The 10th annual Neighbour Day, taking place on Sunday, March 25, is set to be the biggest ever with more than 1 million people across Australia expected to participate.

Founded by openly gay Sydneysider Andrew Heslop, the event has evolved to become one of Australia’s biggest community celebrations, with participants asked to bring nothing but a shared belief in safe, resilient and sustainable communities.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Governor-General Quentin Bryce have thrown their full support behind the cause, encouraging people to celebrate the occasion however they see fit, from street parties to a cup of tea with neighbours.

“The beauty of Neighbour Day is that rather than being given a set of instructions of what to do, it is a day where you catch people’s imaginations, no matter where you live or your socioeconomic status and however you want to celebrate it,” Heslop told the Star Observer.

“The day also serves as a way we can extend the celebrations of Mardi Gras for another couple of weeks.”

Heslop acknowledged that Neighbour Day might be an especially important occasion for members of the LGBTI community, who are more likely to lack some of the traditional supports (and geographic closeness) of traditional family units.

“One of the main aims of the day is to promote tolerance, respect and understanding, and Neighbour Day almost parallels Mardi Gras in allowing people to say, ‘This is who I am and the community I am part of’, ” he said.

There is no cost to participate and you can download a free kit containing invitations, name tags, posters and a ‘how to’ guide from the website.

INFO: www.neighbourday.org

Photo: John McRae.

By JEREMY MASPERO

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