Tell Us Your Story Winners – Neighbour Day 2018

Eight compelling stories of neighbourly spirit won prizes in the annual Neighbour Day Tell Us Your Story competition.

The competition invites people to share their stories about a great neighbour, an amazing neighbourly act, or something they appreciate about the people in their neighbourhood.

This year we received entries from across Australia full of heart-warming stories of neighbourly support and generosity around this year’s theme of supporting children and young people in our communities.

National and NSW winner – Victoria

It maybe 2018, but the proverbial ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ has never been more true. My girls (10 and 7) are growing up in an inspiring neighbourhood community. Our neighbourhood reminds us that families come in all shapes and sizes and cultural diversity is the norm- important life lessons for any child.
Our street gatherings (driveway drinks) are legendary. While sausages cook on the BBQ, the grownups chat and our kids play. Taking turns patiently, compromising and showing kindness to each other.
They share skateboards, bikes and scooters without hesitation, laughing raucously as they race down the street.
The older kids teach the younger ones how to play street cricket. When the game suddenly stops, it is to gently usher a toddler out of harm’s way.
Our neighbours who no longer work are there to help out those of us still juggling modern family life. They collect kids from school when mum or dad are held up. They are there with a roast dinner at the end of a long week or when someone is sick. They feed the pet cats, dogs, chickens and lizards when families are away.
When I ask my girls, who they would go to in an emergency, without hesitation they respond…Sue. Sue is our neighbour who doesn’t have kids of her own but is ‘aunty’ to so many lucky children in our street.
My girls are blessed knowing that they our safe in our street, surrounded by neighbours who genuinely care.

Special ‘New Neighbour’ winner – Faiz

What fantastic neighbours, I cannot explain – 250 words is not enough to write a story. My name is Faiz and I came to Australia on 17 May 2015 from the city of Karachi in Pakistan. My three brother-in-laws and their wives and children came to Brisbane Airport to receive me and my wife, son and daughter. My younger brother-in-law Farhan brought me to Hendra.  He was running the convenience store and working in a company in the city. He asked me take over the convenience store and run the business. I said okay and started work on 1 July 2015.   Professionally I am a travel consultant and I worked in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, I was running my own business Faiz Medical and general Store in Karachi until May 2015. My neighbours are very, very important to me. If your neighbours are happy with you – you are the happy guy. I always like to keep a very good relationship with all of my neighbours.  In 2017, I planned to invite my neighbours into my backyard and have a cup of tea with fresh home-made samosa and spring rolls. Around 55 adults and 12 children came to the event and they enjoyed themselves. This year’s arrangement was very good with around 105 adults and 18 children coming along and they enjoyed it very much. This was more than my expectation. Positive feedback received. My family and I enjoyed it too.

ACT winner – David

Since I moved to this neighbourhood, I noticed something different from where I had lived in the past.  When I go for a walk and cross paths with someone, we won’t just smile politely, we might stop and chat.  When I go to the local shops or cafe, neighbours will greet each other by name.  People don’t just recognise their neighbours, they know them.
My family wanted to put down roots here, so we actively sought out these connections.  We are raising young children here and we wanted them to feel a connection with our community.  We wanted them to feel safe in and around their home.  It’s not for everyone and that’s okay, but for those who are looking for something more, community can be found all around.
Our community tends to have a strong focus on young families, which is exactly what my family was looking for.  Local volunteers host free family events such as Easter Egg hunts or Halloween parties, and there is even a major Christmas fair, all organised by volunteers and funded by community fundraising efforts.
In the age of social media, we have over 2,000 people connected online in our community.  We look out for each other, share garden tools, remind people to put the bins out, organise Friday drinks, and more.  Our kite flying day had 60 people come down to the oval – the only thing missing was the wind! 

