How it all began

Neighbour Day was founded in Melbourne, Australia in March 2003 by Andrew Heslop after the remains of an elderly woman were found inside her suburban home. Andrew Heslop is a community activist, social commentator and well known Australian.

Mrs Elsie Brown had been dead for two years – forgotten by her neighbours, her friends and her family.

While Andrew did not know Mrs Brown he was appalled by the apparent ease in which the world had left her behind. Neighbours had watched piles of mail, store catalogues and newspapers build up at her front door but they did nothing.

Widespread local and national media interest followed and it was this coverage that prompted Andrew to suggest a ‘National Check on Your Neighbour Day’ in a Letter to the Editor of The Melbourne Age in 2003.

Andrew was inspired by his late grandparents and his own neighbour – 83 year old Clive Tayler of Albert Park. An active resident in the street Clive mowed the nature strips of his neighbours, picked up the rubbish and recycling bins on Monday mornings, mended loose gate and fence pickets and took care of the odd jobs which needed to be done.

Always good humoured, gentle and kind Clive was never intrusive – proving you can be a great neighbour without actually becoming intimately involved in other people’s lives.

So Andrew’s concept was refined, renamed and on Sunday 30th March 2003 the first Neighbour Day was observed.

Importantly it also brought to prominence a major issue faced every day by senior Australians.In the years that followed we continued to hear about the deaths of senior Australians who died at home and were not discovered for extended periods.

Since 2003 Neighbour Day has progressed from a reminder to connect with elderly neighbours to an annual celebration of strong communities and friendly streets. People of all ages participate because everyone, everywhere is a neighbour no matter where you live or your personal circumstances.

Not only do residents and office colleagues hold barbecues and street parties on front lawns and in the car parks of business areas to celebrate, councils and other local government bodies also hold major festivals and community events!

Neighbour Day has recently been endorsed by the Prime Minister, State Premiers, Lord Mayors and local government politicians.

Importantly it also brought to prominence a major issue faced every day by senior Australians.  In the years that followed we continued to hear about the deaths of senior Australians who died at home and were not discovered for extended periods.

In 2008 founder Andrew Heslop spoke at the United Nations in New York about the development of Australia’s annual celebration of community, Neighbour Day.

Watch this seven minute video from his presentation.

Presentation

  • Seven News and Sunrise vision: Courtesy Seven West Media.
  • ABC Radio National and ABC Local Radio audio: Courtesy Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Music track: Mad World by Gary Jules.