By Anna Reynolds
Hobart Lord Mayor
ON Sunday 29 March, I’ll be joining people around Hobart and Australia in celebrating Neighbour Day to help increase social connection and belonging in our community.
Neighbour Day, held on the last Sunday of March each year, began after an elderly woman was forgotten by her community and found deceased in her home.
Andrew Heslop, a Victorian activist, was shocked and saddened by this.
Passionate about preventing this from happening again, Mr Heslop sent a letter to The Melbourne Age suggesting a ‘National Check on Your Neighbour Day’, which later became ‘Neighbour Day.’
Now Neighbour Day serves to remind us how important it is to build strong relationships with those who live near us, especially the elderly and more vulnerable.
However, we can all benefit from Neighbour Day because anybody can experience loneliness or social isolation.
Feeling like we belong is a basic human need, and loneliness is not only unpleasant, but may harm us mentally and physically.
Sadly, research by Relationships Australia suggests that at least 1.5 million Australians have experienced loneliness for 10 years or more.
The theme of Neighbour Day 2020 is ‘Social Connection.’
A socially connected neighbourhood means increased belonging and reduced loneliness in society.
Research by Relationships Australia and the Australia National University found that those who celebrated Neighbour Day had an increased sense of belonging and felt better about their neighbourhood environment afterwards.
Although Neighbour Day only happens once a year, neighbourly actions can happen and increase the health of Tasmanians every day of the year.
If you are a group or individual registering a Neighbour Day event, you can enter the Neighbour Day Challenge to possibly receive funding for a project that will help to increase social connection in your community.
This compliments the work the City of Hobart is continuing to do around social inclusion and making our distinct neighbourhoods attractive, safe, and dynamic places to live and socialise.
Money provided in the past through this Neighbour Day initiative has helped make local areas more vibrant through street-library boxes and murals, upgraded parks, movie nights, gardening and cooking groups, as well as simply buying items needed for already established community programs.
For Neighbour Day this year, you might keep it small by introducing yourself to a neighbour you haven’t met, dropping off a kind note, or inviting them over for a cuppa.
Or, you might choose to organise your own Neighbour Day event.
Events can be as simple as a barbecue, a picnic, or a game of cricket in the local park.
Visit www.neighbourday.org for more information, resources and ideas on how to organise and register your own Neighbour Day event.
Entries for the Healthy Tasmania Neighbour Day Challenge are now open and close 8 March.
For more information about how to enter, visit www.tas.relationships.org.au/news-and-events/healthy-tasmania-neighbour-day-challenge-2020 and follow Relationships Australia Tasmania on Facebook for updates.