Even when they are strangers, neighbours are central to our lives. As the people who live closest to us, they can be the first responders in an emergency or approached for small favours. But our relationships with neighbours are changing from what they once were. Our lives have grown busier, more mobile and less locally-bound and our neighbourhoods have changed as well. Research is needed to document how neighbouring now takes place in different residential contexts, and the role of neighbours in promoting individual and community well-being, regardless of whether those relationships are good, bad or indifferent.

With this study the University of Queensland’s School of Social Science aims to generate high quality empirical evidence on neighbouring – including its negative elements – which will result in more informed policy making and interventions.

Project aim

The research project, funded by the Federal Government’s Australian Research Council, represents the first ever attempt to fully interrogate all sides that come with neighbouring. The study will generate new knowledge on this important topic and will allow to test and refine existing theories.

The research aims to add to the empirical body of knowledge in several ways:

  • Existing knowledge on neighbouring is out of date and no longer is a reflection of what neighbouring is like today. New research is needed to gain a better understanding of the role of neighbours in people’s lives that is current and evidence-based.  
  • The benefits of good neighbour relations for disaster readiness, community care and crime reduction are well-known and policy makers are keen to promote more positive forms of neighbouring. But these cannot be designed or implemented effectively without empirical data on the different ways people relate to their neighbours at the everyday level.
  • Local councils, the police and neighbour mediation staff often spend considerable time dealing with problems between neighbours. Knowing how neighbours successfully manage problems among themselves, what causes problems to escalate into conflict, and how ongoing neighbourly relations are damaged or sustained by problems and disputes, is of utmost importance to them.

Research team

The team carrying out the research brings to the table a broad skillset and ample experience. Leading the project are Dr Lynda Cheshire, Professor in the School of Social Science, Dr Robin Fitzgerald, Senior lecturer at the University of Queensland and Senior Lecturer in Geographical Information Science Dr. Yan Liu. All have published papers on the topic of neighbouring and have extensive research experience. Charlotte ten Have is the Research Manager for the current research.

Research

The study will incorporate the influence of socio-demographic and neighbourhood factors on neighbouring while also placing them within their local and interactional contexts. Our aim is to examine neighbouring through a number of ‘street studies’ in different suburbs around Brisbane so that we can learn more about daily and everyday experiences of neighbouring among a group of neighbours. This in order to understand neighbouring in the context in which it occurs – the local level of people’s homes, streets and neighbourhoods.  Involvement in the study will not be onerous, nor intrusive and will be carried out with the use of qualitative interviews of approximately one hour with individuals and/or households.

Participating in the research

Your stories are valuable and will help us to successfully carry out the research and provide recommendations to councils, governments and organisation. We would therefore like to invite you and/or other members of your household to participate in an interview of approximately one hour, at a time and location of your choice – preferably your home, but you can also elect to meet us in a café or other public space if you prefer.

The interviews will be conducted from May 2016 onwards. As a sign of gratitude for your participation and time interviewees will be awarded a $50 gift voucher.

If you would like to become involved the research, please complete the Expression of Interest form [link].

Participation is voluntary

Participation in the research is voluntary. That means you do not have to answer any question and can stop the interview at any time for any reason. If you choose to withdraw from the study, we will not use any of the information you have given us.

Your privacy and the use of confidential information

It is important to us that your privacy is protected and that you cannot be identified as a participant in this research. We use several means to preserve your identity, including removing all identifiable information from any written material, such as names and addresses of people, the street, and the suburb. However, since we will be interviewing a group of neighbours who likely know each other, it is possible that neighbours will be able to identify each other in any report through the stories they tell, even when names etc. have been removed. We will reduce this possibility by omitting specific details from our reports that may lead others to identify you, but please be aware that this risk remains and only share information with us that you are comfortable having on public record. If you prefer, we can send you typed copies of your interview afterward so that you can decide if there is anything you would prefer we did not use.

Sometimes people elect to give us information ‘off the record’ because they believe it is useful for us to have this information, but they ask that we do not mention it in our reporting. Anything you designate as ‘off the record’ will not be used and the audio recorder will be switched off upon request. You can discuss this further with the researcher at the beginning of the interview to ensure you are aware of, and comfortable with, the provisions made in this regard.

Risk of participating

It has been calculated that the risks of participating in this research are no greater than the risks of everyday living. If, however, you feel any distress as a result of participating in the research, please feel free to discuss this with the researcher and/or a University ethics officer on 07 3365 3924.

Results of project

The results of study will be summarised and sent to you at various stages of the research process. You are also invited to contact the researchers and ask questions at any point in the study.

Getting in touch

If you would like to become involved, please fill out the online Expression of Interest form [link]. Alternatively, if you are interested to learn more about our study, you can also get in touch with us by contacting the Research Manager for this project, Charlotte ten Have, by e-mail at c.tenhave@uq.edu.au or by phone on 0487 122 326.

Project members

Professor Lynda Cheshire

Deputy Head of School
Professor
School of Social Science

Dr Robin Fitzgerald

Senior Lecturer
School of Social Science