This year Neighbour Day addressed the impact that loneliness is having on our communities and celebrated the influence that we all have in building resilient, connected communities.
The 2019 theme: ‘loneliness – what neighbours can do to create connections’, builds on work by Relationships Australia, in 2018, to raise awareness of the loneliness crisis facing Australia.
In September 2018, Relationships Australia released new research, based on the results of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia Survey. This work highlighted the real impact of loneliness in Australia, reporting that 1-in-10 people lack social support or connection, and 1.5 million Australians have experienced loneliness for a decade or more.
Social connection is as fundamental as our need to belong. It has often been considered central to our mental and physical health. The consequences of loneliness are so significant that studies show it can be as damaging to an individual’s long-term health as lack of physical exercise, smoking or obesity.
Loneliness is something almost everybody has or will experience – be it for a brief or lengthy period. For many Tasmanians who live in the rural and remote areas of our State, loneliness can arise from the geographical isolation these communities and individuals face. However, loneliness can still affect those who are surrounded by people and living in more urban areas.
With a changing social context that is indicative of loneliness – and the poor mental and physical health outcomes that loneliness can generate – Neighbour Day acts as a strong counter to this crisis.
Neighbour Day has evolved since its establishment, from a day that recognises the need to reach out to our elderly population – a group at high risk of experiencing loneliness – to a day that includes everybody. As clearly – social isolation can affect anybody.
At Relationships Australia Tasmania, we see daily the impact that a lack of social connection and meaningful relationships are having on individuals and families. It is, therefore why we view Neighbour Day as an essential and significant initiative, one we are proud to support.
This year across Tasmania RA Tas supported communities and individuals celebrating Neighbour Day to ensure that those we live right alongside feel less isolated and alone.
RA Tas partnered with the Tasmanian Department of Health to run the Healthy Tasmania Neighbour Day Community Challenge. Neighbour Day Challenge entrants held street parties, hosted Neighbour Day BBQ’s, craft groups and community walks.
Our 2019 winners included both individuals and community groups from across the State. Grant funds were used to establish community phone trees, welcome packages for new neighbours, community reading groups and funded community members to complete Mental Health First Aid Training.
These ‘acts of neighbourliness’ play an impactful part in creating resilient and healthy communities; demonstrating that sometimes all it takes is a wave to our neighbour or a smile as we pass someone in the street to create meaningful impact on the lives of those around us.
While Neighbour Day is an annual event, held on the last Sunday of March each year, it serves as a timely reminder of how personal connection can make a difference every day of the year.
Neighbour Day is an important day because we believe that this initiative can help address our loneliness crisis.