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How to Love Thy Neighbour(hood) in Canberra

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by Belladonna (subscribe)
Loves going out and about in Canberra and writing about her adventures! Also addicted to coffee, high teas, escape rooms, and dressing up.
Published July 14th 2019
Eight simple ways to connect with the community you live in

For many Canberrans, our lives revolve a lot around going to and from work, being at work, catching up on work from home or doing work from home, as well as paying the bills, keeping up with the rent or mortgage, plus our enormous household and family responsibilities, and let's not forget our social lives (if we have any, that is!). Life seems to be so 'crazy busy' in this day and age that we have become so absorbed in our own lives and in our children's lives (that is, driving them to and from childcare or school as well as to all of their extracurricular classes, playdates, birthday parties and so on!).

In this 'crazy busy' Canberra world we live in, our homes are our place of refuge, our sanctuary, our cocoon. But we sometimes forget that our home is nestled amongst other homes. And these other homes have other people who live in them and who are probably just as busy and self-absorbed as we are. And together we all make up a neighbourhood.

However, many Canberrans don't really know or socialize with the people who live around them. According to a recent report, only 4% of Canberrans actually socialize with their neighbours. In fact, many of us would know so much more about our favourite celebrities and their lives than we do about the family with young children who live across from us or the old man who lives all by himself a few doors down from us. Furthermore, many of us are never at home during the day, with both parents/carers working and children at childcare or school (which in many cases may be on the other side of town). And even on the weekends, we go out and about outside our neighbourhoods.

How well then do we really know the neighbourhood we live in? Whether we rent or own our homes, a lot of us have chosen to live in our particular neighbourhoods, and yet, thanks to the busy-ness of life, we hardly ever spend time in our neighbourhoods and we hardly know the people who live in them at all.
If you want to connect more with your neighbourhood, then here are eight very simple ways to do so.

1. Connect with your neighbours.
For example, say hello and wave to your neighbours more often, take in your neighbour's garbage bin or maybe offer to mow their lawn or collect their mail when they're away. Reach out to neighbours who you know are living alone, especially the elderly, knock on their door to introduce yourself, pop a note in their letterbox to let them know you are there if they ever need a hand, and then exchange numbers in case of an emergency. Welcome new neighbours to your neighbourhood by ringing the doorbell, introducing yourself, and even offering to help with the move in if you are able. There are so many ways for you to connect with the people who live around you! For more ideas, go here.

2. Go for regular walks around your neighbourhood.
It's the best way to get to know your neighbourhood and the people who live in it. And you'll never know what other treasures you'll find along the way! During one of our walks to a nearby hill one day, my little boy and I discovered tiny fairy doorways hidden amongst the rocks at the hill's summit. And not too long ago, we unexpectedly came across a wonderful little street library.


3. Learn more about your neighbourhood.
Connect with and learn more about the place you live in. Many of Canberra's suburbs are named after prominent Australians. Who is your suburb named after? The suburb of Lyons, for example, is named after Australia's tenth Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons. And the suburb of Jacka is named after Alfred Jacka, the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War for his services during the Gallipoli campaign.
Many Canberra suburbs also have street names that follow a theme. For example, in the suburb of Lyons, the streets are named after locations in Tasmania. And in the suburb of Hackett, the streets are named after scientists.
Also, what are the significant places and landmarks in your neighbourhood? Are there particular native animals and birds that call your neighbourhood home? Are there particular trees that grow there? For example, in my neighbourhood, elm trees line many of our streets.

4. Support your local shops.
Local shops are the hidden gems of Canberra's suburbs. And they need your patronage! Most of the businesses in our local shops are small businesses. So buy your bread from your local baker's, frequent your local café, buy groceries from your local supermarket if you have one, get your hair cut at your local hairdressing salon... These small businesses rely more than anything on their local community to support them.

5. Support your local schools.
A local primary school is a wonderful focal point for the community, usually in the form of the school fete. So join in the fun at your local school's fete and any other community-wide event. You could also donate books to your local school, or volunteer your time and skills.


6. Join a community group or take part in a community event.
Local churches may also hold fetes or special events such as a Christmas carols night or Easter Festival which you could join in. Other religious groups could also hold special events for the wider community. For example, at Molonglo Valley and Moncrieff, there have been Hindu Diwali events for the whole community.
If there's a community centre nearby, then ask them about the various community groups/classes that you could join in your area. Or find out about your local community or neighbourhood associations. A local church may also be the venue for a community group/class, such as the community playgroups offered by Hughes Baptist Church,St George's Anglican Church in Pearce, and Woden Valley Alliance Church in Waramanga.
And if there is a huge annual community event in your neighbourhood, then join in the fun! For example, during Halloween, there are particular streets in several Canberra neighbourhoods that do trick or treating. Also around Halloween time, Googong holds the wildly popular event, Boogong, every year. And the Lyneham Community Association also holds an annual Light Up Lyneham Festival with a sunset lantern walk around the neighbourhood.

7. If you have children, use your local playgrounds and sports fields.
It's a great way not only to keep active, but also to meet other local children and their parents/carers.


And finally,

8. Find the Little Street Libraries in your neighbourhood.
Little libraries are popping up everywhere across Canberra's suburbs. A little street library or street library is basically a box of books planted in someone's front yard and is accessible from the street. Anybody can drop by and take a book that interests them. You can return the book when you are done or pass it on to friends or to another little street library. The street library network operates on a system of trust and hope.
Find the Little Libraries in your neighbourhood and connect with your neighbours. To find out more about Little Street Libraries in Canberra, go here.

"Being by nature 'social creatures', we need to feel that we belong to strong communities, but those communities also need us. Neighbourhoods, communities – even entire societies – can lose their 'soul' unless community-minded people are prepared to become involved in the life of the local community. It's up to each one of us to take responsibility for the places where we live by engaging, volunteering, joining up and joining in."

Hugh MacKay, AO
Social researcher, author and Neighbour Day 2019 ambassador

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Why? Connect with your community and the people who live in it.
Where: In your neighbourhood!
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