By Nick Tebbey, National Executive Officer, National Office February 2022
When I was growing up in the suburbs of Adelaide in South Australia, we knew our nearby neighbours well. The kids would play in the street together, and our parents would lend each other a hand: bringing in each other’s bins, collecting mail if a neighbour was on holidays, holding a spare key, and keeping an eye out for each other.
Throughout each year we would have occasional neighbourly gatherings – nothing big. A sausage sizzle, a garage sale or street cleanup – but in the main, we just waved, had the odd chat and lived side by side. Mostly harmoniously, but not always. No relationship is perfect; but knowing each other was helpful in managing issues before they become a problem.
We weren’t best friends with all our neighbours, but we were there when needed and it was important to know that. A missing dog, a car that wouldn’t start, an illness or death – if someone needed a hand – there would be someone to step up and help. In both the good times and the tough times, these relationships made a positive difference.
The world has changed a lot since then. Things move a lot quicker and everyone is busy. As an adult having recently moved to a new area last year with my wife and young son, it was so important that my family could experience a neighbourhood as I had when growing up – that feeling of connection – to feel safe and supported by our community.
On moving day, our new next door neighbour offered us his ute to help with the haul. Two days later, another family brought us a batch of cookies to welcome us. Another neighbour, a generous and kind hearted widower, started giving us toys that had been used by his children and grandchildren – what better, he thought, than for a new generation to find joy in these simple pleasures, like his family had?
Needless to say, we soon felt connected and supported, and that tradition has continued as families have moved in and out of our small suburban street. My wife and I take great joy in the fact that our son will grow up in a neighbourhood much like mine had been as a child.
This Neighbour Day, Relationships Australia is reaching out to everyone across the nation to promote sustainable, respectful relationships and social connections. Loneliness and social isolation continue to affect the health and wellbeing of Australians, and we need your help to shift the tide.
Neighbour Day is Relationships Australia’s social connection campaign that encourages people to build communities right across Australia – one relationship at a time.
Research shows that communities where people know each other have better mental health, are safer, and are more resilient. Connecting with people outside of your family and friends is important for tackling Australia’s loneliness crisis. Neighbour Day research has found that identifying strongly with multiple groups (such as neighbours, volunteering groups, sports etc.) is protective against loneliness and mental ill-health, and that connecting with your community improves your perception of your relationships with your family and friends (Cruwys et al. 2020).
Together with Neighbour Day, every Australian can play an important role building sustainable social connections and respectful relationships in our communities.
I invite you to participate and celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Neighbour Day. Together, we can help address loneliness across the country.
The Neighbour Day website has lots of information and free resources to assist with your engagement with this important opportunity. Register your Neighbour Day event, or neighbourly action, on our website, and help us in our mission of connecting communities across Australia.
Of course, the kinds of connections I enjoyed in my neighbourhood growing up, and that my son is now experiencing where we live, don’t happen on just one day – they evolve over time and can, and should, happen as often as you like. But we hope Neighbour Day this year will inspire you to reach out, reconnect, or build your existing relationships with your neighbours!
I hope to see you joining in this Neighbour Day, and every day.