A two-way exchange

Volunteers in Australia contribute more than 700 million hours of community service annually. I find this data interesting as it signifies that volunteering is more than just an act of service provided free of charge to intended recipients. Indeed, this figure indicates that the process holds a great deal of value to a great number of people. Like many others I have also volunteered in various capacities, however I have never really given much thought to exactly what type of values do in fact underpin the process of volunteering.

Almost two years ago I was introduced to A Place to Belong where I came in contact with a number of community based activities which were all operationally dependent upon volunteers. These activities ranged from young radicals helping people gain access to healthy food, individuals helping others by sharing their lived experience and skills, students developing action research projects and academics and professionals reengaging with their practice roots.

At this time I was introduced to a man a few years younger than myself who was (and still is) in the process of transitioning, from involuntary detention in a psychiatric inpatient setting, back into a community setting. We catch up regularly to share some food and talk about where our lives have taken us, what we are doing now, and what our hopes are for the future. As we get to know each other I have noticed that the similarities and differences in our values reflect our life journeys and are shaped by the opportunities and obstacles we have experienced along the way. From my perspective the two most important aspects of this volunteering experience have been to identify the type of community I want to be a part of and actively work towards this and also to appreciate the rights of others to express their views and values. Basically I would describe this interaction as a two-way exchange in community values which, I believe is an experience unique to volunteering.


Students create a ‘buzz’ around the network

Meet Claire, one of six students on placement with A Place to Belong. It’s a win-win situation as the students bring a fresh set of eyes to the work and encourage the agency to continue to look at its values and ethos. Their life experience, giftedness and enthusiasm create a ‘buzz’ around the network. This practice contributes to extending the network’s influence without growing larger.

Orientation to Mental Health Pastoral Care

75 people attended the Orientation to Mental Health Pastoral Care Training Day for chaplains and pastoral care workers. This day continues to be a bridge- builder for cross-church relations in mental health. One of the people A Place to Belong has done inclusion work with shared her story at this day.

A Place to Belong


Building communities in mental healthA Place to Belong is a small organisation working to build inclusion for people who experience mental health challenges.

We do this by encouraging and developing the capacity of the community to welcome and include others.

Our vision is to facilitate inclusive community through building networks of contact and friendship, so that people who have been marginalised can experience inclusion, acceptance, friendship and respect.

We are constantly searching for community-minded people who want to be committed to including others in their lives. We aim to inspire and enable these threads of connection, camaraderie and friendship.

If you would like to explore the possibility of offering friendship to others who are excluded and are struggling to find their place to belong, contact us.

If you have any insights to share about how belonging and inclusion can be developed or facilitated for people please share these with us, contact us.

The most precious resource we have for coping with life in an unstable, discontinuous and revolutionary world is not information but each other. (Hugh Mackay)