Health and wellbeing

6 ways to be a better neighbour – and why it matters

Be the neighbour you want to see in the world.

GreenSquareWelcomeParty highres-31

Have you ever wanted to make friends with a neighbour but for one reason or another it just never happened? For many of us, introducing ourselves to the stranger next door or striking up a conversation with a neighbour in the lift is far easier said than done.

While this kind of anxiety is very common, meeting and getting to know your neighbours is much more than just a nice, friendly thing we should do. It’s the foundation on which strangers become real neighbours and how streets become communities. It’s well-known that we all feel and do better as part of a community, yet, for all sorts of reasons, communities across the country are facing a loneliness crisis.

One in 6 of us experiences emotional loneliness. One in 10 lacks social support and just under 1.5 million people report they’ve been lonely for a decade or more.

A third of Australians don’t see or hear from their neighbours on a monthly basis. Nearly half feel they can’t call on neighbours for help.

When you consider the negative health effects of loneliness and isolation, it’s easy to see how simple acts of neighbourly connection could make such a difference. In fact, the difference could even mean life or death.

When an emergency strikes, it's our neighbours who’ll be first to respond, well before emergency services can get to us.

Connecting with your neighbours can make a difference
Connecting with your neighbours can make a difference

Building up support at a neighbour to neighbour level is one of the best ways we can build up our resilience as a community in the face of loneliness and physical isolation. It also helps us better manage major crises like heat waves, storms, bushfires or flooding.

But we can get over the awkward stage and make the kinds of bonds with neighbours that we need to be happier, healthier and better prepared for an emergency.

According to the team at Neighbour Day (27 March 2022), you just need to start simply, by saying hi with a smile or a wave when you see your neighbours. Spend more time on your balcony or in your front yard to connect with those passing by.

The City hosted a welcome party for the first residents to move into the Green Square town centre.
The City hosted a welcome party for the first residents to move into the Green Square town centre.

If you’d like to become more neighbourly, here are some ideas to help you get started:

  1. Visit your local community centre. Local community centres are open to all residents, workers and visitors and are a brilliant way to meet people with sporting competitions, fitness classes, recreational, social and creative learning programs and much more. The City of Sydney offers a wide range of workshops specifically tailored to older adults, ranging from arts and computer lessons to circuit classes and chair yoga.
  2. Get involved with your local community garden. There are few more welcoming people than your local bunch of community gardeners. You don’t need to know a thing about gardening. The group will welcome you if you’re keen to get involved and learn a thing or two.
  3. Join a community group and have your say on the issues you’re interested in. Groups come in all shapes and sizes with different goals and objectives, but they all offer a wonderful opportunity to meet and get to know your neighbours and share experiences.
  4. Visit for more ideas and resources.

Why knowing your neighbours matters

The City of Sydney hosts Resilient Sydney, a collaboration between all metropolitan Sydney councils, the NSW Government, business and the community. Together, they’ve designed a strategy for how Sydney can work towards becoming a city that is connected, inclusive and resilient. That means being prepared for shocks like natural disasters and being able to respond and recover faster.

One of the best ways we can achieve this is through stronger local connections in the community. Studies show that close-knit, cohesive communities where there’s less tension are better off in the face of all types of emergency situations.

As chief resilience officer for metropolitan Sydney, Beck Dawson has seen that strong social connections are one of the most important indicators of a city’s overall resilience.

“What we’ve seen is that neighbourhoods where people know their neighbour bounce back better after an emergency or disaster. We encourage residents to get to know your neighbours and in particular older people in your street," Beck said.

Neighbour Day is Australia’s yearly celebration of community, encouraging people to connect with those who live in their neighbourhood. Find out more about Neighbour Day.

Published 28 March 2019, updated 18 May 2022