Indicators of Community Cohesion in an Australian Country Town

Louise Holdsworth, Yvonne Hartman


Abstract

While the notion that communities require resources in the form of financial capital for their development and wellbeing has long been recognised, it has become increasingly apparent that economic resources alone do not lead to community sustainability and wellbeing. The building and supporting of strong, safe, socially cohesive communities that embrace social connections and commitment, has become an important goal of policy and initiatives at all levels of government. The aims of this study were to identify a common understanding of the concept of ‘community cohesion’, and to develop a set of indicators based on both the experiences of residents in a rural community and the relevant contemporary academic literature. Because community cohesion is an intangible concept subject to multiple meanings, qualitative research methods were used. We identified four main themes which could be translated into the key indicators. The most significant finding is that neighbourliness was identified by participants as the key aspect of community cohesion. Yet, whilst it is central, this does not mean excessive familiarity or the taking of liberties. Indeed, part of neighbourliness involves respecting each other’s boundaries and respect for diversity.

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