There is nothing clear cut about being a "local"

THE recent discussion in the Northern Star on being a local - who is, who isn't, how do you know if you are one or not - goes to the heart of whether we feel we belong in a place and have a right to say how things should be around here.

And with talk of locals we often think of roots firmly planted in the soil, deep roots at that. That is what being born and bred is all about. But what if you carefully uprooted that family tree and turned it upside down?

Rob Garbutt
Rob Garbutt

Each of our ancestors' places, and the one we were born in, and the others we have lived in, have had an influence on us. We are a sum of many parts.

The places we live in depend on this. They don't stay the same for long and they keep moving. The places we love need new ideas to keep them strong and vibrant as well as acknowledging traditions and history. Especially local Aboriginal people's traditions, expressed through culture that wells up from the land itself.

So my thought is that the words we use to discuss being a local seem common-sense with clear-cut rules for being in or out, but they're not. And when the power of being local is used to say who really belongs or who doesn't, who gets a say in how things are or aren't, we are on dangerous ground.

Belonging in a place comes through doing stuff in it, and doing stuff for it. In this sense, belonging comes from our ongoing activities. And while we are doing that stuff, we are making the place around us, a place to call home, and everyone deserves a piece of that sense of being called a local.

Rob Garbutt is a lecturer at Southern Cross University. His book, The Locals, published in 2012, is available in the local library.



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