Good Neighbour Awards Good Neighbour Spotlight

Building Community in Her own Backyard

Written by Caroline Barrett

This past Neighbour Day, Nextdoor asked neighbours across Australia to honour those who go above and beyond to better their communities. In this Neighbour Day Award Spotlight we’ll meet Joanne Hussein from Salter Point, West Australia.

In a small, backyard garden somewhere in Salter Point, neighbours are chatting, sharing a potluck dinner beneath the stars, waiting for a movie to begin. The movie is Wilson, a story about a man who learns he has a teenage daughter he never knew about, and the garden is home to none other than Joanne Hussein.

Joanne is a winner of Nextdoor’s Neighbour Day Award, nominated by Lyn, a fairly new neighbour whose garden backs up to Joanne’s. Joanne has long been instrumental in introducing neighbours to each other and when Lyn moved to the neighbourhood, her experience was no different. Lyn now joins Joanne’s outdoor movie nights where she has met many neighbours.

When Joanne and her husband Erol first moved into their house in Salter Point, they decided to renovate it starting with the garden, which they thought would be a perfect place to watch a movie with friends. Since then, Joanne has hosted monthly neighbourhood movie nights for the past few years. The makeshift movie theatre is made up of a screen set up outside a bedroom window, a small garden space filled with blanket-covered chairs that neighbours from 9 different houses bring over, and potluck dinners cooked by all who attend.

The potluck meal from the last movie night

“When we first started, we used to rent the equipment and my husband would go and pick it up, and we did that half a dozen times.” Eventually, the movie nights became so popular that when they decided to buy the equipment for the neighbourhood, everyone chipped in.

While Joanne considers herself a community person by nature, it hasn’t always been easy to make connections. She and her husband moved to Australia from England 16 years ago leaving their extended family behind, and then moved 5 times within Australia before settling down in Salter Point, the community-minded neighbourhood they had been searching for. “You have to be patient, be yourself, everyone is very friendly,” says Joanne. There are lots of expats in Australia and Joanne says it’s important to be able to connect with others who understand what it’s like not to have family closeby.

“I feel we are so very blessed to be living in such a friendly, supportive neighbourhood where we all look out for each other, support each other through our ups and downs and better still, have made lifelong friends. Our ages range from 27 to 88, but we can all bring something special to every occasion we have! We don’t all have family in Perth so it’s really important to have a great community spirit,” says Joanne.

Joanne (center) teaching her dance class

Not only has Joanne brought her neighbours together through her movie nights, but she also looks after all the elderly neighbours in the community celebrating their birthdays, anniversaries and other special events. They have lots of gatherings with shared food, drinks and of course dancing, which they all love to do. Joanne is also a dance instructor at one of the local studios where she teaches a “Dancing in the Dark” class to seniors, empowering them to have the confidence to dance like no one’s watching.

While Joanne has made countless enjoyable memories with her neighbours, she says it’s not just all about the nice things. It’s thinking about people and what they might be going through.” She says they all look out for each other, and that, my friends, is true community spirit.

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