Neighbours work together for happier, friendlier community

LISMORE City Council is launching a new initiative that seeks to bring people living in village communities together to discuss ideas that could enhance their community.

Such initiatives could well be described as a form of "cohousing".

No, I'm not talking about people living together in share houses or communes.

Cohousing refers to neighbours living in a shared location such as a village or urban city street, working together to enhance their lifestyles and living environment through shared initiatives … initiatives that bring about a friendlier, more sustainable neighbourhood within which to raise families.

These enhancements might include establishing a community garden or social space, setting up a shared renewable energy supply or sharing part-time resources such as laundry facilities, etc.

In essence, their living environment becomes a neighbourhood that is more like the villages of the past; a place where neighbours know and trust each other.

Cohousing began in Denmark in the early 1970s. People were looking for an environment with more community than the standard suburban neighbourhoods of the time.

There are now cohousing initiatives overseas where entire streets have chosen to remove much of their backyard fencing in order to create shared park-style neighbourhoods with gardens, playgrounds, outdoor kitchens, social spaces and even such things as community swimming pools and theatres.

As such, cohousing is a concept that could also sit very well within the Lismore environment, both in the villages and town.

In fact, there is at least one cohousing-style initiative that has already been created with a community garden, pizza oven and shared social space by, and on behalf of, the residents of Little Keen St.

So why not get together with your neighbours and throw a few ideas around?

You may well be surprised at what could come of it.

See what others have achieved at Cohousing Australia,, and overseas at the Cohousing Association of the United States.

BEAU RAVN has written a number of articles on sustainable, community-orientated living and was the author of a community development handbook called The Wooded Way. This handbook has since influenced Intentional Community developments in Germany and the United States, as well as here in Australia.

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