Neighbourhood Centre at Blaxland open day

They are places people can turn to in good times and bad.

During celebrations for National Neighbourhood Centre Week, Kath Harrison, CEO of Belong Blue Mountains, said "neighbourhood centres are not just for people in need of support in a crisis, neighbourhood centres are for everyone, in good times as well as the bad".

The theme for Neighbourhood Centre Week was 'Loneliness: the solution is community'.

A global study spearheaded by loneliness expert Dr Michelle Lim of Swinburne University in Melbourne, revealed that knowing just six neighbours reduces the likelihood of feeling alone and is directly linked to reducing stress from the coronavirus pandemic. She has called loneliness a "critical issue" of our time. In the Australian Loneliness Report, it was found that Australians are more likely to have contact with and call on friends and family for help, but rarely look to their community for assistance. A third of Australians have no neighbours they see or hear from on a monthly basis, and nearly half (47 per cent) report that they have no neighbours they can call on for help.

Knowing your neighbours is vital: l-r, Peta Williams (Belong director), Trish Doyle MP, Kath Harrison (CEO), Warwick Fuller (Belong board member), Aunty Carol Cooper, Mick Barrett (Belong director), and Barbara Cuthbert (Belong director), at the Blaxland open day.

Knowing your neighbours is vital: l-r, Peta Williams (Belong director), Trish Doyle MP, Kath Harrison (CEO), Warwick Fuller (Belong board member), Aunty Carol Cooper, Mick Barrett (Belong director), and Barbara Cuthbert (Belong director), at the Blaxland open day.

And knowing your neighbours was an important message, Belong staff have been trying to get across this year.

Ms Harrison said: "We know that one of the most effective ways to reduce loneliness is to find ways for people to connect with their community. This has always been at the heart of what we do at our neighbourhood centres."

One of the highlights of this year's awareness week was the community open day on May 21 of the Belong Blue Mountains Lower Mountains Neighbourhood Centre in Blaxland. The organisation welcomed numerous guests who enjoyed a free sausage sizzle and children's activities, and met with staff and volunteers who serve the community in the centre.

The event was part of a fortnight's celebrations to mark Neighbourhood Centre Week (May 8-14) and National Volunteers Week (May 17-23). Belong Blue Mountains has 68 staff members and 200 volunteers across their three neighbourhood centres and services.

Mick Barrett, director of communities at Belong Blue Mountains said: "We've been renovating the Lower Mountains Neighbourhood Centre and this was a great opportunity to welcome people in to connect with the new space and connect with each other".

"Neighbourhood centres play such an important role as a hub for community activity and support. We hope to see more and more people connecting again through the centre as we come out of COVID."

Ms Harrison paid tribute during the week to the community workers and volunteers working tirelessly across the local community service network to make a difference to the lives of people living across the Blue Mountains.

"We have a strong and dedicated network in the community sector across the Blue Mountains. We honour and thank all the community workers and volunteers involved for their hard work and generosity of spirit."

To find out more visit www.belongbm.org.au. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or triple 0 in an emergency.