NEIGHBOURS noticed the growing pile of mail outside the home in Wattle Avenue Wendouree, but no one had seen the elderly woman who lived there for some time.
Each Saturday morning she was picked up by a taxi and taken to the supermarket, but she rarely spoke to her neighbours and had few visitors.
When police broke into the house last February, they found the body of the woman in her 70s.
She had died and nobody knew.
Ballarat Police Senior Constable Janine Walker decided that day that no more so-called lonely deaths should take place in the community.
Standing on the site where the home stood until a few months ago, Constable Walker said the case had renewed her belief in Neighbour Day, an event aimed at better connecting neighbours in the name of safety.
“The reason she wasn’t found was the one person who did look out for her had gone away for a month.
“Nobody else nearby had any contact with the woman so they didn’t know that something wasn’t right, and that shouldn’t be able to happen again,” she said.
On Sunday, the Wendouree West Community Hub will host celebrations for Neighbour Day’s 10th anniversary with bike marking, a sausage sizzle, raffle, hip hop dancing and live music performances.
“Some people may think that strengthening the community isn’t a job of Victoria Police, but keeping the community safe certainly is and the two go hand-in-hand,” she said.
“Our message is to get to know your neighbours and be aware of what is going on in your community.”
Senior Constable Walker said it was traumatic for Victoria Police officers to make the grim discoveries and just like road accidents or suicide, officers experience ongoing difficulties as a result.
She said all Ballarat residents were invited to the event, with entry by gold coin donation from 2-4.30pm.
“The broader message is to knock on the door and say hello to a neighbour you might not know.
“You don’t need to be in their face or pushy, but you might find things in common and be able to avoid sad events like lonely deaths.”
Loneliness is a growing problem in Australian society, with research showing 3.7 million Australians are likely to live alone by 2026.