When Neighbour Day was founded by Andrew Heslop in Melbourne back in March 2003, who would have thought that his message would take on such momentum and that by 2016 a community group in Alice Springs, 1000s of kilometres away, would embrace his inspiration and encourage their own community to take the message even further.
The concept for Neighbour Day was developed by Andrew Heslop after the remains of an elderly woman, Mrs Elsie Brown, were found inside her suburban home.
Mrs Brown had been dead for two years – forgotten by her neighbours, her friends and her family. While Andrew did not know Mrs Brown he was appalled by the apparent ease in which the world had left her behind. Neighbours had watched piles of mail, store catalogues and newspapers build up at her front door but they did nothing.
Thirteen years later, Relationship Australia has assumed responsibility for the day and community groups around Australia have developed an annual celebration to build better relationships with the people who live around us, especially the elderly and vulnerable.
Relationship Australia NT recently received this letter from a community group in Alice Springs reporting on their Neighbour Day event – congratulations and thank you for the amazing contribution you have made in spreading the Neighbour Day message.
“On Sunday evening, on the 20th March, at the Lyndavale Park in Larapinta, a combined Harmony Day/Neighbour Day event was held, where over 110 local Larapinta residents attended.
Harmony Day, which falls on the 21st of March, celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity, and is about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. Neighbour Day is Australia’s annual celebration of community, bringing together the people next door, across the street or on the next farm for a cuppa or a BBQ, and is celebrated on the last Sunday of March each year.
The Larapinta event was a ‘free’ fun filled family event with games and activities and a chance for locals to connect on a new level. There was also an opportunity to be involved in tree planting, with a special thanks to go to the Alice Springs Town Council for donating 20 trees, and doing all of the preparation work for the planting, and having the park looking in great condition for the event.
People from all ages and walks of life attended. There was great food from a range of cultures shared, including a BBQ (with thanks to the Larapinta IGA for their support with this). Many people met for the first time, and new friendships have begun. There is interest in doing further events this year as well a desire by a number of people to see a community garden developed in Larapinta.
The event was the result of a combined volunteer effort, but did not require planning on a huge scale, nor did our event require major resources or funding. Such events can be as simple as a bringing a chair and a thermos for a morning tea; or contributing some food towards a BBQ.
Whatever shape an event takes, they are well worth it – as these events help break down barriers and build connections between people, thus contributing towards a sense of belonging and community.
The official date for the celebration of National Neighbour Day is this coming Easter Sunday, the 27th of March, but a Neighbour Day event can be held on any day. Several further events in Alice Springs will be occurring over the coming weeks, and there is still time for more events to take place.
We encourage Alice Springs residents to think about whether they can get involved with an existing event planned for their neighbourhood, or to plan an event if there isn’t one already. We encourage you to talk to some neighbours to work with you, so you don’t have to plan it all on your own.
There is still plenty of time to plan for, or register an event. Visit www.neighbourday.org where there are many resources to assist you.”
‘The community you want starts at your front door’.
Sarah Carmody, Chris Hawke & Jonathan Pilbrow