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Introduction

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Relationships Australia has been strongly advocating for increased awareness of the benefits of social connection and the risks of poor mental and physical health associated with social disconnection.  One factor that has not received as much attention is the effect of neighbour disputes in damaging social capital and reducing community connectedness.

Many community legal centres and local governments are reporting increases in the number of neighbour disputes over the past few years.  Increasingly, conflict between neighbours has been associated with increasing housing density as the Australian population grows, particularly in expanding major cities[1].

In 2012, the South Australian Legal Services Commission reported neighbour disputes as the primary reason people sought information from the Commission, with more than half of neighbourhood disputes involving conflict about fences, encroachments and retaining walls.  Each year, thousands of noise complaints are also reported to local councils, police and state mediation authorities (Kemp, 2012).

People who are negatively affected by a neighbour have three main avenues open to them to resolve the issue.  Many services advise the best course of action is to try to resolve the issue through a personal approach such as talking with your neighbour and sorting it out in a friendly and informal way.  If the problem remains unresolved, you may have an option for formal mediation or legal avenues.  Many regulatory bodies are also turning to alternative dispute resolution models to providing a more cost-effective, faster approach that limit negative impacts on neighbour relationships.

Relationships Australia’s March 2019 online survey sought to discover whether visitors to our website have experienced conflict with their neighbours and understand common avenues used to resolve disputes.



[1] For example, see www.qld.gov.au/law/housing-and-neighbours/disputes-about-fences-trees-and-buildings, and City of Sydney (2013)

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites