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AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHER https://doi.org/10.1080/00049182.2023.2214958 RESEARCH ARTICLE ‘At the beach’: the role of place(s) and natural landscape in facilitating a sense of home during settlement Sarah Faulkner University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia ABSTRACT ARTICLE HISTORY Received 26 April 2022 For residents on the rural island of Newfoundland, Canada, the Accepted 14 May 2023 island’s natural landscape and environment play an important role in shaping one’s sense of belonging to place. Within this KEYWORDS article I explore the integral role that place(s) across the island’s Place-belonging; home; natural landscape play in shaping Syrian humanitarian migrants’ place-attachment; feelings of belonging and home. Particular natural place(s) can humanitarian migrants; create spaces for peace, sociality and memory formation that aid settlement; rural; nature feelings of place-attachment. This article expands upon concepts of nostalgia by arguing that places of the natural environment can play both a ‘reﬂective’ and ‘restorative’ role to support the rebuilding of place-based bonds, due to the social opportunities and positive memories formed within them. By highlighting the role that such place(s) play in supporting the positive settlement of Syrian humanitarian migrants to the island, this article aims to emphasise how place(s) of the natural environment can encourage a sense of home for new arrivals to more regional, rural or remote areas. Introduction For residents on the island of Newfoundland , Canada, there is a notable connection felt by the people to its natural environment and landscape. With a total population of 510,550 people (Statistics Canada 2021) spread largely across its coastal communities, the island of Newfoundland is marked by its rural island identity and long history of subsistence 2,3 living oﬀ the land and sea. Newfoundlanders often speak of being called back to the ocean or feeling a pull back to ‘the rock’ (Thorne 2007;Anderson 2012). Aspects of the island’s landscape lend themselves to particular lifestyles that are tied to its natural elements and time spent outdoors, such as ﬁshing, hiking, swimming and picnics on the beach (White et al. 2013). Yet, the important role the island landscape plays for settled humani- tarian migrants to feel a sense of place belonging or ‘home’ is under-examined. Following the death of Alan Kurdi the island of Newfoundland demonstrated an unprecedented wave of support for increased Syrian settlement. By the end of 2016 Syrian arrivals CONTACT Sarah Faulkner firstname.lastname@example.org University of South Australia, 135 Fernhurst Road, Cherryville SA 5134, Adelaide, Australia © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author (s) or with their consent. 2 S. FAULKNER made up over 70 per cent of the total number of humanitarian migrants settled on the island (The ANC 2016,5–6), doubling the number of humanitarian migrants from 204 in 2015 to almost 400 by mid-2016 (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador 2016) Local media portrayals of settled Syrian humanitarian migrants provided general impressions towards their positive feelings to the island’s natural landscape (Hillier 2015; Antle 2016). Previous research within Newfoundland brieﬂy alluded to the positive impact that the natural environment has had on settled humanitarian migrants (Fang et al. 2018), as well as its role in supporting greater emotional and psychological well- being (El-Bialy and Mulay 2015). However, the important role that access to natural places plays for settled humanitarian migrants to engage in leisure, social activity, and positive memory formation is often neglected (Rishbeth and Finney 2006). Much of the previous research conducted across rural settlement primarily focuses on the role of social services and institutions to support the settlement of humanitarian migrants (Sypek, Clugston, and Phillips 2008; Cronkrite, Galatsanou and Ashton 2016; Patel et al. 2019; Nunn et al. 2021). However, many studies fail to provide a critical examin- ation on the role played by physical attributes of rural natural place(s) and how they facilitate a sense of connection, belonging, and home. There is a diversity of research that examines migrants or humanitarian migrants’ relationships to natural place(s) within urban environments (Sampson and Giﬀord 2010; Williamson 2016; Levin 2019), such as neighbourhoods (Kohlbacher, Reeger and Schnell 2015), green urban spaces (Rishbeth and Finney 2006; Byrne and Goodall 2013; Neal et al. 2015), and community gardens (Harris, Minniss and Somerset 2014; Kale 2019). In more regional, rural and remote areas, however, humanitarian migrants’ relationship to natural place(s) can play just as signiﬁcant a role, perhaps more so, throughout their settlement experience. Examining people’s relationship to place also means examining the diﬀerent physical and symbolic attributes that are held across geo- graphic contexts, histories and people (Phillips and Robinson 2015). More research needs to be done to explore the complex relationship that exists between humanitarian migrants and natural place(s), particularly on the role that diﬀerent place-based dimen- sions play in shaping their settlement experience (Phillips and Robinson 2015). For example, Kale (2019) explored the role played by local initiatives that support former Chin and Kayan humanitarian migrants in Nelson, New Zealand to build a stronger sense of familiarisation and place-attachment within their new environment, which helped to enhance participants’ feelings of safety, autonomy and belonging. A study of the way that Arab and Vietnamese migrants engaged and took part in active place-making