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Social Capital and The Sense of Community

A transformation within a community cannot be specific to age, gender and affinity demographics but must be addressed for all. Change must be accepted by the community and must have a foundation of time, effort, and trust.

Many Australians have accepted the view that Australian remote communities have become more socially isolated and alienated. As our world shifts into technological adaptation into everyday life it seems as if remote communities have been simply left behind. Interestingly, as these communities seem to become more isolated, they hold intrinsic values that communities within metropolitan areas do not have: Social Capital.

There are many definitions of social capital that have been formulated by academics. Perceived as a key element of rural regeneration, social capital has been used to empower and create awareness for local communities in this growing age of globalisation. It has been defined as a concept which encapsulates all interactions between individuals in a community. Another scholar, Baum, describes social capital as something that is only derived from healthy, close-knit communities. These interactions refer to tangible assets which are applicable to everybody’s daily events: fellowship, sympathy, socialising, etc.

Social Capital can be explained as a network of quality relations which operate as a resource to collective action; a ‘glue’ which adheres a community together.

Social Capital can be explained as a network of quality relations which operate as a resource to collective action; a ‘glue’ which adheres a community together. From social capital emerges human capital, which reflects a micro-level of an individual and the changes that person can bring about skills and capabilities that make them able to act in a unique way.

To understand regional local communities, we must identify certain factors that they uniquely hold.

A study conducted by Pooley et. al (2005) shows seven factors that are shared broadly:

1. Geographical attachment to place

2. Communality: this reflects the notion of shared emotional connection between individuals and groups.

3. Social interaction

4. Active involvement within the community

5. Family

6. Sense of belonging

7. Transience – membership

There are several ideas to explore: one idea is the inclusivity of outsiders within this community. As a closely-knit community their trust and knowledge of each other individuals and groups resonate stronger than an outsider intruding within this space and requires time and effort to gain trust. As these communities hold communality in a high regard it is important to create and maintain this connection before attempting to create change or presence.

Another idea is the value of social capital that is held not only by adults but also the children of these communities. Evident by the same study, children seem to hold different concepts of community that is held by membership, influence, shared emotional connection and integration/fulfilment of needs. As these factors slightly differ between children and adults, one conclusion is that children’s understanding of community is based on the connection shared with others during their childhood.

So, what does this mean?

Social capital must be put into context to properly understand these communities. There are factors that these communities hold strong, and disregarding these factors may seem intrusive and rude. Efforts that are made by organisations such as ourselves or other third-party businesses must be wary of the unique social capital that these communities hold, and to properly provoke positive change there must be time and effort made to not only help individuals and groups in these communities but also create a positive presence that can impact not only the adults but also the children. To place effort onto one without considering the other is a waste of time and effort, as there must be an overall emphasis on the community in which they reside in.

At Nhuubala Yugal Education Centre our priorities lie within rural empowerment and focus on community, culture, and connection. Our goals and mission involve supporting disadvantaged children living within remote communities and providing quality education through connectivity. To support these students at NYEC and the community of Moree please consider donating towards our organisation and our Empower Campaign where we aim to provide a more accessible learning centre and greater educational opportunities.

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