Tell Us Your Story – 2015 competition winners

National Winner – Emma from South Australia

The community I want REALLY is at my front door!

Three years ago I moved into a somewhat disconnected, housing trust suburb with an aging population. I was inspired to run a Neighbour Day event to promote a more connected community and further develop community safety and engagement.

I thought about running it in my street, but then realised I was passionate about ALL the people in my suburb – so I invited everyone! This year I ran my second Neighbour Day event, letterboxing the whole suburb to invite them along to a morning tea in the park!

Being young, I hoped to be able to connect with some of the people who had lived in the area for a number of years, and new families moving in like myself – and I did and it was GREAT! As I chatted with the neighbours, some approached our park morning tea tentatively, but left happy, with full tummies and feeling connected having met new people.

They were so thrilled to have an avenue to get out of the house and connect with new people, meet new families and have an avenue to share ideas about creating a more vibrant and safe community. I spent hours preparing a delicious morning tea for everyone as I didn’t want there to be any barriers to people being able to come along and share with us.

I also included an opportunity for people to put their details down to be included in future events and give feedback on the event and their feeling about our neighbourhood. I had great feedback that people thought it was brilliantly organised, a great idea and they were keen to sign up in other ways to support our neighbourhood be more safe, green and vibrantly connected! (My three passions for the area)

I was able to send them details about volunteering opportunities in the area (as I am also a graffiti removal volunteer and have run a Clean Up Day here too) and fed the feedback from the community anonymously into the local council to help them make informed decisions based on its people.

As a grass roots event I have great hopes to run this year on year and see those who are isolated in my community, connected and those who are new to feel welcome and safe, surrounded by a vibrant group of neighbours. It really is true, I started this out all on my own, and it took a huge effort to pull the event together – but the community I want REALLY is at my front door!

 

State and Territory winners

 

Winner – Cameron (aged 10)

I think my neighbourhood is special

I think my neighbourhood is special because every afternoon – when a school day doesn’t follow –most of us head out the front. As the adults sit and talk, we kids play on our neighbour’s trampoline.

Every time it rains we play in the puddles and fill up buckets and wheelbarrows with water. Then we fill up our guns with the water and have a big water fight.
In our street there are lots of big shady leopard trees. They are great for playing underneath. We earn ice blocks for cleaning up the seed pods that lie on the road.

We all have beautiful gardens in our street and we share plants with each other.

In our neighbourhood when someone goes away on holiday someone else looks after their house, rubbish bins and mail. We also take care of their pets.

On New Year’s Eve the kids play and the adults sit around talking all the time. We also have a barbeque on the street with all our neighbours. On Australia day we have a sausage sizzle. During Easter we give chocolate Easter Eggs and chocolate Easter bunnies to our friends in the neighbourhood. We also give presents to each other during Christmas and there is also a magnificent Christmas light show. Lots of cars come.

When it’s someone’s birthday in the neighbourhood we have a party for them. We get them presents and have a cake. For my birthday, Mum took a photo of me then put it on paddle pop sticks. She hid them in the garden and when we found them we got a chocolate or a lolly.

There are two parks really close to our street which we go to a lot. They are called Pooh Bear and Sovoda Parks. We are able to walk to our local school which is only about 2km or 10 minutes away. It is good exercise.

Over the road from us is a big old house that is being knocked down. There are going to be five new houses built. We organised a petition to try and avoid that. We held meetings and lots of neighbours came but sadly we lost. I guess we’ll get some new neighbours to have fun with now.

Every afternoon, heaps of dogs go past on their walk. Our neighbour’s dog has lots of friends. There’s Ruby, who is so lazy that she has a pram to ride in. She actually has arthritis. Then there’s the General, whose owner drives beside him on a motorised wheel chair. He is sort of a poodle. Next, there’s Hairy McClarey who is really hairy. Lastly, there’s Jacky who’s very scared of us when we try to pat him. We love the dog parade.

So that’s why I think my neighbourhood is special.

 

Winner – Jan

Building a community where we look out for each other is a priority

We have been living in our current house for just on three years now, but we didn’t know many of our neighbours.  This is the first time we have hosted a Neighbour Day party and we were overwhelmed by how many people came.

We put it down to the personal touch where my husband and son knocked on each door to hand deliver the invitations.  We asked everyone to bring a plate to share, which made it very easy to host. We simply provided the venue, fire pit, drinks, music and good company.