within a national park in Sydney, Australia highlighted the role of this natural place as a site of ‘transnational connectivity’, in which their engagement helped to both trigger memories of their homeland and positive associations with their new place of settlement (Byrne and Goodall 2013). This article contributes to the research that examines the relationship between settled humanitarian migrants to natural places during rural settlement, particu- larly how this relationship can encourage feelings of place-belonging deﬁned as ‘feeling a sense of home’ (Yuval-Davis 2006; Antonsich 2010). For many settled Syrian humanitarian migrants on the island of Newfoundland, time spent across place(s) of the island’s natural landscape plays an important role in instilling feelings of peace and tranquility, while also acting as ‘places of pleasure’ (Kale 2019,5)or ‘sociality’ (Sampson and Giﬀord 2010) that enhance opportunities for everyday ‘social AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHER 3 conviviality’ (Boese and Philips 2017; Radford 2017). Spaces of conviviality provide opportunities for positive interactions and engagements to occur between new arrivals and other residents (Boese and Philips 2017; Weidinger, Kordel and Kieslinger 2019), in which natural places of the everyday can act as ‘micro spaces’ for positive intercultural encounters to occur (Leitner 2012; Neal et al. 2015). Places of the natural environment also act as sites for ‘restorative’ and ‘reﬂective’ nostalgia (Boym 2001, 41 & 49; Rishbeth and Finney 2006) that support positive memories to form in the new place, which con- tributes to feelings of place-attachment and home. Boym (2001, xiii) deﬁnes nostalgia as a form of ‘longing for a home that no longer exists or never has existed … a sentiment of loss and displacement … also a romance with one’s own fantasy’.Reﬂective nostalgia is focused on ‘individual and cultural memory’ through a process of looking to the past, while restorative nostalgia involves acknowledging and integrating one’s ‘past and future’ (Boym 2001, 49). This article expands on concepts of reﬂective and restorative nostalgia to demonstrate how places of the natural environment also support the rebuilding of place-based bonds through both reﬂective and restorative memory formation, encouraging greater feelings of place-attachment and home during rural humanitarian migrant settlement. Natural places and place-attachment As highlighted by Phillips and Robinson (2015, 410), places are ‘imbued’ with personal histories that are constructed and experienced through a variety of ‘place-based identities engagements, experiences, community attachments, and belonging’. The relationship between concepts such as ‘place-identity’ (Hiruy 2009; Chawla and Jones 2015), ‘place- attachment’ (Altman and Low 1992; Waite and Cook 2011), ‘place-making’ (Sampson and Giﬀord 2010; Lew 2017) and ‘place-belongingness’ (Antonsich 2010; Williamson 2016) have been raised by human geographers and environmental psychologists within humanitarian migrant settlement in the past. Such concepts highlight the signiﬁ- cance of people’s relationship to place(s), while also drawing attention to the interactions and relationships that occur within them. Many modern perceptions of place have also shaped its status as something that is no longer ﬁxed or bounded within particular geographic territories, but rather exists within an ‘imagined arena’ where movements and multiple social actors collide (Yuan 2014, 19). Some transnational scholars contest people’s sense of belonging as it is rooted to local place attachment (Savage, Bagnall and Longhurst 2005), but rather existing ‘here and there’ across multiple spatial boundaries and locations (Morley 2001; Hannerz 2002; Waite and Cook 2011). However, there is evidence to suggest that local place attach- ments, particularly for migrant and humanitarian migrant communities, still plays an important role in one’s sense of belonging (Spicer 2008; Huizinga and van Hoven 2018). There is a need to further examine how social connections and a sense of belong- ing are formed across rural places (Phillips and Robinson 2015; Grant and Walker 2021), particularly to better understand how people from humanitarian migrant backgrounds build new relationships, ‘territorial ties’ and a sense of ‘re-rooting’ in place (Egoz and De Nardi 2017, 578). Previous studies have addressed the restorative eﬀects that engagement in natural environments and ‘connecting to the land’ has in rebuilding feelings of place-attachment 4 S. FAULKNER to those who have experienced a disruption in their emotional bonds with place (Harris, Minniss and Somerset 2014; Kale 2019). Mundell (2019, xiv) describes ‘topocide’ as when the ties between people and places are broken involuntarily or unexpectedly either through a traumatic event or experiences of displacement. For a number of those from humanitarian migrant backgrounds, experiences of topocide can disrupt many of the place-based bonds and attachments that contribute to feelings of belonging (Hiruy 2009). The impacts of the Civil War and subsequent years of precarity, instability and increased movement for a number of Syrian humanitarian migrants can aﬀect the bonds felt or built across place(s) (Paudyal, Tattan and Cooper 2021). Such experiences can lead to the disruption of one’s sense of self and their relationship to notions of place, belonging and home (Boochani 2019; Mundell 2019). Topocide can aﬀect the presence or ability for someone to feel a sense of ‘place-attachment’,deﬁned as the emotional, sym- bolic and cognitive bonds that people feel for place(s) (Altman and Low 1992). Place- attachment suggests ‘a deeper reﬂective resonance with speciﬁc locations’, which can be organised into ‘dimensions of person’ and ‘psychological