Hi Neighbour, I’m dying to tell you …

Shortly after I moved to Glebe I was out walking my dog early one morning at first light. As bad luck would have it I tripped and fell. Fortunately I was not hurt, but as I lay there gathering my scattered wits several people ran past. Not one stopped to offer help. It made me wonder; did they think I was just sleeping rough? It certainly wasn’t very neighbourly of them, I thought.

Several months later I was again walking my dog, this time in broad daylight in the rain. I was nearly at the Post Office boxes when I slipped on the metal pavement cover near the public phone. My feet flew out from under me and I plummeted backwards, banging my head pretty hard. Seeing stars was an understatement. Within milliseconds a small crowd surrounded me and one kind person, identifying herself as a doctor, began checking to see if I was okay. Meanwhile my hound, never very patient, was tugging at the leash which I was still holding, wanting to keep going.

The doctor called an ambulance for me, saying I need to be thoroughly checked to make sure I hadn’t fractured my skull. This seemed quite reasonable to me but what was to happen to poor Maggie? At that moment I spied a face I knew in the crowd. He lived just up the road from me and although we’d never spoken I knew he knew where I lived. I was about to ask him to take my dog home when he offered to do just that. So Maggie was returned safely to and tethered in my yard, awaiting my partner’s return while I was whisked off to A&E. He even left a note explaining where I had disappeared to. What a decent neighbour I thought. Now we speak each time we meet, and although I cannot say we’ve become friends I am very glad that he is still my neighbour.

This of course segues into my theme for today, neighbourliness. As many single people live in Glebe the presence of benign and friendly neighbours is not only a treasure one hopes to find but also a vital resource for our individual wellbeing. Cheery greetings, shared cuppas, bringing in bins, watering gardens, maybe even exchanging small Christmas tokens are just some of the actions that help cement community connectedness. And it is that connection and sharing that can mean the difference between positive and negative outcomes in times of need.

I’m reminded of the fairly recent death of a Glebe identity at whose passing Edwina Doe, his long term acquaintance, was called upon by the Police, in an effort to locate his next of kin. Edwina was herself only approached because her name was found on a list in the deceased person’s home. This was coincidentally the evening after we’d had a Community Committee sponsored afternoon tea at St Helen’s to hear people’s views on Ageing in Glebe. Edwina was able to provide some information to the Police, but unfortunately not the identity of the next of kin. This situation got her thinking and searching for a way of ensuring that there is a method available for essential contacts to be found and made in the event of an emergency. Not everyone has family nearby, or even if they do visits may not always be regular.

As an indefatigable researcher Edwina located some methods people may utilise when organising their affairs, so they are included here for your information. We hope they are of some use to you.

Red Cross Neighbour Contact Card
The first is the Neighbour Contact Card produced by the Red Cross. Both sides of it are shown below, and it could be given to neighbours just as a ‘getting to know you’ ploy too. This might give you other ideas, like leaving a spare key with a trusted neighbour. As a keen Red Cross volunteer, Edwina has kindly offered to make these cards available to anyone who contacts her on edwinadoe@optusnet.com.au.

NSW Police Next of Kin Program
Another suggestion is the NSW Police Next of Kin Program. It is free to join and allows people living alone to have contact details of their nominated person recorded at a local Police station. It is confidential, and if you would like further information Edwina suggests you contact the local community liaison officer, Constable Amy Teasdale, at the Glebe Police Station. (teas1amy@police.nsw.gov.au, 02 9552 8099).

There are other ways of course, and one of the most effective is sharing important information with family or friends whenever a change of circumstances arises. My daughter-in-law has now taken to asking me ‘where’s the loot hidden this time?’ before each overseas trip I take! Should I be worried about this?

Of course this is not a complete list of vital information that will help people when the need arises, but it is a good basic start and you might have other suggestions. I’d like to thank Edwina for her initiative in finding these resources and sharing them with us. Now I’m off to talk to my new neighbours!