TELL US YOUR STORY WINNERS – NEIGHBOUR DAY 2020

Relationships Australia, as the home of Neighbour Day, acknowledges the role of all Australians in helping to tackle loneliness.

The winning seven stories in the 2020 Tell Us Your Story competition showcase how neighbours have created connections and a sense of belonging in their local communities. These stories highlight the myriad of ways people do this in real life, both in their neighbourhoods and the wider community.

From the small to the big neighbourly actions, we hope these stories inspire people to create connections.

WINNER NATIONAL & QUEENSLAND  –  Roslyn

Simply pick up the phone and they will welcome you with open arms

In a garrison city such as Townsville where so many people move here without family, the threat of social isolation is a real possibility, especially after having children. Another demographic who can also suffer from loneliness is the elderly. After the birth of my second child and with no family in Townsville, I decided to contact a few aged care homes to see if they would be interested in me visiting with my two small children. The Good Shepherd Home jumped at the opportunity and the rest, as they say, is history

My first visit was well over two years ago now and I have since had another child. We predominately visit ladies in the dementia ward for about an hour and a half once a week.

Along the journey, we have also met many of the residents in other sections of the aged care home who have taken great delight in talking to my children and sharing their stories. My daughters and I have met some wonderful people and I have also seen my daughters flourish as a result of going there.

Zara and Skye my two older daughters love colouring in and making towers with the residents and my younger daughter Heidi loves getting cuddles and sharing morning tea with the residents. I honestly believe that everyone involved benefits from this kind of social interaction. Laughter can be truly infectious and nothing is quite as delightful as seeing young children have fun and enjoy themselves.

In December last year when my daughter Heidi turned one I made a birthday cake to share with the residents and they all sang happy birthday to her. It is lovely to share these milestones with these surrogate grandparents. Although it is hard saying goodbye when the residents pass, it is comforting to know that perhaps we brought a few moments of joy to their lives.

Overall, it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience and has taught my daughters some invaluable skills and given them wonderful memories that I hope they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I hope that my story encourages other mothers to consider volunteering at aged care homes and to realise that it doesn’t have to be structured by any means. Simply pick up the phone and they will welcome you with open arms.

Image of young mum with baby in a harness on her front and with her two small daughters visiting The Good Shepherd aged care home as volunteers.

National & QLD state winner in the Tell Us Your Story competition – Roslyn & her young children visiting The Good Shepherd aged care home.

WINNER NORTHERN TERRITORY – Karen

A kindness from neighbours that became a friendship

My neighbours that live in the unit above me are so very special.

When my partner left me, they dropped a book on my doorstep in an attempt to distract my lonely heart and let me know they were there if I needed anything.

We now run parkrun together on a Saturday morning. They always say hello and wave hi if we pass in the car.

It is so nice to know neighbour strangers can become friends.

WINNER WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Scott

It started with a party…

I had been living in my house for 2 years and other than my immediate neighbours, I knew very few people in the area. This seemed like such a shame, as my little pocket of Nedlands in WA is unique as we have a very diverse mix of people. We are between a major hospital and a university and lie close to Perth CBD so the residents range from elderly singles and couples to young uni students (with everything in between). I decided to have a Neighbourhood Christmas party so all the neighbours would have a chance to meet each other and hopefully spread some goodwill.

In the weeks before the Christmas party, I knocked on every door in the area (around 550) and left an invite under every doormat. It just happened to be 40C+ on almost every day, which made things a bit tough, but I got there in the end. I put up signs on the streets inviting people and approached the local cafes to see if they would let me put an invite in their cafe. The local newspaper also kindly ran a story about the party after I posted about it on a local Facebook page.

The first party was a huge success! We had 40+ neighbours come and had enough food to feed an army. Since then I have held Australia Day parties, neighbourhood get-togethers, Labour Day /Neighbour Day Parties and Easter Parties. Each one has been fantastic with up to 60 people at each party. I now have a small band that comes and plays and the last party (an Aussie Day party) we had some young kids selling cakes to raise money for the bus fire relief.

I have learned a lot, met plenty of new friends but more importantly, I’ve helped people connect where previously there would be no connection. Loneliness and isolation are big issues in society today and I hope some of these connections will help some of my neighbours.

WINNER TASMANIA – Dianne

A great place for a cuppa and a chat

The Railton Neighbourhood Centre is the hub of our little town. We are all volunteers that take turns on different days to run the centre. The centre is a great place to come and have a cuppa and a chat – and we’ve found that it’s great for mental health and isolation in a small town.

We are the information centre for locals and tourists. We have beginner art classes, craft days, learning French classes.

We have an amazing community garden run completely by volunteers who keep it full of free produce for the community and tourists. Last Neighbour Day we had over forty people attend, with two neighbours from the mainland. It was a fantastic day celebrated by many.

WINNER NSW – Lindy

A village punching above its weight in neighbourliness

Our little group was created by a group of five creative and enthusiastic women. From a seed grew a desire to bring our small community together in a more cohesive way and to provide improvements where needed – while also creating a fun and family-oriented atmosphere and encouraging locals to socialise together.

A community meeting and shared lunch were held to throw around ideas and find out what residents wanted for our village. We received a lot of encouraging feedback.

