Tell Us Your Story Winners 2016

Cathy from New South Wales – national and state winner

This is a story about a lady named Sandra who lives in a Seniors Public Housing complex in Mt Druitt.

Sandra always has a smile on her face; she sees solutions where others see problems. Sandra will do anything to support or assist her fellow residents in her small community; running to the shops for them when they are sick or driving them to the hospital, if needed.

Sandra has been instrumental in bringing to life two very important projects in her community.

Firstly, she is a very active and influential participant in the ‘Young at Heart’ community group in her housing complex. The ‘Young at Heart’ group meets every month to discuss community issues and organise community events, such as a Saturday darts competition, a Melbourne Cup lunch and a Christmas lunch. This group has transformed the attitude of the residents who now have an active and positive focus on community events and projects.

Secondly, Sandra’s vision and determination has been essential in the creation of a fantastic community garden. Sandra would look out her window to the space below and dream about how wonderful it would be to have a garden to grow vegetables and flowers.

She brought her idea along to the first community meeting and, with support from community workers and other organisations including Community Greening (Royal Botanic Gardens Trust and Housing NSW), we now have a beautiful garden where any member of the community can source produce for their dinner table or just sit and relax. Using the vegetables from the garden, Sandra makes tomato and beetroot chutney which she shares with her neighbours.

The garden is now a focal point for the community and Sandra’s dream is now a reality. Sandra is an amazing example of a caring neighbour and how to build stronger neighbourhoods.

Fiona from Queensland – state winner

We met our neighbour Neil just before we moved into our house three years ago. Neil is now 90 years old. His wife, Pat passed away last year. When Pat was alive I would call over and visit her. She was a lovely lady who was unfortunately not able to do so much anymore. Her husband Neil had taken over the reins of cooking as well as caring for her.

Neil is a man who likes to keep busy. I once caught him up a ladder cleaning the gutters. Since Pat passed away we have become very close to Neil. We get him to come over on the weekends for what started as a cup of tea and has now moved onto a beer and sometimes some lovely sausage rolls made by Neil!

On Easter Saturday Neil arrived with a Guinness for my Irish husband and himself and cider for me, along with a platter full of nibbles. Oh and huge bags of Easter eggs for the kids!

What started out as being neighbourly and looking in on our elderly neighbours has morphed into a beautiful friendship with a lovely man. We are lucky to have him as our neighbour!

Tracy from South Australia – state winner

Springwood residents in Gawler East SA hosted their Neighbour Day event and with over 80 residents coming together it was a great success.

We hosted it at our local park and had face painting, kids’ activities, a coffee van, Easter egg hunts and much more. Throughout the morning we had other local members from Gawler come into Springwood, their children began to play with ours and we welcomed them to our event. Before they knew it they were getting a free coffee from the coffee van, eating hot cross buns, enjoying the kids’ face painting and joining in the egg and spoon race.

It was truly special to see the joy we brought to each of these families … there are no boundaries to where the neighbourhood ends we are all in this world together! We were very humbled and proud to have organised this event. Here’s to many more community events in Springwood, Gawler East!

Kelly from Victoria – state winner

When you buy a home, you may have done your homework on the neighbourhood, the schools, the parks, the transportation and the like. But do you knock on the doors of the people that live nearby and get to know them before you move in? Your neighbours are pot luck and have we hit the jackpot!

On Sunday March 20, our family opened up our front yard to the neighbourhood to celebrate Neighbour Day. Along with the help of family friends, we printed and distributed invitations to residents around our area to an afternoon tea. Having lived in the house for over 15 years, our immediate neighbours are like family to us, but we took this opportunity to grow the family.

Thirty people aged 18 months to 90 years came along. Some had been residents of the area since it was a market garden and others had known each other back then but hadn’t been in contact for years! We had neighbours come that had only moved to the area in the last 12 months and others that were just passing by on their Sunday walk and joined us for a cup of tea.

Since Neighbour Day our family has grown. And so has our sense of community. Get to know your neighbours! They truly make a house a home.

