A2.3 Understanding the links between social connection and family relationships

Speaker

Claire Fisher
Relationships Australia National

Nick Tebbey
Relationships Australia National

Sam Robinson
Relationships Australia National

Tuesday 16 May 2023

Time: 2:40pm – 3:10pm

Room: Room 6

A2.3 Across the lifecourse

Understanding the links between social connection and family relationships

Abstract:

Respectful relationships are increasingly challenged by social disconnection, loneliness, mental ill-health and suicidality. In recent years, these issues have been exacerbated by the escalating environmental crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of equitable access to services. While these issues are addressed by a variety of interventions across the service spectrum, effective, scalable, population-based interventions are less common.

Neighbours Every Day, formerly known as Neighbour Day, is Relationships Australia’s social connection campaign. It supports people to create and maintain respectful relationships through capacity building and awareness. It seeks to address issues such as loneliness and social isolation by creating communities in which everyone feels they can belong. Research demonstrates that strong social connection has a positive impact on a variety of relationships.

Neighbours Every Day has been externally evaluated since 2018 with promising results. These evaluations have demonstrated that people who get involved in Neighbours Every Day:

  • Had significant reductions in loneliness that were still present six months on from the day of action (2020).
  • Were protected against the mental ill-health effects of the pandemic (2021).
  • Had wider and larger social networks, and more frequent occasions and time spent socialising (2021).
  • Promisingly, the benefits of the campaign were the same across different ages, genders, educational background, relationship status, employment status, socioeconomic background and between those highly involved versus those casually involved (2021).

These, and other findings, demonstrate that Neighbours Every Day represents a scalable, grass-roots approach to building community connection that benefits wellbeing and empowers people to build and maintain respectful relationships.

Despite this, the role of social connection is not always understood as part of the family and relationship services spectrum. In 2021, research demonstrated that becoming involved in Neighbours Every Day had a tangible effect on family relationships. Following their involvement in Neighbours Every Day, participants saw improvements in their relationship satisfaction across all types of relationships, including with their family, friends, and colleagues. Most promisingly, this group also saw an improvement to their mental health and wellbeing as a result of these relationships. This all occurred indirectly as a result of participants’ more positive and rich neighbourly relationships.

While the sector often discusses the role of strong families in creating strong communities, the reverse relationship is not often contextualised. This presentation will establish the role Neighbours Every Day plays in the Relationships Australia service spectrum and establish the case for focusing on social connection as an effective population-based relationship support.

Biography:

Claire is the Senior Research and Project Officer at Relationships Australia. She works with people across the Federation to create exciting opportunities for new research in a variety of fields. She has a passion for knowledge translation to create a stronger pathway from research to practice.

Nick is the National Executive Officer of Relationships Australia, and has worked for a number of years in the community sector. Nick is proud to be leading a team representing that promotes the rights of all people to enjoy respectful relationships within their families and their broader communities.

Sam has held leadership roles for NFP organisations in both Australia and South Africa. She has facilitated cross sector partnerships and developed programs: experiential leadership training; conservation volunteering; and community development.

As Neighbours Every Day Campaign Manager Sam brings together people, resources, and organisations to help grow stronger, connected communities.