The Missing Piece

Belonging is better, let’s learn how to build sustainable and effective communities.

In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis,  it's clear that in order to keep ourselves safe, we need to look after one another. Responsible leadership that focuses on the voices and the needs of the community has never been so vital.  I have had the privilege of speaking with the likely, and not so likely experts about how they lead and encourage their communities through listening, creating a safe environment, acting with integrity and treating everyone with respect. To help us think through some of our current leadership concerns, I thought I’d share some extracts from those conversations with you.  In this mashup of previous Missing Piece episodes, you'll hear from recovering reality TV producer Maz Farrelly,  social entrepreneur Gopinath Parayil, Associate Church Minister Erica Hammons, and finally Matt Dibbayawan, from Uniting’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. 

In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis, we are experiencing a stark reminder that we are all part of one global community. In this mashup of previous episodes of The Missing Piece, we hear from three key experts: Maz Farrelly, AKA Maz Speaks, Gopinath Parayil, and Mike Anderson. 

Maz is a former, and some would say, recovering reality TV producer turned speaker, author, and CEO whisperer. Maz has worked on some of the biggest shows in what we know is a multi-million dollar industry which of course aims to entertain, but also holds many important lessons about community and communication.

Gopi is a social entrepreneur, storyteller, responsible tourism advocate, and innovative community facilitator. He has extensive experience working with communities responding to a need, whether it's palliative care or natural disasters.

Finally, Mike Anderson, Community Education Project Officer with Surf Life Saving New South Wales. Mike is part of a team that wants everyone in our broader community to feel not only safe on the beach, but that they belong there. From those who live on the coast to those who have never even seen the ocean, Surf Life Saving are attempting to build relationships and communicate effectively to engage all kinds of communities.

David Kellermann is a Senior Lecturer with a specialisation in the mechanics of advanced composite materials and biological tissue; Course convenor and educational technology developer for the large foundational first- and second-year mechanics courses. 

Coming from a family of four engineers and one artist, David’s interest in engineering has always been more than just a career. Graduating from UNSW as University Medallist, David went on to complete his PhD in computational mechanics at age 26. David has since been specialised in the continuum and computational mechanics of advanced structural materials such as carbon fibre reinforced plastics and biological tissue. He has worked as research fellow at the University of Nottingham UK, been research associate in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (UNSW) ranked 13th in the world, and is now a lecturer in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at UNSW Sydney. He has worked in applying his models for Boeing Research and Technology, the Composites CRC of Australia, and collegiate researchers around the world. David is a member of the Engineering Faculty (ranked #1 in Australia) and has pioneered the development and implementation of new technologies into his teaching practice at UNSW. He is the course convenor and lecturer for the largest foundational first- and second-year engineering subjects (Engineering Mechanics and the Mechanics of Solids), teaching over 1,000 students each year. He is married to a philosopher and lives, hikes and climbs with his family in the beautiful Blue Mountains.

If you have ever watched reality television, you've likely watched something by Maz Farrelly, AKA Maz Speaks. Her impressive resume includes shows like Big Brother, X Factor, and Farmer Wants a Wife, but the list goes on and on. Maz is a former, and some would say recovering, reality TV producer turned speaker, author and 'CEO whisperer'.

When it comes to making a hit reality series, she knows exactly what makes it work - the four C's. Comedy, characters, conflict, and consequence. In this podcast, she explores a fifth C: community.

As is imaginable when it comes to an industry that relies so heavily on personalities, community is an extremely important element on set. Maz tells us stories ranging from allowing people to speak up when things are not okay - that doing so is not an indication of a community being weak, but rather being strong and safe, all the way to how contestants behaved on The Celebrity Apprentice or Big Brother. Maz's insights are unique and compelling, allowing us to understand community through an intriguing lens: reality television.

Gopinath Parayil (Gopi) is so heavily involved in community work that he is perfect for The Missing Piece podcast. His business, The Blue Yonder, focuses on providing authentic travel experiences that allow travelers to feel intimately connected to the local communities that The Blue Yonder engages and works with. Gopi is all about sustainable and ethical travel, that in turn works to conserve the landscapes, heritage, and communities of the places they travel to.

Amazingly, this is only the start of his resume. Gopi was also involved in the Chekutty Dolls initiative. Weavers at Chendamangalam in the Ernakulam district were hit by floods that destroyed their stock, raw materials, and tools. The Chekutty Dolls became a symbol of hope for the weavers as Gopi and fellow entrepreneur Lakshmi Menon began to help the weavers create small dolls out of the soiled garments. Before sales had even begun, they had received bulk orders from around the world.

Listen to the podcast to hear all about Gopi's story, and his thoughts on creating and maintaining sustainable communities.