Kate from Victoria – special commendation

We didn’t meet over the fence or walking the dog or asking to borrow a cup of sugar.  We met at a local timber auction.  We laughed when we discovered we were neighbours; standing there in the winter sun, breathing in the smell of fresh wood shavings and dwarfed by those long slabs of roughly sawn timber.

They bought a slab of camphor laurel with a beautiful swirling knot and their little boy of two and a half, all blonde fly-away hair and big brown eyes, jumped in and out of the same puddle all afternoon, laughing his head off.  His name was Ryan.

Before the week was over, sweet Ryan would be lifeless and their whole world destroyed by an anguished, soul-shredding grief.

While I made cups of tea in numb silence for the flow of visitors, my husband slid past those bringing flowers and lemon slice. He ran his hands over that piece of camphor laurel and asked: “Can I make something for Ryan?”

It looked too small when it was wheeled into the old bluestone church.  It still looked too small afterwards when it was lowered into the ground.  We threw sprigs of electric-yellow wattle in after that swirl of camphor laurel, then forced our gaze upwards to watch a clutch of coloured balloons drift away.

Later they wrote: “There are not enough words to thank you. Our little boy Ryan will be surrounded by love forever.”

Serena from Western Australia – state winner

My neighbour’s John and Robyn are a phone call away for me, as I am for them. Everything from putting my bins away to advice on how to trim a tree is there for the asking.

I had a terrible fall a few weeks ago, twisted my ankle and injured my knee. I explained to John that I had fallen into a hole where the bore had been sunk. While I was at work one day, John (who has health issues) came around, filled the hole and compacted the ground. The hole is no longer! He sent a message to say it was done – so incredibly kind and selfless.

There are many other examples where they help out. I am so lucky to have great neighbours!

Sarah from the Northern Territory – state winner

Alice is a town of contrasts and great divides, but is a wonderful place to live. As residents of only two years, our family has fallen in love with this town, its people and surrounding landscapes. In our neighbourhood and on our street we have been fortunate to meet some wonderful people who have opened their gates, doors, pools, gardens and pizza ovens to us and shared some stories and meals.

With a transient population, neighbours come and go, but despite this, strong relationships are developed and lifelong friends made. Perhaps it is the shared isolation, love of the place or that it attracts the type of people who are community minded that makes it so neighbourly.

One of our neighbours moved in less than six months ago and were quick to introduce themselves and connect with us. They are a family with children much younger than ours, but in this short time we have shared many a meal and the kids now jump on their bikes and scooters together and enjoy riding up and down the street.

Recently I was particularly impressed by this neighbour who has been keeping an eye on the vacant property of an elderly neighbour who had recently moved out.  Our neighbour popped her head over the fence when she noticed some visitors and after discovering they were family, she quickly took their number and offered to inform them of any unwanted visitors. I thought this was a rare and neighbourly act.

Trish from Tasmania – state winner

In August 2015 the Shorewell Resident Community Development Working Group identified an unused reserve at Shorewell Park, north western Tasmania. The area included a basketball court in disrepair, a BBQ with no picnic tables and the back wall of a shopping complex covered in obscenities.

This set the scene for a beautification project which included refurbishment of the Shorewell Park Reserve basketball court and seating around the court, murals on the back wall of the shopping complex and picnic tables around the BBQ.

The Shorewell Resident Community Development Working Group secured a commitment from local businesses to sponsor the project which supported the group to achieve their goals. On the Opening Day of the refurbished basketball court the Mayor officiated and the local sports association provided coaching and basketballs. It was a fabulous neighbourhood gathering!

The painting of the murals on the back of the shopping centre complex walls supported development of a more positive community spirit. The mural paint was donated and local artists provided their time to help 100 Shorewell children and young people to be part of the mural painting process.

Today, more than 500 community members including children have benefited from the groups commitment to change Shorewell Park into a vibrant and active community.

The group have recently received approval from the council to continue the reserve improvement with additional infrastructure including an outdoor gym station to encourage more activity for local residents and young people.

This committed group of residents work with the community on events like Neighbour Day and other celebrations which build local connections and involvement. It’s a neighbourhood group to be proud of!