Indicators of Community Cohesion in an Australian Country Town

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Louise Holdsworth
Yvonne Hartman


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.

Article Details

How to Cite
Holdsworth, L., & Hartman, Y. (2009). Indicators of Community Cohesion in an Australian Country Town. Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, (2), 76-97.
Research and Evaluation (peer-reviewed)
Author Biographies

Louise Holdsworth, North Coast Area Health Service, Australia

Dr Louise Holdsworth is currently working on the Australian Rural Mental Health Study coordinating the study in Northern NSW, Northern Rivers University Department of Rural Health. Louise’s PhD thesis titled: ‘Just renting’: the experiences of sole mother non-home owners living in Northern NSW, was accepted in February 2008. The study looked at how low-income, non-home owning sole mother families constituted a social group that is particularly vulnerable, and disadvantaged by, their housing situations.

Yvonne Hartman, Southern Cross University

Lecturer, School of Arts and Social Science Dr Yvonne Hartman is a lecturer in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Southern Cross University, where she teaches sociology and politics. Her research interests are tied to various aspects of social justice, including Australian social policy and participatory democracy. She is particularly interested in social exclusion and the mechanisms by which it is either increased or reduced.