processes emotionally or cognitively’ (Powell and Rishbeth 2012, 162). Powell and Rishbeth (2012) acknowledge the signiﬁcant role that place-attachment plays for migrants and humanitarian migrants by addressing the individual connections that people build with place, the role of mem- ories, generational change, as well as positive and negative experiences. Despite the destruction of many place-based bonds or attachments, Sampson and Giﬀord (2010)and Kale (2019) remind us that it does not mean that those from a humanitarian migrant background are unable to rebuild feelings of place-attachment again. Experiences and memories built within a place can have a restorative eﬀect that acknowledges place-attachment as a ‘temporal process … one which acknowledges and potentially reﬂects ongoing change in the experiences of individuals’ (Rishbeth and Finney 2006,162). Placecan,therefore,becomeappreciated assomethingthatisalso ‘subjective and practiced’, that which can become created and recreated again by the interactions between those within them (Phillips and Robinson 2015, 410). The concept of nostalgia, memory formation and reformation has been deﬁned as involving both ‘reﬂective’ and ‘restorative’ processes of looking to both the past and future (Boym 2001, 41 & 49). This article wishes to expand on such concepts of reﬂective and restorative nostalgia by arguing that places of the natural environment can also support the rebuilding of place-based bonds and feelings of place-attachment. Within Egoz and De Nardi (2017, 579), feelings of belonging through individual responses to the landscape are strongly inﬂuenced by personal meanings along with the lived experiences that occur within them. Similarly for many Syrian participants in Newfoundland, a level of engagement and connection to the island’s landscape was often shaped by their past and present experiences across a variety of places. While the reﬂective aspect of place(s) appears across a number of participant narratives, restorative memories often play a more inﬂu- ential role to support feelings of home in new places of settlement. Methods and study area This research was taken from nine months of ethnographic ﬁeldwork completed as part of my PhD. From January until September 2020 I resided on the island of Newfoundland AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHER 5 and undertook a form of ‘friendship ethnography’ (Brown 2018)or ‘friendship as a method’ (Tillmann-Healy 2006) that encouraged a level of active participation with par- ticipants. As a former resident to the island of Newfoundland I had a level of local knowl- edge to the place that supported the ﬁeldwork process. Across the months of ethnographic ﬁeldwork I took part in a variety of ‘non-sedentary’ methods to encourage a form of ‘co-experience’ (Mendoza and Morén-Alegret 2013), such as volunteering at various conversation circles, women’s groups, and on a local farm with two Syrian par- ticipants. To supplement the ﬁeldwork, 18 interviews were conducted in English with 28 Syrian participants and 14 interviews with community stakeholders. Three interviews with ﬁve participants were conducted with the aid of a translator, two of which required direct Arabic to English translation. Syrian participants were aged between 18 and 60 years of age and came from a variety of demographic backgrounds, including gender, age, education, employment, language acquisition, religious and ethnic identity, time lived on the island, and 5,6 form of sponsorship. While several participants came from a variety of rural com- munities across Syria, the majority came from the cities and surrounding villages of Darra, Aleppo and Damascus, with an additional number coming from the Kurdish region to the North. Of the 28 participants 11 were female and 17 were male. All par- ticipants had been settled on the island from a range of 8 months to 5 years across ﬁve diﬀerent settlement communities across east, west and central Newfoundland. Whilst four out of the ﬁve communities included in this study fall below the deﬁned par- ameters of rural according to Statistics Canada (2018)deﬁnition of a Census Metropo- litan Area (CMA) , St. John’s exceeds it with a population of 212,579 (Canada 2022). However, despite being the largest city in Newfoundland , St. John’s still exists as more of a ‘small urban centre’ deﬁned by its ‘sense of social and physical isolation’ (El-Bialy and Mulay 2015, 58). Community stakeholders participating in this study included former settlement workers, employers, secondary support agencies, government oﬃcials, and private sponsors. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ethnographic research and format for interviews had to take a blended approach of both online and in-person methods. Fourteen of the 36 interviews were conducted using a variety of online video-chat programs that were chosen by participants, such as Skype, Zoom, Google, Facetime and Facebook Messenger (Lo Iacono, Symonds and Brown 2016). To bridge some of the relational and linguistic barriers to online methods, a form of elected photo elicitation (Harper 2002; Clark- Ibáñez 2004) was oﬀered to my participants, which aimed to encourage dialogue and shared story telling (Castleden, Garvin and First Nation 2008; Gieseking 2013). Six Syrian participants elected to share photos in advance to the virtual interviews, while a further six participants took part in a form of scroll back method (Robards and Lincoln 2017) to aid the conversational ﬂow. Data was coded for themes within NVivo using Braun and Clarke’s Thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006). All inter- views were individually transcribed and then shared with participants for further vali- dation (Steimel 2016). Primary consultations on the initial ﬁndings were also conducted