centre for Children and Young People.

Lead researcher Dr Sally Robinson from the Centre for Children and Young People said connection and a sense of belonging were important not only for wellbeing but also for understanding how people experience being a part of or feeling left out of situations.

“The images in this exhibition tell us a great deal about belonging and connection, and are also artworks in their own right,” said Dr Robinson.

“Each photographer has selected those images which are most important to them, help them feel a sense of belonging and which show things they like.

“Above all, this exhibition shows us that young people with disability hold the same hopes and ambitions as we all do – to be a true and reliable friend and family member, and to be good at and respected in the pursuits they follow.”

The exhibition forms part of a larger project ‘Space, Place and Relationships: belonging and connection for young people with disability in regional communities’ focusing on three areas of Australia: Gladstone (Queensland), Gippsland (Victoria) and Lismore (NSW). An online survey is also being sent to young people with disability in other regional communities. The participants’ ages range from 12 to 24.

“As well as being artists, the young people in this project are researchers. Over the last few months, they have worked to answer several related questions as part of a university-led research project about young people with disability and belonging,” Dr Robinson said.

Using interviews, pictorial mapping and the photographic project, the research will provide new evidence to support the development of policy and programs which are responsive to the expressed needs and desires of young people.

At the conclusion of the exhibitions and the national survey, the research team will return to each region to hold a seminar in mid-2014 to share the results of the research with the community.

“Knowing more about the ways that young people with disability connect in their communities and how they feel about belonging, may help us find ways that young people with disability can be better included,” said Dr Robinson.

The project is a community research partnership conducted by a team of university and community researchers, led by the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University in partnership with the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre, Strathclyde University (UK), the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability, and Children with Disability Australia. The three groups of young people are supported in each area by Gladstone Community Linking Agency (Queensland), Interchange Gippsland (Victoria), and RED Inc (NSW).

This research is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, through the National Disability Research and Development Agenda.