TURNING streets into communities is the focus of a national project that is forging links on a local level and fostering an Australia-wide network of groups.
The Street by Street project helps bring neighbours together, providing resources and support. The Centre for Civil Society initiative has groups in their early stages in three States and a project team spanning four States, all voluntary, with the support of a large Reference Group across Australia. “With a community development approach, we don’t tell groups what they should do; we simply encourage people to connect and decide that for themselves,” Project Manager Irene Opper said. “Street by Street groups can form a community tapestry, with no two pieces the same.”
“It is all about helping people to create community – street by street,” she said. “We make it easy to do this, by giving people a ‘how-to’ kit, lots of inspiring examples, and support by phone and email. All the resources are provided for free. We want to make it the norm that we connect with our neighbours.” “Right now, we’d like to hear from people willing be Community Connectors; to take the first step with their neighbours, to broaden the connections already there, or to give a new lease of life to an existing group.” Street by Street would also like to hear from services, councils or others that see the community-building potential of Street by Street, and want to support it in their locale. Irene shared her experience of living in a connected community. “I was lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood of 600 people in Mt Nebo, just outside of Brisbane, Queensland, that felt like a community. We knew each other, helped one another and had friends across the generations. We learned together, planted together, recycled together, had our say on what the community needed, created art, made music and sang together, kept the community hall in community hands and celebrated together regularly. I haven’t experienced that anywhere else and it leaves a gap in my life,” she said.
“So, I’ve begun connecting with my neighbours where I now live, in St Kilda, Victoria, and they are thanking me for taking that first step. I think many people living in cities desire a sense of community as much as those living in the country, it just doesn’t happen as naturally.” “This project could change that, if enough people put up their hand to take that first step. I’ve now got two others who have joined me in taking the lead in my area, so I didn’t have to go it alone for long at all.” “Around the country some neighbourhoods are communities, including in some city areas – doing such things as socialising, community gardens, sharing things or skills or improving the area. One woman took the initiative to connect with others in her apartment block, including training a number of people in emergency procedures for the lift. As it happened, this enabled ambulance officers to reach her husband after a heart attack. You just never know when you might need your neighbours!” Irene said. To get involved, see www. streetbystreet.org.au. Irene Opper can be contacted at email@example.com or 0413 706 233.