What Neighbours Can Do to Create Connections

By Nick Tebbey, National Executive Officer Relationships Australia

Neighbour Day is finally upon us, and I am excited to see how it has been embraced around the country as many Australians, from a variety of backgrounds, join in the Loneliness Challenge.

This year’s Neighbour Day theme has shown just how important relationships and connection can be in the fight against loneliness – an epidemic taking hold in many nations across the world.

Equally, I have been proud to witness the power of community and the passion of dedicated Australians who, no matter their social or economic background, have recognised the importance of reaching out to those around them.

It is for this reason that Neighbour Day remains such an important day, and is one which the teams at Relationships Australia offices across the country are so proud to stand behind. We know – I think everyone does – that healthy relationships can be the key to unlocking good mental health, promoting physical well-being and building resilience in communities.

Neighbour Day is therefore vital because it focuses on some of the most accessible, but often least appreciated, relationships: those with people in our immediate vicinity.

In my last blog, when I issued the Loneliness Challenge, I spoke of my own experience as a new father, bringing a newborn baby into a quiet unit complex. My wife and I couldn’t have been more grateful for the friendliness, offers of help and perhaps most important, expressions of understanding and support we received from our neighbours.

Today, almost three years later, our son knows almost all of our neighbours, frequently joining the older kids in our complex for a quick kick of a soccer ball, or helping our elderly neighbour water his front garden.

The power of this community, and the relationships that are formed, can be seen clearly in his greater appreciation of difference: different people from different age groups, cultures and backgrounds. At the same time, it is abundantly clear that despite some obvious differences, there is so much togetherness that comes from a simple “smile” or “hello”.

I am truly grateful that as he grows, so too does his appreciation and respect for those around him, and I thank our neighbours for the small but important role they play in that.

So on March 31, 2019, I think it is crucial that we all pause to think about our neighbours, and the power of simple connection in the face of an increasingly disconnected and busy world.

Let’s remember the relative ease with which we can reach out to our neighbours – it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, though of course it can be – and who knows, we might all be able to play a role in diminishing social isolation and loneliness for those around us, and maybe even for ourselves.

If we all could take some simple steps to end loneliness, the benefits that would follow are untold – for us, our neighbours and ultimately for Australia. Who knows, perhaps we have the key to ending loneliness right here in our hands!

Happy Neighbour Day!

Nick Tebbey is National Executive Officer of Relationships Australia