Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Molly McLaughlin

Whatever happened to the tradition of welcoming a new household to the neighbourhood with some home baked scones?

With Australia’s ageing population, large migrant communities, and Canberra’s high proportion of transient public servants, it is more important than ever for us to forge strong connections with our local community. However taking the first step towards building relationships can be tricky, which is why Relationships Australia supports Neighbour Day, which happened over the Easter weekend.

Andrew Heslop founded Neighbour Day in Melbourne in 2003, after the remains of an elderly woman were found inside her suburban home. Tragically, Mrs Elsie Brown had been dead for two years and no one had checked in with her. Her death brought attention to the problem of isolation facing many Australians, including the elderly and those with disabilities. Similar cases of people dying alone have been reported around the country since then, and in response Neighbour Day has grown to become an annual celebration of strong communities and friendly streets.

Lisa McCarron shares a house in Queanbeyan with her housemate and they celebrated Neighbour Day by having brunch with her neighbour, Glen.

“This is the first year I’ve heard about Neighbour Day and I think it’s such a good idea,” Lisa says. “I wish everybody had a neighbour like Glen! I’ve lived here for nine years and we’ve been friends since about eight years ago. He’s a very friendly, helpful, kind, thoughtful person. He mows our lawn for us because I have trouble doing it due to a I have a back problem. I know that he also has been very helpful to another neighbour who has a disability.”

Like a lot of neighbourhoods, Queanbeyan has become more developed and less connected over time, Lisa says. This lack of connection is due to our busy lifestyles that don’t leave much time for outdoor BBQs or walks around the block.

“A lot of the time you might see your neighbours as you’re heading off to work and you might give them a wave, but its not like when I grew up and everybody knew everybody,” Lisa says. “On one side of me we have an older couple who are lovely and are very generous with sharing the produce of their vegetable garden but on the other side we have a couple of townhouses. There’s not a lot of opportunity for random conversation.”

Lisa’s relationships with her neighbours are reciprocal. She thinks everyone can benefit from community involvement, and every day can be an opportunity to help others and yourself.

“I hate wasting food so whenever we have leftovers I know that Glen is always happy to take it off our hands so I don’t have to feel bad about throwing it out, and likewise I like to think if he ever needed our help he would contact us,” she explains. “I think running into people at the supermarket is a good way to meet your neighbours, if you recognise a face you can say hello. It is difficult, but of course if you notice someone new has moved in you can just knock on their door and introduce yourself!”

Relationships Australia also offers counselling and supports violence reduction and elder abuse prevention programs. Find out more here: www.relationships.org.au

Feature image by Martin Ollman


Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin is new to Canberra and is attempting to prove to her friends that the capital city can be cool. This mostly involves frequently going out for brunch and then posting about it on social media, along with trekking up hills and around art galleries. She is half way through her uni degree but spends most of her time reading, writing and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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