There are few opportunities to connect with neighbours these days. Children play in backyards or are busy with after-school activities. Families arrive and leave in cars, rarely bumping into their neighbours. But in Newcastle there are exceptions – they are called 'Transition Streets'.
Neighbours in transition streets know each other. They work together to build their community and help each other make positive environmental change.
I really like the idea of change happening at the street level. Attempts to influence change at a city, state or national level often fail. The problem seems too big and complicated. But if we consider the changes we can make within our own homes and our own streets, change seems less overwhelming. Success seems possible – partially if households come together and support each other.
Eleven streets and more than 80 households have already participated in the Transition Streets program. Co-ordinated by Transition Newcastle, the program helps neighbours support each other to reduce their energy and water bills, learn how to grow food, reduce waste, and build a more connected neighbourhood.
I recently visited one of the transition streets – Fitzroy Road in Lambton. Julie Harding moved into Fitzroy Street just a few weeks before signing herself up as 'street contact' for the Transition Streets program. "It was a great way to get to know the neighbours. I met people who I would not have otherwise gotten to know," Julie said. "It’s incredible what a difference it makes when you know your neighbours. To be able to say hello to a familiar face."
The program has changed the street for the families involved. The street feels safer for the kids. "We used a letter box drop to connect with neighbours initially. Seven households signed up. We hold regular get-togethers, involve the kids, and make it fun. Our ages range from 10 to 88."
A practical workbook, developed by Transition Newcastle, guides participants through the program. The workbook includes chapters on water, energy, food, waste, consumption and transport. "Each month we focus on a different chapter in the manual," Julie said. She especially enjoyed the transport chapter. "A few of us got panniers for our bikes and are riding to the supermarket and farmers markets."
For Fitzroy Street, the Transition Streets program is about to end. "But we’ll definitely continue to do things together beyond this year. We’re about to start a healthy cooking group, and will continue riding our bikes together," Julie said.
Are you interested in helping your street become a Transition Street?
Transition Newcastle are on the look-out for 'street contacts' for the 2015 program. You’ll be supported by the Transition Newcastle team and be trained as a facilitator. More information here, or phone William Vorobioff on 49673231.
You don’t need to live in Newcastle to create your own Transition Street.
You don’t need to live in Newcastle to create your own Transition Street. The program was initially inspired by the successful UK Transition Together program, and has in turn gone on to inspire the establishment of other Transition Streets programs across Australia, including Melbourne and Lismore. The manual, a key component of the program, is being revised so that it can be easily applied anywhere in Australia. Contact Transition Newcastle for more information.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 22nd December 2014.