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Lifeline: 60 years of supporting residents through every challenge

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Six decades of helping others is certainly a milestone worth celebrating.

And, on Thursday 16 March, the country’s leading crisis support and suicide prevention organisation commemorated its 60th anniversary.

Lifeline was founded in Sydney in 1963, conceived after Reverend Dr Sir Alan Walker OBE accepted a call from a distraught man who later took his own life.

Determined not to let isolation and lack of support be the cause of more deaths, he launched what was later to become the organisation’s 24/7 telephone crisis line, 13 11 14 – the first of its kind in Australia.

With roots in the Central Methodist Church and Wesley Mission, Lifeline received 100 calls on that opening day.

And, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing since, quickly expanding throughout Australia, including the Hunter.

Three years after the service started in Sydney, Reverend John Chegwidden woke to a distressed telephone call from a man wanting to know if Lifeline was operating in the region.

That’s all it took to gain attention.

On May 7 1966, Lifeline Hunter moved into its first premises in Lawson Street, Hamilton, to start taking calls from people in crisis.

“Our support centre now boasts 50 local volunteers,” CEO Rob Sams said.

“We also offer suicide prevention and mental health support training, face-to-face and online counselling and other suicide prevention and bereavement support programs.

“Lifeline couldn’t do what it does, nationally and locally, without the support of its selfless volunteers, sponsors, donors, community, government and business partners, and dedicated staff.”

Mr Sams volunteers as a crisis supporter, too, which he admitted was “a privilege”.

“We urgently need more people and funding to train and support them so that we can continue to offer hope, compassion and connection to the increasing number of residents looking to us for help,” he said.

“If you can help or fund their training, get in touch at lifelinehunter.org.au or 1300 152 854.

“With ongoing community support, we’ll be here for another 60 years.”

Lifeline chair Jacinta Munro said the organisation was incredibly proud to be celebrating such a momentous birthday.

“Our core mission began as that of supporting people in crisis and we have stuck to that central 24/7 service for 60 years,” she stated.

Lifeline Australia CEO Colin Seery highlighted the new and emerging challenges faced by the organisation and the need to remain agile and dynamic to face them front on.

“Over the course of the past 60 years, Lifeline has reshaped and evolved during difficult times to remain at the forefront of crisis support and suicide prevention in Australia to this day,” he explained.

“Especially in the last few years, Lifeline has played a critical role through distressing events and continues to be central in disaster response and recovery at community level and beyond.”

If you or someone you know are feeling overwhelmed, connect with Lifeline in the way you feel most comfortable. 

You can speak to a crisis supporter 24/7 on 13 11 14, text 0477 131 114 or chat at www.lifeline.org.au

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