So, you might be thinking, a church, really? Now we want to make it clear that we don’t think organised religion is perfect, but when it comes to building and supporting the wider community, there is a lot we can learn. It is true that over the last few decades the Churches place in the wider community has changed dramatically and many people look elsewhere to find community. We wanted to find out how churches are listening and adapting to the changing needs of the community and what we can all learn from that. That’s why we went to meet Erica Hamence at Saint Barnabas Anglican Church which in true Aussie form it’s more commonly known as Barneys.

Whether they are doing charity work, assisting schools, or simply functioning as local place of worship, Barneys has a strong focus on loving and caring for people. With their numerous outreach and support programs like the 'Love Your Neighbour' initiative, Barneys aims to "meet people where they are at”, by engaging with, and practically supporting those who are most vulnerable. In saying all that, what struck us most about this conversation was that Barneys has placed an emphasis on listening. Erica explains that they are not blind to the realities of those who have felt hurt by the church as a whole but are instead seeking to be worthy of trust, first by acknowledging and listening rather than seeking out trust as part of some kind of PR campaign. This made for a very interesting conversation about the significance of trust in community!

Our guest today is Mike Anderson, Community Education Project Officer with Surf Life Saving New South Wales. Mike is part of a team that wants everyone in our broader community to feel not only safe on the beach, but that they belong there. From those who live on the coast to those who have never even seen the ocean, Surf Life Saving is attempting to build relationships that engage all kinds of communities. 

Surf lifesaving is engrained into Australian culture and is an ‘iconic’ part of the Australian outdoor lifestyle. More than anything, Surf Life Saving Australia is an example of community building on a large scale. 

While there are already over 150,000 members across more than 300 local clubs, Surf Life Saving is always looking to expand its membership. With the aim of promoting the beach as a shared space for everyone, Surf Life Saving is in the process of trying to be more inclusive and accessible to different communities regardless of their location or background.  

If community is the car, then volunteering is the fuel. Volunteers keep communities running - whether it’s a school working bee, putting your hand up to coach the basketball team, or even fighting bushfires.  
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that over 30 percent of Aussies volunteer with not-for-profit organisations. They worked out that in 2014 alone, over 743 million hours of volunteering had been contributed to communities. And that doesn’t even include all that informal volunteering we do in our everyday lives - like helping out a neighbour or caring for loved ones.  

So a great way to check the pulse of your community is to look at just how much time and energy people are willing to put into it - even when it’s 5am and the ocean is freezing! But most importantly like Mike says, it is vital that you look after your volunteers, because they can’t help fuelling someone else’s car if their own tank is empty!  

Behind an unassuming door in the heart of King's Cross in Sydney lies the only place in New South Wales where it is legal to inject drugs: the Uniting Medically Supervised Injection Centre. "The Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (Uniting MSIC) is a compassionate and practical health service that seeks to connect with people who inject drugs and welcome them in a non-judgmental way." Their team provides holistic lifesaving support, with dignity and respect.

This centre serves as a hub of activity for a community that all share a common adversity, leading to a sense of belonging and understanding that may not be found elsewhere in a world that actively criminalises the activities of the community.

Matt Dibbayawan is the Health Education Team Manager at Uniting MSIC, and overseas health education and promotional activities, even facilitating tours of the centre so that people can better understand. Matt is keenly focused on fostering a safe environment for people that is entirely free of judgement, deciding to hone in on the element of harm reduction.

Additionally, Matt oversees the "Art from the Heart of the Cross" initiative run by Uniting MSIC, where clients of the centre create unique and amazing pieces of art that are then exhibited and available for purchase, with all of the funds being given directly to the artists.

Hear how Uniting MSIC has carved out an entirely unique corner of Sydney and created a community unlike any other in New South Wales.


Hank Green has a very impressive resume, from creating the international online video event Vidcon or the multi-million charity initiative 'Project For Awesome' with his brother John, to running multiple YouTube channels with a collective following of 19 million. He has made a career out of creating and engaging communities in both an online and physical space.

We sat down with him to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of online communities, and their place in our evolving modern world. He explains how he went about setting up his various projects and initiatives, completely changing the entire online video industry and community.

Cornersmith Cafe is all about sustainable and ethical food production. Alex, one of the cafe's co-founders, says she became an "accidental jam fairy" when she started using leftover fruit found in her neighbours backyards to make jam and return some of that jam back to her community. 

She expanded this practice into a sustainable business that is built entirely around a community and has had a community build around it in return. This community is especially visible in their pickling workshops where Alex and the team teach people how to preserve their food with a particular aim towards reducing food waste.

Cornersmith has an exchange program where people can bring in their homegrown produce and exchange it for pickles or a coffee, which provides a unique opportunity for people within the community to connect and learn.

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