with eight participants to avoid misrepresentation of the results (Bryman 2003) and encourage a form of active participation (Kumar 2002). Time spent connecting to various people and places exempliﬁed the role played by the natural environment on narratives of home. 6 S. FAULKNER Findings This article will ﬁrst brieﬂy discuss the role of natural elements on the island, including the role of its landscape and weather on reﬂective and restorative memory formation. The role of natural place(s) as sources of peace and reﬂective memories will then be highlighted before addressing the social and restorative role natural place(s) play across participant narratives of home and belonging. The natural island and its weather Omar and Amina started to talk of all the places they like to visit in Newfoundland and all the photos in their phones of places like Topsail Beach, Northern Bay sands, the Bell Island Ferry, and Topsail Bluﬀ. They spoke of all the day trips they took across Newfoundland and of picnics on the beach … photos of all the diﬀerent places where nature was a central com- ponent. Photos of icebergs, beaches, and caves … It was seeing how passionate they were in sharing these photos of natural places that is making me consider its potential signiﬁcance. Excerpt from Fieldnotes, February 16, 2020 Across narratives of home and belonging, the love for the beauty and scenery of the island’s natural landscape was expressed by the majority of participants. For participants like Mohammad, Karima and Houmam there was an expressed love for the island’s environment that supported their feelings of connection to the place: I love the landscape … Yeah. The beauty of the nature here are really, really nice. Even the snow. Like, you see the beauty of the snow, like everything is white Mohammad, male, 30s I loved the nature … When we see nature we are happy, yeah. So, I was missing this nature. And when I came here, ﬁnd this nature, beautiful nature here, so I loved it Karima, female, 40s It’s a beautiful place. The nature here is so beautiful Houmam, male, 30s Beyond their admiration for the beauty of the landscape, place(s) of the rural island environment also played a practical element in encouraging further opportunities for positive social encounters. Newfoundland’s natural environment is marked primarily by a maritime climate with long, harsh winters and mild summers. Challenges of the island’s weather have been noted as contributing to decisions by humanitarian migrants and migrants to leave in the past (Fang et al. 2018). During the ﬁeldwork process, the impact of the record breaking snow- storm in January 2020, colloquially known as snowaggeddon (Telegram 2020), was a sig- niﬁcant example of the weather’s impact on residents’ day-to-day lives. While snow can exacerbate spatial barriers and feelings of isolation, it also helped to facilitate some positive intercultural exchanges. Despite challenges of the island weather, it was not highlighted as AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHER 7 a factor inhibiting Syrian participants’ sense of belonging to the place, nor their decision(s) to stay or leave. Syrian student Bashar spoke about his perceptions of the weather in New- foundland and its inﬂuence on Syrians who have settled there: I mean, the weather of Newfoundland … like the thing with it is that it takes a long time to get ‘summer’… But like, it’s not a severe winter … And so, we can’t say that’s a barrier … And something important here is that, like most of the Syrians are handy people … So, like snow blowing or let’s say anything else is like something they enjoy doing because they’ve done similar things, maybe not with the snow, but similar things back in Syria. Yeah. So, I don’t think that’s a barrier actually … maybe yeah having a long, long winter is something we all don’t like, but that includes Newfoundlanders, right? I mean not only Syrians. Khalid, male, 30s When asked what brought people in Newfoundland together, one community stake- holder commented that it was the shared challenge of the weather that often provided the source of bonding between groups: I think when you move to Newfoundland, you have to, whether you lived in Newfoundland or were raised in Newfoundland … weather is challenging. Remoteness is challenging. Those are pieces that often bond people. Not always … But I do think there is this mentality that, you know, we’re all here on this island regardless of where we came from. Community stakeholder Sandra, female, 30s While the perspective of Newfoundland’s weather being adverse, cold and challenging was shared by a majority of participants, several also expressed their fondness for the snow and how it brought moments to reconnect with old traditions, spend time with family, and build relationships with neighbours. In one conversation with husband- and-wife Farouq and Jameela they spoke about their love for the snow and how it facili- tated drinking cocoa and encouraging reﬂective memories from times past: I love snow! … I still love snow. Sometimes I hate snow because shovelling last year. But no, I love snow … We drink cocoa with the snow … We put in the glass and with the cocoa, it’s really really delicious … Yes in my home country when … one time is snow, we make, we bring the snow and we put the syrup and eating in my home country. But here, you can do it every day because all seven months is snow. Farouq, male, 40s Father Ahmed spoke of the positive moments experienced with his family in the snow and how despite the need to shovel it has not been ‘too bad’ and ‘beautiful actually’: But actually after we arrived the snow, was enjoyed … not a problem … everything ok after it snowed. We enjoyed actually outside. My wife, all. We glowed, we play, we throw each 8 S. FAULKNER other by