Lack of Community in our Communities

The headline The Horror Hits Home   with an opening pararpah that asks how two infants can allegedly starve to death in an ordinary looking house in an ordinary looking suburb, could have been written about New Zealand. This story however, is about Australia in the wake of the discovery of two babies who starved to death but the issues our our issues too.

What has happened to our communities and neighbourhoods?

Have we become so self-absorbed, so work-oriented or so crippled by the idea that governments should be responsible for the protection of children that we have become the look-away society, where homes have become boltholes and the most vulnerable among us – the old and the young, the sick and infirm – live in dreadful isolation?

Demographer Bernard Salt sees it as a “loss of connectivity”, a separation from our neighbours, that has been growing for several decades in suburbs that have become increasingly amorphous.

“Within the space of about two generations, Australia has moved from being household-based to being workplace-based, and the result has been that any sense of neighbourhoodness has moved out of suburbia and into the office,” he says.

“Most of us are now more likely to have a conversation about the events of the day over the office partition than the back fence.

“As a result, home has become something of a bolthole, leaving suburbia and its role as a place of community connectedness severely diminished.”

And not only in suburbia, it happens in the country too. It’s six weeks since Gypsy weekend when numerous dairy farm workers change jobs but I’m yet to meet any of the new people in our neighbourhood. 

One of the neighbours and I spoke of having a pot luck meal for our road and its off shoots, before calving when it gets too busy. But the first calves are already arriving and we’ve got no further than talking about it.

3 Responses to Lack of Community in our Communities

  1. Deborah says:

    When we moved to Adelaide, we found a home in the eastern suburbs, heart of the middle classes. A few weeks later, my husband was talking to colleagues at work about the settling in process, and about how helpful our neighbours had been. “Oh no,” said one of his colleagues. “That can’t be right. People don’t talk to each other in the eastern suburbs.”

    Perhaps that’s a function of being in a new country. People have been very kind to us. However, I recall that when we lived in Wellington, we knew our neighbours’ names, but that was all. I took muffins and scones and stews to our next door neighbours when their first baby arrived, but we didn’t pass the time of day with them. Our “community” was formed through work, and through the friends we had back when we first went to university.

  2. poneke says:

    Gosh, is the NZ government even to blame for deaths of babies in Australia?

    🙂

  3. homepaddock says:

    Poneke: I’ll admit to being biased but try to not be bigoted. 🙂

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