community engagement

Have you just moved in?

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Living in an apartment block in the inner city has its merits and sometimes disadvantages. Besides being able to walk virtually almost anywhere and not having to be held hostage by Sydney’s dreadful traffic in itself is a blessing. But with the privilege of convenience, comes with a transient neighbourhood of renters and owners who don’t feel like they belong. Maybe, its all because we have our busy lives and there is a distinct lack of a community altogether.

It came as no surprise one day when I met a gentlemen in the lift who was heading to my floor.

Did you just move in?

No, I’ve actually lived here for the last six years. How about you?

Moved here nine months ago.

I laugh and say we never really meet our neighbours on this floor [even though i work regular business hours]

Yes, they must all be very busy.

The sense of neighbourliness seems to be lost with inner city apartment living. Why try being friendly if you are just tiding through a 12 month rental contract before you move to another place? The race to avoid eye contact or getting to ride the lift alone is far more comforting than being in the company of complete strangers toying with their non-existent phone apps so no one needs to talk. Which is why the biggest uproar of the year was when the second lift had broken down for eight weeks and seeing a car full of strangers desperately uncomfortable riding down on their way to work was remotely upsetting. Adults listening to music on their headphones, playing with their phones and looking down at the floor.

Maybe its an anamoly or rarity that I live amongst a cluster of inner city, single, working individuals who have their own social networks and don’t have a sense of belonging to where they live other than a rental deposit to their landlord or a signed proxy for an AGM. The gap becomes quite obvious at the end of an EGM I attend last night where there were so many owners, whom I could call my neighbours, whom I have never met before. Needless to say, I was the only face represented on my level. It was the odd meeting when we had come together with a cause as we’re about to settle an insurance claim for retification works for the entire building. I’ve never seen so many people in an AGM – some familiar faces, others I can’t recall.

But this thought made me pause for a while as I think about the association between neighbourhoods and communities. The MAP survey in ABS alludes to an interesting fact that just over 30 percent of Australians have not been involved in community and social groups in the last 12 months.

Which is why the death of Oxford St is no longer debated by the LGBTI community, its decline is accepted. When the Mardi Gras is over and we are all swept back into our mainstream lives. In the same fashion, the community like my neighbours, live in their own bubbles until the jackhammer starts drilling or when you meet someone like Julie who says:

The planners need to be mindful of the fact that for the residents it is their home – families, singles old and young we all live here- it is not only young people who live in the area. So when licensing venues you need to be mindful of the noise, garbage and unwelcome behaviour (like sex in the street outside my kitchen window, incessant noise, urinating, broken glass etc, and large groups of men wearing little clothing in the Mardi Gras).

That’s when we will start seeing community again?

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