snow. So, beautiful actually … We just shovel … But is not too bad. That was our experience with snow. Ahmed, male, 40s Time spent in ‘the snow’ also provided opportunities for people to converse with neighbours and have social exchanges that in some cases led to long-lasting relationships. Similar toﬁnd- ings within Kale (2019) is the instances of ‘everyday happenstance’ that encourage diverse individuals to engage with one another, ‘have fun, and broaden their sensory palate’. Ahmed chose to share the photo of his family and the neighbours sitting next to a snowman that they had built together during their ﬁrst winter on the island: Ok also that is also ﬁrst set snow man, ﬁrst building. Also all we were, were outside then actually in this day. Also there is kiddies from my neighbour here. Neighbours. Come for help us, learn us how can, how can building snow man. Ahmed, male, 40s Mohsen spoke about how digging out his car following ‘snowmaggedon’ helped to facili- tate positive social exchanges with his neighbours: Yes we know the people in front … like we speak about the situations and also when we shovel … we take a break and we chat. And actually this year, during the storm … like I couldn’t see my car and we were not able to get out of the house … and then my neighbours, like help me in order to shovel … And we started chatting about, they asked me where I am from and, yeah, it was, like, let me say the longest conversation. Mohsen, male, 30s For Abdul, the help he gave a neighbour to shovel out his car led to the establishment of an important friendship: One of my neighbours who lived next door to us is my best friend now … in our ﬁrst winter, I mean … one of my neighbour who lived next door to us was [Karl], and he was a teacher … And I saw him shovelling and I noticed that he is in a hurry because he wanted to go somewhere … And I said, ‘do you need help?’ And he said, ‘yes, please, come on. I’mina hurry and I have to go’. It wasn’t that … much bad, it just needed 5 min I guess. But he was in a hurry and I helped him and he said, ‘ah yeah, I should invite you for a cup of coﬀee later on’. And I said, ‘yeah don’t worry, don’t worry about it, just go’. And now we are, we are almost best friends. Abdul, male, 20s While not all Syrian participants expressed a love for the snow, for those who stayed it was not listed as a key barrier to their sense of home but more a challenge that was faced by everyone on the island. While there are notable spatial barriers presented by Newfoundland’s weather, the island’s natural climate and winter snow also helped to AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHER 9 encourage some positive moments of conviviality, as well as times of reﬂective and restorative memory formation. Place(s) of peace and reﬂective memories Archambault (2012) highlights how memories can be shaped and reformed in new places of settlement and across the ‘continuity’ of one’s past and new reality. For a few Syrian participants notions of home were sometimes referenced ‘in comparison’ to previous experiences and place(s) (Radford and Hetz 2020), in which the formation of new mem- ories can alter or shape memory conceptions and recollections. For some participants natural sites acted as place(s) for reﬂective nostalgia and a source of familiarity and comfort; either by prompting memories of similar landscapes from past home(s) or that of loved ones since passed. The prompting of nostalgic memories for loved ones passed was reﬂected on by participant Karima, who spoke of a particular hillside over the ocean that incited memories and a sense of re-connection to her mother: [hill] is amazing … I feel like I am free … My mom loved nature. And when I am on [hill] I will remember her … I will feel like, will feel that my mom is beside me … It’s very, very nice. And quiet. And I don’t know, I feel happy. Karima, female, 40s For Ahmed, different rivers, wooden bridges or markers of the natural landscape facili- tated a sense of remembrance and nostalgia towards place(s) in Syria that increased his sense of familiarity to place(s) in Newfoundland: There is also, in my hometown in Syria, there is river, big river as [river name] but bigger than here. Same thing. Same when I compare between my hometown and here … There is many trees also. But here there is big woods … So there is something similar. But in this days in Syria we go to … We go to trips, vacations. We go to BBQ beside the river. There is ﬁshing also, from river. I, there is many places here actually that is good for trip now’ Ahmed, male, 40s Abdulrazzak spoke about how he liked the seaside and how certain places, ‘like moun- tains with the sea … looked like part of Syria’. Natural place(s) also have a restorative aspect and can facilitate feelings of peace, tranquility and spiritual connection. For Hakim, visits to ‘the beach’ encouraged feelings of closeness to his God: At [the Beach] I comfortable when I go there. Because I see ocean. Like I’m talking with Him. What I have in my heart. Hakim, male, 40s Time spent across places in the natural environment have been shown to support the emotional recovery of those who have faced years of upheaval and trauma (Rose 2012; 10 S. FAULKNER White et al. 2013). Similarly, within Paudyal, Tattan and Cooper (2021, 5) there was an appreciation towards the health beneﬁts provided by nature among settled Syrian huma- nitarian migrants in the UK, in which ‘the use of nature as a form of healing’ was demonstrated. For Fatima and Hassan, they spoke about their love for the natural landscape of the island and how their favourite place, ‘the beach’, acts as a source of ‘therapy’: We just go there to talk … sometimes we just sit, have coﬀee and talk … [the beach] is our therapy. Fatima, female, 40s For Carim, time spent at a local river also