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Family Forum: Should I alert authorities if I think my neighbour’s children are at risk?

Family Forum is asked ‘is it right to step in if I suspect there is danger?’ Find out more…

QUESTION:

Should I alert the authorities? If so, which authority? I am concerned about the terrible fighting I hear happening at my neighbour’s house.

I do not know the neighbours to speak to, but I know there are three primary-school-aged children living there and a man and woman who I assume are their parents, although I guess one of the parents may be a step-parent. They moved in about a year ago. I hear adults yelling at high volume about five nights out of every seven. The arguing lasts for one to two hours on average, although sometimes it is less. I hear glass or crockery getting smashed, the dog yelping and general banging noises, which I imagine is furniture getting thrown around. I worry for the children and mother’s safety. I have never seen injuries on the children or mother, but then I only ever see them from a distance. I have thought about trying to be friendly to the family, but I don’t want to put myself or my grandchildren in any danger.

ANSWER:

It is very important to alert the authorities if you think people may be in danger. There are two agencies to contact: SA Police and the Department of Child Protection.

The panel suggests you seek advice from the police prior to the next disturbance. The phone number for non-urgent police assistance is 131 444. Seek their advice on the best action to take during the next disturbance. Triple zero is the number to call if life is potentially in danger.

Children who are subject to witnessing or listening to their parents or carers fighting (verbal and/or physical) are being harmed. This is emotional or psychological abuse. The phone number for reporting child abuse is 131 478 (24 hours, 7 days a week). Please be patient when making this call as sometimes there may be a wait. Mandated notifiers including medical professionals, teachers and police can register to report online at: www.childprotection.sa.gov.au/reporting-child-abuse/report-child-abuse-or-neglect

It is important to re-report incidences so that all incidences can be documented. The Child Protection Department necessarily prioritises its responses, therefore the more information they receive, the more informed their decisions can be. Reporting to the police and to the Department of Child Protection can be done anonymously.

Additionally, the panel encourages you to make contact with the mother, for example invite her to have a coffee. Finding an opportunity to provide her with the Women’s Safety Services SA phone number 1800 800 098 is also strongly encouraged, as is letting her know that triple zero is the number she should call in an emergency to protect her children and herself. On average one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.

Submit Your Questions

Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

Have you got a question you’d like us to tackle?

Fill out the form below or send questions to Family Forum, The Advertiser, 31 Waymouth St, Adelaide 5000.

We treat communications in strict confidence except when the law demands otherwise, as in child abuse.

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