Neighbour Day founder talks up community interaction

WHEN a deceased elderly woman was found in her home two years after she had passed away, the community's reaction sparked Andrew Heslop into action.

Mr Heslop founded Neighbour Day in 2003 -- a movement that aims to encourage interaction between community members, promote tolerance and look out for the elderly.

Mr Heslop was in Swan Hill last week to talk about Neighbour Day, which was held yesterday.

He was also here as an "NBN champion" with the touring NBN truck.

"I love coming back to the Swan Hill region and I spent many New Year's Eves in Swan Hill because I worked for the Red Cross when they were involved with the Murray Marathon. It's great to get a warm welcome from the people," he told The Guardian on Friday.

Mr Heslop said regional towns like Swan Hill made for better neighbourhoods than those in city areas.

"There was a survey done about four years ago which found that people in the bush are four times more likely to know their neighbours, even though the distance betweem them may be greater," he said.

"Therefore they are the people you see in the newsagents or the supermarkets because its a much smaller catchment than people who live in urban environments."

Mr Heslop dismissed suggestions that the sense of community was diminishing in the modern day -- instead he said the "community" was being re-defined.

"In the past we thought of our neighbour as being the person across the street. But because technology is more advanced we can consider the online community as our backyard."