provided moments of peace and quiet contem- plation where he could sit with his Hukkah and ‘think’: You sit down you watch trees, you watch river … it’s nice. Yes this I like it … I take my Hukkah and I sit down. Carim, male, 40s When Jamila arrived with her two young children 5 years ago, her family lived in a small apartment without its own greenspace. Reﬂecting on that time, Jamila spoke of how she spent most of those initial days visiting a small pond in the local area, a place where she ﬁnally felt that she could ‘breathe’: Every day we walk there when I have two kids … I’m sitting there with my husband and my kids playing. … yesterday I drop my friend to her home … I told her ‘when I came with her I feel, I feel I breathed here’. Because when I came ﬁrst time, I came there. Here is good, near for everything, it’s good place … when I go there I remember ﬁrst time when I came. Jamila, female, 30s For many participants feelings of peace and tranquility were often enhanced by the island’s vast natural landscape paired with a sense of ‘smallness’ that was enabled through it’s low-population density (Newfoundland & Labrador Statistics Agency 2018). Notions of Newfoundland being ‘like a village’ were often articulated by partici- pants, which enhanced their sense of safety that originated from its rural space. Syrian participants, like Huda, spoke about how they ‘feel happy that we are in a very peaceful space now’. For many participants who lived on the eastern side of the island, references to ‘the beach’; a particular beachside location on the perimeter of St. John’s, was high- lighted as a place that not only brought them a sense of peace and safety but also acted as a site for sociality, ‘conviviality’ (Boese and Philips 2017) and ‘pleasure’ (Kale 2019). For participants who lived outside of St. John’s this role was often ﬁlled by other natural place(s) of the local environment, such as a river, mountain or lake. AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHER 11 Place(s) of pleasure and sociality Natural places of the island’s environment can act as sites of ‘participatory practices’ (Phillips and Robinson 2015, 416) where new positive memory associations with the island can be built or restored. Activities tied to the natural environment can allow for important moments of connection to nature that encourage positive social interactions and physical activity (White et al. 2013;Wardetal. 2014). Such spaces can also exist as ‘places of pleasure’, often referred to as spaces for leisure or recreation, which can play a signiﬁcant role in enhan- cing wellbeing and ‘thriving’ during settlement (Kale 2019, 5). Within rural South Australia, Radford (2017)identiﬁed the important role held by ‘spaces of conviviality’ between settled Hazara Afghan humanitarian migrants and long-term residents as a way to strengthen posi- tive associations to place(s). Participant Omar spoke about the ‘habit’ of Syrian people to spend time outside in nature, in which the practice had both reﬂective and restorative aspects: Usually Syrian families love to get out of their house and spend time. Like, close to beaches, parks, go to playgrounds … And this is, this is as a habit … Like in our countries we used to do all of these activities. Omar, male, 40s A number of community stakeholders also observed this pattern amongst a number of settled Syrian humanitarian migrants and their families: But they like [the beach] … families just get together and spend their days. Like, they’ll do that probably once a week … It’s outside. I think outside nature … And the kids are just free to run around a lot … they get the barbecue started, they have two or three barbecues going … And it is a day of running around. The kids just playing, and eating, and having fun. And that’s what they love to do. They’ll just spend the whole day doing that. Community stakeholder Sandra, female, 50s While some participants noted some social exchanges presented during the winter snow, the majority spoke about time spent outside during the summer months, which helped them to navigate their relationship to their new place of settlement. For Emir different natural place(s) provided opportunities to engage in leisure activities and learn more about the habits of other residents in their new place: We just spend the summer, we go sometimes, you know to the river, to the beach … but it’s beautiful place. It’s good to, to go around and see new places. And see how the people make their activities, own activities. Their own sports in the nature. Emir, male, 40s In reﬂecting on the families’‘favourite place’ to visit, Jamila spoke about the beach as a place where they can ‘meet people’ and ‘make friends’ for her daughter. Jamila also spoke 12 S. FAULKNER about the many elements that made it conducive for her and other families to engage in various leisure activities there: We just go to the [the beach] to make BBQ … My kids love picnic. Yeah, we go there and my son loves to throw the rocks into the water … The kids like this ocean … they have bath- room there. And they have like … a little lake on this side, that kids can play with water here … It’s a lovely place. And the other side is more beautiful … like if you want BBQ they have space. Some people come and make big ﬁre and like sitting around. It’s more beautiful. Jamila, female, 30s For a number of participants it was often the positive memories built through opportu- nities for social connection and time spent with others in such natural place(s) that sup- ported their feelings of home to develop. When reﬂecting on her favourite memory since arriving in Newfoundland, Amina spoke about time spent on a day-trip to ‘the beach’ roasting marshmallows and conversing with friends: There was that time we went … lit ﬁre and do marshmallows. It was my