Northern Territory Winner – Stephanie

For many people in Darwin, Neighbour Day came early this year – Saturday 17th March. This was the day when Cyclone Marcus, a category 2 cyclone, hit town and wiped out many familiar landscapes, trees, fences, power and water supplies fell down. But this cyclone also revealed what stays standing tall in the Top End – its strong community spirit.
When the power went off during Cyclone Marcus, people connected with each other. Losing power gave people an excuse to start a conversation, maybe even meet for the first time. When fallen trees and debris literally stopped people in their tracks, people joined together to clear them out of the way – and in doing so they helped cement their community’s roots. After Marcus, people checked in on each other.  Like it or not, this shared experience brought neighbours closer.
Marcus serves to remind us how important it is to make connections with neighbours, to build better relationships with the people who live around us, to look out for and look after the elderly and vulnerable especially. Neighbours can and do transform places into communities. Strong communities can help prevent loneliness, isolation and depression.
Being a good neighbour can mean cutting your lawns, keeping the dogs quiet and looking after others property, but it’s also about making the time to stop for a chat, a cuppa, a shared picnic or attend that community event.
Neighbour Day really should be every day. It makes us all feel better about the world and our Territory.

Queensland winner – Faith

My 7-year-old son is on the spectrum, and has a beautiful connection with our neighbour Carol. Carol works two jobs with children with special needs, and then comes home to my son waiting to greet her enthusiastically, requesting to come over.
She lets him go walking with her and her greyhound Nellie, and at Easter she left the dog at home and took him to the park. She’s taught him basic car maintenance, house maintenance, yard work, and dog care. She’s brought such a richness to his life, which has been such a blessing when things have been tough for our family.
Carol is for my son what I had in our neighbour Una, many years ago in my hometown, and I am immensely thankful for having a neighbour like her.

Tasmanian Winner – Gina

We invited residents in our neighbourhood to join us in the local park for Neighbour Day. Thirty people attended the event.
We ran a Scavenger Hunt, with questions were geared towards health and safety, such as asking how far from the playground people could smoke, and what the speed limit is in a certain part of a street. Others identified local walking tracks and unique letterboxes that can serve as landmarks for children to get their bearings.
We had a pedal-powered smoothie bike at the event; blender powered by a stationary bike. The local kids loved it, pedalling hard to make healthy smoothies out of apple juice (from neighbour-donated apples), frozen bananas, and home-grown berries. The kids and adults alike enjoyed the smoothies, and were surprised to hear they only contained fruit, most of which was donated by neighbours from their own trees.
We made name tags for everyone who attended, so everyone could address one another by name and remember names, and were diligent in personally welcoming everyone to make them feel like a warmly welcomed friend.
I gave a short speech to share the purpose and theme of Neighbour Day. We were pleased that 15 local children and teenagers attended the event. They had a blast playing with the smoothie bike, completing the scavenger hunt and tearing around the park on scooters or in a soccer game. I personally now know the names of local kids and teens that I didn’t know before!

Victorian winner –  Jane

We live in a lovely area of Frankston with a park at the end of the street and four streets radiating from it. Usually the residents of our street get together in January for a catch-up in the Park.  This year we decided to get involved with Neighbour Day. With a small team of helpers, we sent invitations to all the residents in the block surrounding our park. The children coloured the invitations, we stuck magnets on each invitation and as we walked the dog, hand delivered over 160 invitations. We entered a Frankston Council competition and won a BBQ pack. This enabled us to set up BBQ’s and tables laden with salads and goodies to share. Over 30 people attended and we had a great time. We have young families and many elderly people and we always keep an eye out for each other.

Western Australian winner –  Cynthia

My bed was heaving. They scrummed and tossed pillows and doona to the wilds, flinging their bodies at me in that way only toddler boys do. I was breathlessly captivated in their laughter.  All until my two-year-old Oskar bounced just a little too high and cascaded head first onto the skirting board. Suddenly the wall was awash with blood. It squirted up the curtain, across the rug and all over me.  Shaking, I wrapped my boy’s head in a t-shirt. No one had warned me that the head bled like this! Will he be damaged? Will he survive? My second son George, screamed in his dirty nappy as I ran, calling out over my balcony into my neighbour’s front courtyard. She wasn’t home. Next, I yelled out across our tiny laneway with banshee madness that the whole world could hear.

“Karen! Kaaarren! Help Me!”

No sooner had I struggled with both howling boys down my stairs, that I heard the familiar rattle of Karen’s padlocked gate.

“What happened? It’s going to be OK. You just go now.”

And just like that she took my crying little baby.

I returned three hours later with Oskar whose head had been stapled back together. My shot Mummy nerves requiring more than one stiff drink. Karen bathed and comforted little George just like one of her own.  She tidied my kitchen and put dinner on the table. My neighbour Karen was my loving Mum that day.

*There was no winning entry for South Australia.