Friday, July 19, 2024
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The fragility of the neighbourhood

These days we often talk about the importance of a resilient neighbourhood. There is a “resilient city” global network which Sydney is a part of that keeps cities accountable to becoming sustainable. This network exists to help keep neighbourhoods connected and strong. But what I’ve been reflecting on lately is about the fragility of the neighbourhood.

I live in Surry Hills and I love this unique little village in the heart of the inner city. I love the terrace houses, the public spaces, artworks and the cafés. But most of all I love the people and community.

I walk out of my door to go catch the bus or to buy my groceries or walk my dog and I know for certain that I will bump into someone I know. What keeps this little neighbourhood strong is relationships and connection. If this is compromised, then the whole neighbourhood feels it. It’s as fragile as a spider’s web. You tear one thread and the whole web wavers and is made vulnerable.

The other day I noticed that all the staff at my favourite local café had changed. I had noticed a few shifts over the recent months but one day I turned up and everyone except one barista had left. And he tells me that he too will leave in a few months. I know that many customers including myself had made friendships and connections with the team. I felt a little sad.

I know we are supposed to get used to these movements, it’s only normal if you live in a big city, we have become accustomed to the impersonal, transient and efficiency. But the reason I love my little village of Surry Hills is exactly because of those fragile connections – the things that don’t change like the familiar smile and quips from the people I know at my local café.

I wondered to what extent this small change would affect our neighbourhood, perhaps in ways we have no idea about and which will impact the web of relationships in the neighbourhood.

I am not against change, movement, growth and sustainability. We need that. We need resilience. But we also need stability, familiarly and neighbourhoods that carefully tend that intricate web of relationships. Because a neighbourhood is not only resilient, but also fragile, and ultimately protecting that might not be such a bad thing for our cities.

Karina Kreminski is co-director at Neighbourhood Matters. She is also on the board at the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre which runs events and programs for community development and relationships.

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