ﬁrst time just bar- becuing marshmallows … So, it was really nice … I think being around the ﬁre and chatting with my friends … And the beach and you know, the ocean. It was all nice. It was a good day. Amina, female, 20s During the interview Omar shared a video of a group of Syrian ‘babas’ dancing and singing during a day-trip to the beach. Omar spoke about the beach as a place where he and his family spend most of their time socialising, which helps them cope with the increased separation from family and loved ones overseas: This is the main beach that we always go to … Because we go with families, like its good to go there. So we went with ﬁve families and did a big BBQ and that … We have a lot of mem- ories at [the beach]. We enjoy spending time with each other, especially when we are away from our relatives and our loved ones. Omar, male, 40s Speaking with Mohammad and Balnah, I asked whether the time they spent at the beach made a difference to how they felt about life in Newfoundland. Mohammad responded that being able to spend time with other families and ‘enjoy the summer’ helped them enjoy life on the island more, particularly after a winter that was often spent busy inside with ‘kids’ sport and school, and work’. During this interview many of Mohammad and Balnah’s teenage children were also present in the room and spoke very animatedly about their love for the beach. When asking why the beach was their favourite place, one of the daughters replied that it was because they visit this place almost every week with AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHER 13 other families, particularly in the summer months, and that it was a place where they have ‘a lot of [good] memories’. For the majority of Syrian participants the island’s land- scape was enjoyed for more than its scenic beauty, but also its ability to facilitate joint engagements with nature and social activities that aided in their reﬂective and restorative memory formation. Discussion The engagement of settled humanitarian migrants with natural places during rural settle- ment can support the development and restoration of feelings of place-attachment and home. This article expands upon the concept of nostalgia by arguing that the reﬂective and restorative memories built within place(s) of the natural environment go beyond feelings of ‘longing’ that deﬁne nostalgia and can support settled humanitarian migrants to build a sense of bondedness and attachment to their new place(s) of settlement. Natural place(s) exist as sites where new memories can ‘restore’ one’s sense of home in a new place, while also helping them to reﬂect on and navigate memories of the past. Memories and positive associations formed in natural places like ‘the beach’, ‘the hill’ and ‘the river’ supported many Syrian participants to build and re-build feelings of bondedness and home. Powell and Rishbeth (2012, 161) helped to raise the proﬁle on the importance of ‘everyday life experiences of individuals’ to facilitate belonging. Similarly, the ‘continuity and dislocation’ (Powell and Rishbeth 2012, 160) of memories formed and remembered through natural places plays an important role in encouraging greater feelings of place-attachment for many Syrian humanitarian migrants settling on the island of Newfoundland. Acknowledging how memories are shaped across the settle- ment journey can also help to acknowledge the ‘thread’ that links people’s past and present experiences (Archambault 2012). Places of the island’s natural environment can facilitate levels of everyday engagement in leisure activities, moments of sociality and conviviality, in which greater opportunities for positive associations and attachments to place can be built. Similar to Byrne and Goodall (2013) is how natural places act as both a social event, as well as an opportunity for Syrian participants to engage with aspects of the rural island’s natural environment. Participants spoke about how the many acts of leisure, sociality and conviviality at the beach, such as bonﬁres, family picnics and dancing have contributed to feelings of home. Place(s) in the natural landscape can help to facilitate such important ‘restorative experiences’ (Rishbeth and Finney 2006, 281) that also encourage feelings of peace and safety, which has been previously regarded as a critical component to feeling a sense of place belonging (Spicer 2008; Antonsich 2010; Ziaian et al. 2021). Similar to Paudyal, Tattan and Cooper (2021) is the role played by nature as a form of ‘healing’ in new places of settlement for Syrian humanitarian migrants. While some place-based memories can facilitate negative memories of trauma (Slewa-Younan et al. 2017; Bendjo, Karnilowicz and Gill 2019) many natural place(s) often brought positive reﬂections that encouraged feelings of familiarity and home across transnational bound- aries (Byrne and Goodall 2013). The relaying of memories within natural places was used as a means of looking back at their past lives while jointly identifying or rebuilding their sense of identity and belonging within their new place of settlement (Rishbeth and Finney 2006). The positive memories formed across natural place(s) highlights the 14 S. FAULKNER importance of humanitarian migrant engagement in the natural environment during rural settlement. While some rural communities may be lacking in social services or programs, the increased access to a diverse range of natural places can help address many perceived settlement gaps that such services can create. Whilst natural place(s) of Newfoundland often acted as sites where old memories of home could be reﬂected upon and new mem- ories of home be built, accessing such natural place(s) is often strained by limitations in public transportation or forms of independent transport. Restrictions in spatial mobility and access is a challenge that has been highlighted for rural settlement in the past (El- Bialy and Mulay 2015; Farber et al. 2018). Greater focus and priority needs to be made to help encourage and enable humanitarian migrant arrivals to access and engage with places of the natural environment. