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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3598

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (21:45): I rise tonight to talk about a great event that will be held on Sunday, 25 March—that is, the 10th annual Neighbour Day. I would also like to talk about two remarkable people, Ruth Murray and Jenny Colvin, who are both champion neighbours in their local community of Doveton, in my electorate of Holt. Neighbour Day is the perfect opportunity for the neighbourhood to come together, for residents of all ages and backgrounds, wherever we choose to call home, to come together as a neighbourhood, I guess for the common good. We all need to work together, I think we would acknowledge in this place, to rebuild our sense of community and to build a safer and a friendlier neighbourhood.

We can all start by inviting the people next door and in our street to come on over on Neighbour Day. Neighbour Day was founded in Melbourne in March 2003 by Andrew Heslop. In May 2008, Andrew spoke at the United Nations in New York about the global development of Neighbour Day, which has grown from a simple idea expressed in a letter to the editor of the Age to become a national community event. Since 2003, there have been five principal aims which have shaped Neighbour Day: (1) to strengthen communities and build better relationships with the people who live around us; (2) to create safer, healthier and more vibrant suburbs and towns; (3) to promote tolerance, respect and understanding; (4) to break down community barriers; and, (5), to protect the elderly, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

Two people who I believe embody the principal aims of Neighbour Day are Ruth and Jenny from Doveton. To promote Neighbour Day 2012, I attended a pre-Neighbour Day barbecue with 22 others at Ruth and Jenny's home last Friday. We held this event because we thought that coming together and firing up a barbecue in Doveton was a good way to celebrate and to promote Neighbour Day. At the barbecue, I was incredibly impressed by how Ruth and Jenny have converted their garage into a communal space, including tables and chairs, a coffee machine, TV, stereo and pool table and an incredible Olympic Games mural, which allows their neighbours to come and enjoy each other's company throughout the year. According to Jenny, the communal garage is used for a variety of events throughout the year, including the Christmas light-up party held on 1 December and for spontaneous events—like when it is a nice day.

Ruth and Jenny have lived in the Doveton community since 1979 and, since then, Ruth has been committed to giving to others. In doing so, she has taught her daughter and her fellow friends and neighbours to do likewise. For over 13 years, Ruth and Jenny have run an annual Christmas barbecue for neighbours, local community members, family and old friends at their home in Doveton. Over 150 people are invited to the local barbecue, which coincides with their amazing Christmas lights display. Ruth started this Christmas lights display by simply putting up an angel on the front of her house. Once kids came to have a look, she started welding new objects in front of the house so that kids could come over and even climb on them if they wished. I have driven past the Christmas lights in Doveton on numerous occasions prior to Christmas and they are an amazing sight. They are an incredible experience where people can actually come in and fully experience Christmas. People come from everywhere to take photographs, to just be part of and sample the Christmas spirit and to look at the way things should be done.

The Christmas lights display also includes a Mr and Mrs Claus, whom I happened to meet at this community barbecue. Mr and Mrs Claus are provided with the assistance of local residents Robert and Cheryl Rawnsley, who are able to distribute thousands of gifts, including books and games to children, which are provided by Pauline Forbes and Rhonda Wagner.

Ruth and her family definitely symbolise the spirit of Neighbour Day. They have huge pride in their neighbourhood and a commitment to bringing people together to build a stronger sense of community. According to Jenny, 'The neighbours are the main reason for our success.' For example, when they asked their neighbours if they should have a pre-Neighbour Day barbecue, all these people turned up. The people who turned up were Autumn Place shopkeepers. For example, the butcher, the manager of Jeff's Meats, donated the snags for this event and the baker donated the bread—two local shops from Doveton, there just for this event.

Ruth and Jenny's story is an incredible one. In 2000, Jenny and her husband, who sadly is no longer with us, had a band called Country Pride, which used to go round the community and raise funds for various organisations, including the Dandenong Hospital. Due to the large amount of money that was raised, Jenny became the No. 1 torchbearer for the City of Casey and ran in the name of the famous Australian Olympian and middle distance runner Edwin Flack.

Ruth and Jenny's story in the Doveton area is just one Doveton story. I could keep going all night but I have 15 seconds so I will not. Let me say that they epitomise what it means to be neighbours and how to run a good Neighbour Day. They are to be commended and they really do summarise the spirit of what makes that community a great community.