For most of our married life we lived in a double court. After school our kids more or less lived there until darkness descended and I bellowed that unless they came home within 20 seconds there would be consequences. They were never home within 20 seconds but consequences were rare. It was a great place to live and largely through our children the neighbours got to know each other.
We shifted to a unit some five years ago and it felt a lot more isolated. However, that began to change after we invited all our neighbours in for drinks that first Christmas. Most of them had lived there for at least ten years but none had ever met together socially. The other thing I did was bring their empty rubbish bins in when I saw one; it’s such a simple thing, but it had an effect. I now often find some of them beat me to it. I’m not saying we are in each other’s pockets, but I do believe we’ve morphed into a community. One neighbour left their keys with us while away, a sign of real trust, and another gave me her hand-mower because she now has somebody to cut her grass. I gave a neighbour some paint for his floor and six months later I botted some of his for my eaves flashing.
It seems to me that it’s not that people don’t want to be good neighbours. It’s just that they aren’t sure how to go about it. It’s about how we take that first step.
That’s where the Victoria Police’s ‘Pop-up Trailer’, stored at Doncaster Police Station is a wonderful community facility. MUC will be using it at the opening of Stage 1 of our new building in a month or so, and Victoria Police and the Council encourages groups and individuals within Manningham to use to foster community cohesion.
It could be as easy as organising a local get together with a neighbour, perhaps starting on Neighbour Day in March 2020. The BBQ trailer includes a large, gas fired hot plate at the rear, as well as a built in entertainment system to entertain and make announcements from. It comes complete with a hot water system, BBQ cooking utensils, cleaning gear, chairs and tables, bowls, buckets, fire blankets and first aid kit; in short anything you really need for a ‘pop-up’ kitchen BBQ. It can be readily towed by anyone with a reasonably sized car.
Our hope is that some of you will decide to use the trailer to help your neighbours get to know each other better. Neighbourhood all starts with us. If you feel you may like to have a street party in your patch, see Jill Cranwell or Don Bartlett who will talk you through the process and provide the necessary printed guidelines. Better still you could talk directly with Jessica Cerejo, Parks Alive Facilitator, at Manningham Council on 9840 9432 who could tell you about what support Council can provide individuals in holding neighbourly events or projects in your local park.
But if you don’t fancy the trailer idea just find some ways to be the good neighbour that you really are.