Look beyond the labels and truly see the person…

We recently asked Daniel Peterson, Manager Homeless Services at Community Northern Beaches, how important social inclusion is. His answer is based on his daily experiences, interacting and supporting those experiencing homelessness on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.


“We have a long way to go in our society to dismantle the stigmas associated with mental health issues, homelessness, domestic violence, gambling addictions and substance use disorders (and the list goes on).

Until we can collectively see beyond those labels and see the person and their unique value and worthiness of love and belonging, then we will continue to see people falling through the cracks into social isolation. It’s not enough to have good will towards people and to just agree with the above statement, we need to proactively find ways to undo the internalised shame and feelings of unworthiness that people have taken on, and experience daily as a result of these stigmas. Social inclusion, to me, is about telling people face-to-face that they are worthy of love and belonging. This also needs to be followed up by actions; acts of service and the giving of our most precious commodity: quality time.

The question then, that we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis is: who can I personally share these statements and acts of love and belonging with? If that seems daunting, don’t worry, the more you begin to do this, the less scary and more natural it becomes. Then, I guarantee that you will experience it as a privilege to have someone open their heart to you.”

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