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Sustainable communities – Looking after each other

By Elizabeth Leathbridge

I read the anguished letters to the editor of the Border Mail objecting to green bins as a financial waste. They provide a striking contrast to the viewpoint of a friend living with a family member who has severe disability. When I asked him how the green bin was going he said “we love it – now we can tidy the whole place up!” and they did.

It started me thinking about how our society is still unconsciously based on survival of the fittest, even when it comes to a seemingly mundane thing like owning or borrowing a box trailer.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how many people are unable to utilize Council’s tip vouchers through physical or financial disadvantage – if you live with disability, frailty, or constant pain, it’ s hard to “garden blitz” to fill a trailer.  What if you rent a place where you can’t pile up prunings, can’t access a car with a tow-ball, no longer drive or lack a driver licence, can’t afford trailer hire?

As a society, we group ourselves into enclaves with people like us – both a strength and a weakness, as “all of the above” often applies to family and neighbours too.

The enthusiastic reaction of my friend reminded me that life is full of little hidden indignities for many people, and had me contemplating how full membership of our community can be so easily jeopardised by what we overlook, and the assumptions we make about how well our current society of unequal lifestyles really serves all of us.

I wonder how many Australians are disenchanted with our society because we have failed to share our wealth and opportunities fairly, even amongst ourselves?

One way to sustain and support each other is to factor proposals into our local Council planning and budgets to ensure that the maximum number of people are enabled to participate in our community’s daily life with dignity intact.  As a community, it is up to us to appreciate each other’s different contribution to society, and to share in the cost of inclusion, helping to make more people one of “us”, which strengthens us all.

One small thing – a green bin – means my family member can feel that sense of satisfaction of tidying his small garden without sacrificing his pride to ask for help. Feeling normal is priceless!