Sup­port­ive se­nior San­dra named Aus­tralia‘s best neigh­bour

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - FRONT PAGE - Jil­lian McKee

WHILE Mt Druitt’s pub­lic hous­ing is of­ten ma­ligned, a Tregear woman has shone a na­tional spot­light on the car­ing and sup­port­ive com­mu­nity net­work in her se­niors com­plex.

San­dra Pereira has been named Aus­tralia’s “most ex­tra­or­di­nary neigh­bour” in a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

SAN­DRA Pereira, of Tregear, has al­ways been known as the world’s best neigh­bour – and now it is of­fi­cial.

Mrs Pereira was named Aus­tralia’s “most ex­tra­or­di­nary neigh­bour” last week af­ter be­ing nom­i­nated in Neigh­bour Day’s Tell Us Your Story cam­paign.

The com­pe­ti­tion in­vited peo­ple to write a short story of an ex­tra­or­di­nary neigh­bour or neigh­bourly act.

The cam­paign prompted thou­sands of en­tries from across the na­tion, but none im­pressed more than the great-grand­mother who had brought life back to her se­nior’s pub­lic hous­ing com­plex in Tregear.

Cathy wrote about neigh­bour ex­traor­di­naire San­dra, whose com­mit­ment to the com­mu­nity has cre­ated a sup­port­ive so­cial net­work.

Mrs Pereira said her Bal­leny Place unit com­plex was home to hun­dreds of se­niors and its gar­den had been over­run for years.

“From my kitchen win­dow you could see this area and it was com­pletely over­grown with weeds; there was no grass at all,” she said.

“I kept look­ing at it think­ing that it would be the per­fect place for the gar­den.”

Mrs Pereira took the idea di­rectly to Hous­ing NSW which agreed to have a meet­ing with the residents to dis­cuss the idea.

“I got a lot of re­sis­tance from the residents to start off with; they were scared that a gar­den would at­tract riffraff and thieves – there was a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity,” Mrs Pereira said. “But I didn’t let the idea go. “Even­tu­ally we got ap­proval and got to the gar­den; it took us a month and a half to clear out the whole area.”

The gar­den is now flour­ish­ing with sev­eral gar­den beds, trees and park benches for the residents to soak in the sun.

Mrs Pereira said the residents’ at­ti­tudes had changed. “All the residents are start­ing to take pride in it,” she said.

“If I am away they will wa­ter it and look af­ter ev­ery­thing; ev­ery­one does their lit­tle bit.”

On top of the gar­den, Mrs Pereira also has or­gan­ised a num­ber of com­mu­nity func­tions at the com­plex.

“I came up with the idea of the com­mu­nity group ... we do Christ­mas lunch ev­ery year and last year we did Mel­bourne Cup which was a roar­ing suc­cess. Ev­ery­one can’t wait to do it again this year.

“The gar­den and the com­mu­nity func­tions have re­ally brought all the neigh­bours closer to­gether.”

There is no rest for the mother of six with her next project, a big Christ­mas in July event, in sight.

She’s also keen to get a com­mu­nity ex­er­cise class at the com­plex.

“I am just gar­den­ing and putting on a few com­mu­nity events, it’s not a big deal,” Mrs Pereira said of be­ing a na­tion­ally recog­nised “good neigh­bour”.

Pic­ture: Matthew Sul­li­van

San­dra Pereira has a chat with her neigh­bour Max Cahill.

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