Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced $34 million in extra funding for Lifeline Australia at the centre where the telephone crisis service began 55 years ago – Wesley Mission.
Mr Turnbull visited the Sydney call centre to make the announcement and met with Lifeline Sydney & Sutherland volunteers who answer more than 40,000 calls each year.
“Practical love saves lives every day,” Mr Turnbull said. “Thousands of volunteers taking calls from people who are lonely, are in crisis, who are thinking of taking their own lives. Their love changes and saves lives.
“But they need more support. They need better computers, better systems and so we’re providing $34 million in additional funding to support Lifeline. It’s going to be matched with the love of the volunteers, the practical love that is saving lives.”
The $34 million allocated for the next four years will address an increase in volunteers and supervisors who take around one million calls nationally.
Lifeline Sydney & Sutherland volunteers told the Prime Minister that the complexity and diversity of calls were increasing. Volunteer Libby Collins said there was an increasing number of younger callers who she described as intense.
“Even though we have Kids Helpline we are getting younger callers and an increasing volume of teenagers calling, but the age range is huge,” she said. “We’ve had a 10 year-old calling distressed up to elderly people in nursing homes.”
Lifeline Australia has called the funding a “game changer.”
Mr Turnbull described suicide as self-destructive but “something which hurts everyone else: friends, family…it’s a waste of a life.”
“Mental health and mental illness has become a very frontline issue,” he said.
The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to call upon people to consider becoming a Lifeline volunteer.
“Many of them have been motivated by personal experience – a family member or a friend – and they’ve thought to themselves, ‘I can really make a difference’,’ Mr Turnbull said. “So if you feel you can make a difference if you can share your love and provide the encouragement and support to people who are really desperate and lonely… then contact Lifeline to be a volunteer.”
The CEO of Wesley Mission the Rev Dr Keith Garner said he was delighted that the Australian Government had found the extra funding and backed the Prime Minister’s call for more volunteers.
He said Lifeline was reliant on members of the community stepping forward with their time and skills.
“There is no doubt that this service saves lives,” Dr Garner said. “We would ask people to consider the real difference that may make in the lives of people in crises.”
To find out more about volunteering for Lifeline Sydney & Sutherland or to register for training please call 1800 100 024.
Pictured: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meets with Lifeline Sydney & Sutherland volunteers at Wesley Mission.