Home of Neighbour Day

When Relationships Australia took on responsibility for managing the Neighbour Day campaign in 2013, the organisation realised there was a natural fit between its values and the goals of Neighbour Day.

The principal aim of Neighbour Day is to build better relationships with the people who live around us. Neighbours are important because good relationships with others can transform communities. Meaningful social connection also helps prevent loneliness, isolation and depression.

Underpinning the work of Relationships Australia is the importance of good relationships. With the organisation working with children, adults, families and communities throughout the country. Through a network of services in each state and territory, Relationships Australia provides counselling, family dispute resolution and mediation services, family violence prevention and mental health services.

As an Australian, community-based, not-for-profit organisation with no religious affiliations, Relationships Australia provides services for all members of the community, regardless of religious belief, age, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle choice, cultural background or economic circumstances.

The Neighbour Day campaign aims to bring together like-minded people, resources, and organisations to grow stronger, well-connected communities.

Relationships Australia works with people, families, neighbourhoods, communities and organisations so that we can all live in communities that are welcoming, kind and supportive every day of the year. The Neighbour Day campaign echoes this by focussing on strong and resilient community relationships.

Relationships Australia focuses (mostly) on delivering services to people and families, while the Neighbour Day campaign provides a mechanism to share messages about a broader range of relationships in a welcoming and accessible way year round.

People living in neighbourhoods that are highly connected enjoy, overall, higher levels of physical and mental health, with the converse also true. 55% of people who ring Lifeline’s helpline have been found to live alone and feel socially isolated and lonely. beyondblue’s research shows that lonely people are more likely to report symptoms of depression, are admitted to hospital more frequently, have higher blood pressure and are at a greater risk of heart attack than others. There has been much research into this – and a list of references to recent research can be found at the end of this blog.  While a friendly neighbour may not be the panacea, they may make a significant difference to someone’s wellbeing and appetite for life.

Relationships Australia sees Neighbour Day as an ongoing opportunity to remind people about the importance of community connection in their lives as well as their individual responsibility to create a well-connected neighbourhood.

This website contains resources and guidance to start connecting to your neighbourhood.  If you have other good ideas, or would like to feed into our understanding of community connection, please provide us with that feedback, and your story. It is the stories about real human connection at the local neighbourhood level that inspire all of us to rise above our reserve and knock on the door of the person down the road whose burden may be lightened, or even life transformed by that small kindness.

There have been many times in the past couple of years when I have been asked why Relationships Australia decided in 2013 to take on the annual Neighbour Day campaign.  My response has been that Neighbour Day is about the importance of healthy relationships within communities, and about the promotion of good mental health.

Healthy relationships and good mental health are principal aims of Relationships Australia.

I have had an opportunity to reflect on changes to our way of life over decades, changes that mean good community relationships are less likely to occur organically in modern Australia. I reflected on the life of my own family as an illustration of the broader community – because if I have learned anything in this job, it is that people’s stories are powerful metaphors.

My grandmother lived in south-west Victoria all her life.  She was one of thirteen children and herself bore eight. Her life revolved around keeping hungry mouths fed, bodies clothed and caring for her extended family as well as others in the town when they needed nourishment and other help. My grandfather served in World War II and came back with what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder. His capacity to earn a good income was limited. Today we would label the family as disadvantaged, and living under the poverty line.

Yet, when I think about my grandmother, I recall a real richness about her – her capacity to love many and the reciprocated love many had for her. That love was expressed in small kindnesses. A casserole wrapped in a towel and left on a doorstep. A batch of scones for a parish morning tea. Caring for a child when his parents were unable.

I recall her funeral. The church was packed. The whole town turned out to honour and farewell a marvellous life well lived. After her burial we were ushered into the church hall to find the local CWA had prepared a truly appropriate send-off: trestle table after trestle table groaning under platters of mouth-watering treats. Scones, cakes, lamingtons, slices, biscuits, pastries and pies – small kindnesses from many.

Link to research