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there were also limitations in this research’s reliance on hybrid virtual and in-person approaches. Future research that undertakes more ‘mobile’ approaches or ‘go-along’ methods (Carpiano 2009) can help validate the important role of people’s experiences within and across place(s). Utilising photo elicitation in any virtual or online based quali- tative research that investigates humanitarian migrant settlement can also bring greater attention to the role played by settled humanitarian migrants’ engagement with place(s) during settlement and its inﬂuence on feelings of home and belonging. Notes 1. While the oﬃcial name for the province is Newfoundland and Labrador this study only explores the experience of people on the island of Newfoundland due to their geographical vastness and contextual diﬀerence between the individual places of Newfoundland and of Labrador. Therefore, sole use of the name ‘Newfoundland’ is deliberate. 2. On the island of Newfoundland, local residents are often colloquially referred to as ‘Newfoundlanders’. 3. The term ‘refugee’ is complex and a matter of personal identiﬁcation. The ethical and con- ceptual challenges of continuously referring to settled Syrian arrivals in Newfoundland as refugees can blanket those with diverse histories and identities into one homogenous group. Beyond aspects of its legal deﬁnition when a person is ‘no longer’ a refugee is also a matter of personal choice and identiﬁcation. It is mainly for the sake of continuity with other authors of this journal and respect for the complexity of the term ‘refugee’ that I use the term humanitarian migrant to describe those who have gone through the refugee experience and are now settled in Canada. The term ‘new Canadian’ is a phrase often applied to all new migrants in Newfoundland. Its reference to all migrants, however, includ- ing skilled migrant workers, became the deciding factor against its application. Recognising some of the unique challenges experienced by humanitarian migrants is relevant to this article. 4. In the fall of 2015 the photo of a 3-year old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach created greater public awareness towards the humanitarian crisis in Syria. This photo led to more widespread support for increased Syrian settlement and a pledge by the Trudeau Government to resettle an additional 25,000 Syrian humanitarian migrants by the end of 2016. 5. Canada’s Humanitarian Resettlement Program (RHRP) is subdivided under the Govern- ment-Assisted Refugee program (GAR), the Privately Sponsored Refugee program (PSR), the Joint Assistance Sponsorship program (JAS) and the Blended Visa Oﬃce-Referred program (BVOR). GAR participants are ﬁnancially sponsored by the Government of Canada for a period of 12 months, while PSR participants have the support of either a AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHER 15 Community of Sponsors, a Group of Five (ﬁve individuals who come together to sponsor) or another SAH for their ﬁrst 12 months of settlement. An SAH is an incorporated organis- ation that is oﬃcially recognised by the Government to resettle humanitarian migrants and includes religious ethnic, community or humanitarian organisations (Government of Canada 2019). A Community of Sponsors and Group of Five do not have to be an incorpor- ated body, but must live locally and undertake the primary ﬁnancial and personal respon- sibility of settlement during the ﬁrst 12 months. BVOR and JAS participants have the joint ﬁnancial support of the government and private sponsor (each responsible for 6 months of funding), but the private sponsor is primarily responsible for their settlement and wellbeing during the ﬁrst 12 months. 6. According to Statistics Canada (2018) a CMA is deﬁned as having a ‘total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more must live in the core … All areas inside the CMA or CA that are not population centers are rural areas’. 7. To protect participant anonymity and conﬁdentiality, pseudonyms are used. 8. ‘Snowmageddon’ was a colloquial term given to a large snowstorm that struck the island in January 2020. The impacts of the snowstorm resulted in the city of St. John’s declaring a State of Emergency for 5 days. Acknowledgements Special thanks to the International Council for Canadian Studies and the Australian and New Zealand Association for Canadian Studies for travel funding that supported this research. Thank you also to the Association for New Canadians (ANC), Memorial University of Newfound- land, and the University of South Australia for their academic support. Most importantly to all my participants, thank you for providing your important voices to the ﬁndings of this research. Disclosure statement No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author(s). Declaration of interest statement The author reports there are no competing interests to declare. Notes on contributor Sarah Faulkner is a PhD candidate with the University of South Australia. She works part-time as a research assistant and as a Project Lead for the Neighbourhood Circles Project. Her research interests include studies of place, rural settlement, social inclusion and belonging. 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Australian Geographer – Taylor & Francis
Published: Jun 1, 2023
Keywords: Place-belonging; home; place-attachment; humanitarian migrants; settlement; rural; nature
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