Over the last few years, as we isolated, locked down and adapted to a new way of living, communities across the globe went digital. From Zoom trivia nights to online dance classes, nearly every aspect of our lives (and the groups we share our lives with) played out on a screen.
An 80-year longitudinal study conducted by Harvard University demonstrated the very real impact of community bonds, which helped people live longer, happier lives, and even delayed physical and mental decline among participants. Strong relationships were found to be better predictors of a long and happy life than social class, IQ, or even genes.
As restrictions have eased and we’re tentatively socialising once more, a number of groups across the country are reconnecting IRL. Read on for eight offline communities that are spending time and connecting face-to-face.
Lipton Ice Tea Community Gardens, Sydney and Melbourne
Community gardening is a great way to connect with your neighbours. It can be a restorative and rewarding exercise that fosters connection. To help urban neighbourhoods get the most out of green spaces, Lipton Ice Tea is partnering with seven community gardens in Australian cities that are in dire need of funding by donating new garden beds, power tools, fresh plants and people power in the form of volunteers.
At Randwick Community Organic Garden, volunteers have replaced old garden beds and the community has new sets of tools to garden with. In Melbourne's Yarraville Community Garden, the community has a new electric BBQ for worker-bee events, as well as new power drills.
The work doesn't stop there. From Curl Community Garden in Sydney to Endeavour Hills Community Garden in Melbourne, these initiatives will help to bring more locals out to gardens across the country and help locals to connect once more. Want to get stuck in? Community Gardens Australia can show you where your closest neighbourhood garden is.
No Lights No Lycra, Australia-Wide
No Lights No Lycra is the definition of 'dance like nobody’s watching'. Founded in Melbourne in 2009, the dance class is now global, with people from all over the world enjoying face-to-face free-form dancing. Arrive at the location, get into position and dance your heart out under dimmed lighting. With different music played at each session, NLNL aims to elevate artists from diverse backgrounds, particularly POC, First Nations and LGBTQIA+ artists. Phones and Fitbits are also prohibited so you can switch off and dance away. Find a location to let loose here.
Queer Sporting Alliance Rollers, Hobart and Melbourne
Queer Sporting Alliance is an Australia-wide, gender-diverse and inclusive LGBTQIA+ club. Its mission is to ensure that LGBTQIA+ people can access and participate in community sports. Once a week, QSA hosts a social skate meet-up in Carlton, Melbourne and Hobart called QSA Rollers. Its Come Out & Roll sessions are insured by Skate Victoria and with the help of Chuffed Skates, QSA will be providing a skate library for LGBTQIA+ skaters who can't afford to buy a pair of roller skates. Grab your skates and get ready to let your inner child out.
Brisbane City Rollers, Brisbane
Not in Victoria or Tasmania? Don't stress. Brisbane City Rollers in Queensland is another community initiative that’s fostering fitness and connection. The inclusive and diverse Roller Derby Club gives opportunities to skaters of all genders and skill levels. The teams usually train on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays. I'm honestly tempted to sign up and live my best Whip It life. Find more information here.
Knockoffs Run Club, Hobart
Founded in October 2020, Knockoffs Run Club began as a small group. Made up mostly of people from the healthcare sector, they shared a passion for running, socialising and enjoying a drink together. The word spread and now Knockoffs Run Club provide weekly runs for people of all ages and abilities. It places a strong emphasis on the social aspect of team running with all runs, followed by drinks, food, prizes and the opportunity to have a chat. What more could you ask for? If you’re a Hobart local, get involved here.
Feel Good Dips, Melbourne
There are loads of benefits to cold water exposure, from improving your mood to assisting in cardiovascular health. Feel Good Dips in Melbourne is creating a community around cold water therapy. Every Sunday morning at Elwood Bathers and every Wednesday morning at Middle Park Beach, a group of swimmers plunge into the Tasman sea to feel the effects of cold water exposure and make some new friends while they're at it. I feel cold just looking at it, but if this tickles your fancy then connect with the Feel Good Dips community Facebook page here.
Cold Nips, Perth
The West Coast iteration of a cold water dip is Cold Nips. What began as two friends enjoying a sunrise swim together quickly exploded into a community of thousands. While they boast a following of over 30K on Instagram, it’s the IRL connection forged once a week that’s the real drawcard. If you’re in Perth, be sure to get involved. You can learn more about the community here and if you're in Melbourne or Queensland, then keep an eye out for Cold Nips coming soon to a beach near you.
Social Salsa, Sydney
Since 2012, Latin Junction has been introducing people to the art of salsa dancing. One person wanting to share the magic of Latin dance has now turned into lessons that take place regularly in Roseberry and Bondi. There are a whole bunch of classes for all sorts of abilities so you can ditch the screen, lace up your dancing shoes and get involved. Learn more here.