Being known in our community is really important to our family as our son, being the curious soul that he is, often explores the neighbourhood neglecting to tell us. This can create some worry for our family of 6, so connecting with our neighbours and building a community where we all look out for each other is a priority.

We have many elderly neighbours as well as many families with children of varying ages. Our Neighbour Day party welcomed new neighbours, connected families with young children with teenage babysitters, it also heighten our awareness by offering to help out our elderly neighbours with mowing their lawn, hanging out the washing or simply dropping by to share a cup of tea.

Getting to know each other by sharing interests over a drink can be the catalyst for the beginning of friendships.

This is the beginning of an annual event in our neighbourhood that will strengthen our community to look out for each other and thrive.

 

Winner – Lola

Ruth is a very special neighbour

I am writing to you about my neighbour; Ruth.

Ruth has been my neighbour since 1966. I was 20 years old and married when I moved next door with my first child Anthony. We have been friends all these years with our children growing up. Ruth was married with three children attending the local school where she was very busy with the Parents & Friends committee. We have also played sport together including golf, badminton, tennis and now bowls.

We have looked after one another when sick or problems arise – including cooking a meal to help out if necessary.

Ruth has been involved with various committees and worked very hard with the Nursing Home Board, the Health and Community Auxiliary as secretary, President of our Neighbourhood Watch, and a member of our unit block committee.

In later years Ruth looked after her mother who was frail in her late years and her husband, Brian, who died about 20 years ago. After all that, her son Rodney was diagnosed with MS at age 26 and she looked after him nonstop with many hours of work and little assistance for 20 years until he died around 15 months ago. So now she can have some time that she has missed out on all those years.

Due to both of us losing our husbands, we have stayed close neighbours and do lots of fundraising together to help our community where possible. I take Ruth out for drives as her health has not been good these last couple of years. We also have lunch – drive to Hobart or attend some show that may be taking place.

We check one another if blinds are not open, or washing on the line that needs to be taken off. We look after each other’s homes if one goes away, taste each other’s cooking to see if we need to criticise each other, and help start each other’s mowers if there is a problem or borrow tools.

She is a very special neighbour.

 

Winner – Liz

We live in an amazing suburb

We live in an amazing suburb. It is a new master-built suburb. We have been here for five years. The longest anyone has been here is for nine years. When we first heard about ‘Neighbour Day’ we thought it was wonderful to have an excuse to get to know our neighbours better.

For the last few years we have hosted an afternoon tea for our neighbours, knocking on doors to invite people meant that we met people we had not already met. But we found that a majority of the people who actually came to the event were people we had already formed relationships with. However they had not met each other so being able to introduce them to each other really helped to build community.

This year we did not have time for such an event so we baked some cookies and took them around to our neighbours. Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was meeting some of our neighbours for the first time. Not only were we able to meet them but it was the day after they had moved into the suburb, so we were also able to let them know about other activities happening in our wonderful community. While we were there we met their next door neighbours for the first time and were able to introduce them to one another.

We look forward to ‘Neighbour Day’ every year to help build on the relationships that help create our amazing suburb.

 

 

Winner – Naomi

A connected neighbourhood has so many benefits

Although a lot of the kids in the neighbourhood are well connected (often playing together in one another’s back yard, riding bikes and scooters out on the street) the adults haven’t really spent much time together. In addition, there are some families with or without children, that aren’t known in the neighbourhood much at all.

As a family, we decided to send out invitations to neighbourhood day to about 12 houses in our “end of the street”. Thankfully a few families who we hadn’t met before could make it – including one couple who have only just moved in a few months ago (and we were yet to formally meet).

It was lovely to connect with the new neighbours and chat with them about their experiences. They have travelled extensively and have recently moved from Queensland. The lady from that house dressed up as Easter bunny and delivered Easter eggs to the kids. She immediately became a crowd favourite. We also learned that she doesn’t have great health, so I think it is pivotal that Neighbour Day brought us together so that as neighbours we know to keep an eye on her and be there if she needs anything.

Another family came that we hadn’t met before. They have kids around the same age as our own and they hadn’t had a chance to meet the other kids in the neighbourhood.  It was great for us as adults to meet one another and also a fantastic opportunity for the kids to establish a connection too. Since Neighbour Day, those kids have joined the cohort of kids playing out in the street.

