The term community has two distinct meanings: 1) A group of interacting people, living in some proximity (i.e., in space, time, or relationship). Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a household that shares common values and has social cohesion. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and, 2) in biology, a community is a group of interacting livingorganisms sharing a populated environment. A community is a group or society, helping each other.
In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.
Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community has less geographical limitation, as people can now gather virtually in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location. Prior to the internet, virtual communities (like social or academic organizations) were far more limited by the constraints of available communication and transportation technologies.
The word "community" is derived from the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, "with/together" +munus, "gift"), a broad term for fellowship or organized society. Some examples of community service is to help in church, tutoring, hospitals, etc.
The concept of ‘community’ also needs careful examination in the context of CDEP. The term is widely used both by government and by Indigenous people and their organisations. Indigenous individuals and organisations will legitimate their position by reference to being community based. Equally, governments seek what they term ‘community support’ for their policies, and will legitimate policy changes in terms of this supposed support. However, Indigenous communities are highly complex and internally differentiated (see Frances Peters-Little, Ch. 19, this volume). Their existence as communities of interest is constituted largely in relation to the outside world. Their populations are differentiated in terms of the factors which continue to inform Indigenous political, social and economic relations—connections with ancestral lands and language, personal and group histories, ethnicity, and bearing on all of these, family and other local group affiliations. Above all else, a fundamental component of Indigenous societies across Australia is the ‘family’. Indigenous families however are not to be understood as merely ‘extended’ versions of non-Indigenous families. They are based on principles, in particular that of descent, which demonstrate direct continuity with the land-holding structures of pre-colonial Indigenous societies. They form the basic political, social and economic units of contemporary Indigenous society. Indigenous people typically do not operate in terms of their ‘community’; rather, their place in the Indigenous world, and their responses to the non-Indigenous society, are established through their place as a member of their particular family (Sutton 1998: 55ff).
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