Urbenville is situated on the cusp of the Tenterfield Shire in NSW with approximately 250 residents including surrounding farms. We travel over an hour to get to major towns, but the nearby town of Woodenbong provides grocery stores, garages a chemist, and a café.

We have a primary school with ten students. We boast a medical centre, ambulance service, SES and Rural Fire service, and a courthouse, which was the police station until it closed.  We have a pub, general store, newsagents/information centre and a garage. There is a camping ground for visitors and the pub also provides accommodation. There is a Bowling Club and tennis court in the school grounds. We have a church, an authentic Settlers cottage and historical museum. Urbenville used to be a gold mining town.

We enjoy a shared lunch every month, with new different people attending each time. We have provided a wicking bed for the primary school to grow vegetables and herbs, which we provided initially. The principal was so impressed he wants to establish more wicking beds in the school grounds. This could evolve into a market garden where the produce can be sold and profits donated to the school. A few of us help with the garden on Monday mornings.

We have also started a yoga group every Friday, gentle exercise for the more mature. For the energetic, we have a walking group being prepared for when the cooler weather arrives.  Starting shortly will be a weight loss group, which will link in with the yoga and walking groups.

We are starting a carpooling group for trips to the movies, places of interest, shopping and lunches out. This will not only help the environment but will encourage new friendships, alleviating loneliness for families and individuals. We were badly affected by the December bushfires with one family losing their home, and whom we helped by providing much-needed items and rehousing.

WINNER VICTORIA – Amanda

High fences no longer a barrier to social connection  

I’ve heard it said a million times, ‘how we have lost connections with our neighbours’, ‘we’re all too busy’ and ‘our fences are too high’. Certainly, we are working harder, longer hours and no longer attend the local neighbourhood school (which is definitely the case in our street, there’s 58 houses and 14 different primary and high schools the children attend)! However, our street is proof that the wish to connect is very much alive.

To organise a Halloween celebration our street started a Facebook community. Although an online community, it is has turned into a very real connection in our everyday lives. The posts on the group range from needing a lemon for a recipe, to a child that needs help collecting bottle tops for her school, to a neighbour that needs someone to look after their dog. The age of the members in the group varies from their 20s to 90s, which is proof that technology can be for every age bracket. This group is real and connects us all like a family, even if we don’t regularly see each other face-to-face.

Here is a small taste of how our street interacts on our Facebook group (which has been going since October 2017):

  • When a neighbour’s house caught on fire and was demolished. The residents in the street were able to rally together and collect furniture, food and monetary donations for the family involved.
  • Neighbours swap plants to put in their gardens.
  • They send a distress call out when an animal is lost/found.
  • The new mum’s talk to each other late at night when they are up feeding.
  • We organise garage sales together.
  • We warn each other if there’s an untrustworthy doorknocker on the street.
  • Or if we’ve found a lost item, we advertise it on the site to find the owner.

The group is active every day and now we know each other’s names, our kids’ names and pets’ names. We share the food we grow in our gardens and we do what we can and help where we can. I feel blessed to live in this street and I couldn’t imagine a better place to live. We might still be behind our high fence, but the social connection is real, and we show our connection in a different way.

After all – it’s a different era.

WINNER SOUTH AUSTRALIA – Sharon

The power of partnerships

I am excited to tell you a story of the power of partnerships, community leadership, social connections – and why Wednesdays are my favourite day of the week!

I work for ECH – a community aged care and retirement living organisation.  Our purpose is to be an enterprise that promotes self-determination and enables people to have the best life possible as they age.

Through conversation with the Community Centres’ Coordinator, Rebecca, from the City of Mitcham Council, we identified a shared vision to support the development of a neighbourhood hub at their Cumberland Park Community Centre.  We also recognised a different approach was needed to create a sustainable, community-led model.

Jumping to the present, Wednesdays at ‘Cumby’ are now vibrant and active with many of the activities being peer-led and approximately 40 people attending.  We consulted the community and this is the result.

  • Batch Cooking – Led by volunteers with ingredients grown in the Community Garden and donated by the local Woolworths.
  • Tai Chi – Led by an ECH Instructor. As per the request of the participants, we’re looking at beginning Qigong.
  • Art – Led by the ECH Complementary Therapies Coordinator, the attendees are very passionate about learning to paint and sketch.
  • Knitting and Crochet/Quilting and Sewing for a Purpose – The group knit beanies/scarves for the homeless, rugs, toys for children and sensory blankets for people living with dementia.
  • Community Gardening – Supported by the ECH Horticulturist. Produce is harvested and given away, or used for the Batch Cooking.
  • Men’s Group – Promoting friendship for men. Monthly BBQ lunches are about to commence.
  • English Conversation for People from CALD Communities – The newest initiative, being co-designed with people from local CALD communities.
  • Tea and Toasties – Anyone is welcome to pop in for a tea/coffee and a toasted sandwich.
  • Mini Op Shop – People take what they want and give what they can.
  • Various Monthly Workshops, like ‘Composting’ or ‘Make Your Own Terrarium’.

People tell us:

“We come for the company and purpose. Just seeing another face is important when some days you don’t see anyone else.”

“Everyone needs a reason to be with others – coming together, sharing ideas and getting support is great!”

I believe this demonstrates how partnerships, community consultation and simple programs can provide very powerful outcomes.

*There were no entries submitted by ACT residents.