It was a lovely afternoon and certainly strengthened connections within our fabulous street. Having a connected neighbourhood has so many benefits for young and old.

 

Winner – Janet

 For a group of strangers we had some amazing connections

We decided to combine gardening and neighbouring in the one event. We involved our now defunct Neighbourhood watch theme of safety with the ND theme of getting to know your neighbours.

We also made it a family event and believe many more people came because we had some fun child friendly planting, great free morning tea and added a short bush walk in at the end.

By having a definite start and finish time worked well as we were finished by 11am which gave people time to fit in their 1000 other activities. Another tip was we said come whenever you like for as long as you want so over the course of the morning we had lots of pop ins and outs.

I was assigned to meet and greet and our initial plan of getting everyone together at the beginning didn’t work but the morning tea at 10.30am certainly did.

We managed to sew some poppy and tatsoi seeds, plant out some broccoli seedlings and harvest the last of our tomato crop (always hurts when there are still some green ones on the vine!).

For a group of strangers we had some amazing connections. One of our regular gardeners recognised two of the new comers as her ex-students, and another lovely newbie recognised my surname and was a great pal of my father in law and had some amazing stories to tell me about him.

A roaring success we plan to repeat next year.

 

Winner – Pete

Thank you for accepting us, warts and all

“Friendly” and “welcoming” –what more could you want from your neighbours? The Australian sense of belonging is part of the Aussie DNA that makes up our town. We had left close friends and family behind in England and knew no-one when we arrived in Perth in 2009.

Becoming Aussies was our dream and combined with the generosity of spirit we encountered in both our local community and church, we decided to make this new town our home. The transition to life in Australia was not always smooth sailing but with the support of our friends and neighbours we embraced Aussie life.

Simply to “hang out” is an important aspect to us and our neighbours and we regularly “hang out” out in the cul-de-sac together. As one of our neighbours from NZ said – “Thank you for accepting us, warts and all.”

Our street has a multicultural make-up and in itself provides an immediate sense of belonging. We encourage our children to have the same principles of neighbourliness and apply them to all situations they encounter in their daily lives; acting as representatives of their neighbourhood.
Our extraordinary neighbourly act is that basic act of friendship and welcoming and our immediate neighbours David and Carol epitomise this. When we go away, they genuinely miss us, looking after the house and our cats. When we return they welcome us home waving flags and drinking champagne with us. There are also the small day to day acts, such as lending tools, cutting the grass, sharing their lemon tree and offering a friendly wave and hello.

This is what I believe it means to be Australian, a sense of friendship and belonging and showing that a small amount of effort goes a long way to turning your street into a neighbourhood.

 

Winner – Jonathon

Supporting family friendly gatherings of local people in Larapinta

A Neighbour Day event was held in the Lyndavale Park in the suburb of Larapinta in Alice Springs on Sunday 29 March 2015. The event was organised by two Larapinta locals.

Locals were invited to come down to the park on the Sunday afternoon to share a cuppa, play some games and enjoy the play equipment in the park. A letterbox drop to around 300 homes in the vicinity, and the event was promoted through local schools and flyers at the local shop.

Fifty people attended the event. A number of families visited the park for the very first time (despite living very close to it). Many people met for the first time, including some people who lived in the same court.

Those who attended enjoyed sitting and having a cuppa, playing badminton or having a kick of footy with their children. Children played on the play equipment and the event had a wonderful family friendly atmosphere. A fun quiz testing local knowledge was held, with the winner receiving a Neighbour Day tea-towel signed by locals who attended.

There was a mix of nationalities represented – Aboriginal people, Anglo-Australia, Indian, German and Quebecan. There were also a range of ages represented as well – from young babies and children to people in their sixties and seventies attending.

At the event, an opportunity was provided for people to contribute ideas for future events to be held in the area, and to be involved in planning for future events. A number of people contributed to this with ideas of tree planting, a community garden, a Lantern Walk, and a Larapinta ‘bake-off’.

As a result of this, an initial meeting has been held with two locals and a local environmental organisation to discuss what might be involved in the development of a local community garden. In addition, a meeting of 5 interested locals has occurred to plan another community event – a Night Time Lantern Walk (A German Tradition) in the local park, to occur sometime in the next two months.

With limited meeting places in the Larapinta area, these developments are very encouraging in terms of supporting family friendly gatherings of local people in Larapinta.