Make some new friends, get a sandwich and help promote GLBTI acceptance on March 28, Neighbour Day.

Now in its eighth year, Neighbour Day began as a small Melbourne-based event organised by Andrew Heslop — the Australian Red Cross’ former national communications director —  in an attempt to help the local community come to terms with the story of an elderly woman who lay dead in her apartment for years before anyone realised.

People who participated in that first event may have been tentative about approaching the strangers next door to take part in Neighbour Day but the event has continued to grow each year, with more and more people planning to host a picnic, a cocktail party or a simple potluck dinner.

“I think it’s really caught the imagination of people,” Heslop told Sydney Star Observer. “I think that’s principally because they’re not being asked to buy anything or donate any money.

“All they’re really being encouraged to do is to knock on the door of the person next door or across the street and say, ‘G’day, this is who I am, and if there’s ever a problem or an issue, get in contact’. Anything that happens from there is sensational.”

There’s no denying that it can feel odd knocking on a stranger’s door to invite them around to your place, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating, Heslop explained.

“I think we’re concerned, maybe because we’ve watched Neighbours, we’re worried about those characters who come in and take over people’s lives. It feels like your search for privacy might be compromised. Of course, there are people like that in the community, but they’re not as prevalent as that.

“Neighbour Day is all about breaking down barriers, creating tolerance and respect and understanding.

“No matter what your sexual identity, you have a neighbour. So it’s about assisting that community feeling to be more accepted and understood. It’s about taking that step of saying, ‘This is who I am, this is my house, this is what I do’ and showing that I’m just like you.”

info: For more information on Neighbour Day and ideas on hosting your own event, visit www.neighbourday.org

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