Lifeline (crisis support service)

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Lifeline Australia Logo.gif
Founded16 March 1963 (1963-03-16)
FounderReverend Dr Sir Alan Walker
Area served
ProductTelephone and Online Crisis Support
Key people
CEO: Bob Gilkes
Chairman: John Brogden AM
National Patron:
Over 11,000

Lifeline is a non-profit organisation that provides free, 24-hour Telephone Crisis Support service in Australia. Volunteer Crisis Supporters provide suicide prevention services, mental health support and emotional assistance, not only via telephone but face-to-face and online.

The telephone service can be accessed by calling 13 11 14 within Australia.

Telephone Crisis Support is provided via a network of Lifeline Centres maintained by trained volunteers and some paid staff. As at March 2018, there are 40 Lifeline Centres, spanning across 60 locations around Australia. About 11,000 volunteers deliver support services, while approx. 1,000 staff provide administration and fundraising co-ordination.

Lifeline receives about one million requests for help every year.[citation needed]In the 2016-17 financial year, the national charity received 933,408 calls to its 13 11 14 crisis line and 53,257 requests to its online Crisis Support Chat service.[1] In 2016/2017, Lifeline reported an income stream consisting of 13% from community support, 72% through government grants and 15% from other sources.[1] Income is then distributed to: service support (84%), fundraising and promotion (9%), and administration (7%).[1]

Some Lifeline Centres also provide other support services which may include face-to-face counselling, group support, assistance with food & utility bills, support for the elderly and frail, and related services.

Lifeline has over 260 retail outlets around the country which sell a variety of clothes, furniture and bric-a-brac. Some Lifeline Centres have a number of stores but not all Lifeline Centres have retail outlets.[citation needed]


Lifeline was founded in Sydney, New South Wales in 1963 by the late Reverend Dr. Sir Alan Walker after a call from a distressed man who three days later took his own life. Determined not to let loneliness, isolation and anxiety be the cause of other deaths, Sir Alan launched a crisis line which initially operated out of the Methodist Central Mission.[2]

Lifeline Sydney was two years in planning and preparation, with 150 people attending a nine-month training course to work at the Centre. A century old, dilapidated building owned by the Mission, on the fringes of downtown Sydney was renovated for the purposes of this new support centre. A staff of full-time employees was appointed to direct the work of these new telephone crisis support 'workers'. The Director General of Post and Telephone Services authorised that this crisis support service should be listed on the Emergency Page of the Telephone Directory and the phones were installed.[2]

March 1963 saw the opening of the first official Lifeline Centre. The initiative was well received with over 100 calls for help being answered on the first day. The first call came one minute after the lines were opened and the phones have never stopped ringing.

In January 1964, Lifeline was featured in an article in TIME magazine,[3] which helped lead to the establishment of similar services around the world.

The first international convention of Lifeline was held in Sydney in August 1966 to guide the development of Lifeline services and to establish quality standards, which led to the formation of Lifeline International.

In 1994 Lifeline transitioned the 24-hour telephone crisis support line to a single national priority 13 number (13 11 14).

In 2007 Lifeline introduced national call flow to the 24-hour service. This allowed Lifeline to begin flowing calls nationally over a wide area network, to be answered by the next available telephone support volunteer, anywhere in the country.

Key facts[edit]

  • Lifeline receives about one million contacts each year from help-seekers, via mediums such as telephone, web and face-to-face.[4]
  • Lifeline's 24-hour crisis support line offers a confidential, non-judgemental service offered by trained telephone support volunteers[4]
  • Somewhere in Australia a new call is made to Lifeline almost every 30 seconds[1]
  • Lifeline answers around 2200 calls a day in Australia[1]
  • People who call Lifeline's 24-hour crisis support line call for a range of reasons including: family and relationship concerns, crisis support, suicide prevention, matters relating to abuse and violence, support and information about drug and alcohol use and loneliness[4]
  • Lifeline receives about 120 calls a day from people are high risk of suicide[1]
  • Lifeline is involved in all aspects of suicide prevention across a spectrum of care including early intervention, continuing care and postvention bereavement support[4]
  • Lifeline provides access to a range of services such as suicide prevention support, self-help resources and mental health information, as well as a variety of programs specific to the needs of local communities[4]
  • Lifeline relies on funding from the community through donations, fundraising and corporate partnerships[4]
  • Around 80% of Centre operating costs are funded by revenue raised from Lifeline's retail, book fairs and fundraising activities[4]
  • Lifeline receives some government funding at both the national and state level, which goes towards specific programs and services[4]
  • Lifeline has over 260 retail outlets around the country which sell a variety of clothes, furniture and bric-a-brac. Some Lifeline Centres have a number of stores but not all Lifeline Centres have retail outlets[4]
  • Lifeline operates a free call donation line 1800 800 768, however people can donate securely via the national website[4]
  • Lifeline is always in need of volunteers to work in telephone crisis support, in retail operations or to assist with fundraising efforts[4]
  • Lifeline has over 11,000 dedicated volunteers who donate their time and skills to the organisation and to assist others. Around half of these volunteers work as telephone crisis support volunteers[4]
  • For many years, and as per Mindframe Media guidelines, Australian television stations have signed off with an invitation for viewers to call Lifeline should they be in desperate need.


Australian Capital Territory: Lifeline Canberra

New South Wales: Broken Hill; Central Coast; Central West; Harbour to Hawkesbury; Macarthur; Mid Coast; Mountains to Murray; Newcastle & Hunter; North Coast; Northern Beaches; Northern Rivers; North West; South Coast; Sydney & Sutherland; Western Sydney

Northern Territory: Alice Springs

Queensland: Brisbane; Cairns Region; Central Queensland; Coral Coast Capricorn; Darling Downs and South West Queensland; Fraser District; Gold Coast; Greater Sunshine Coast Region; Ipswich & West Moreton; Mackay-Whitsunday; North Queensland

South Australia: Adelaide; Country to Coast; South East

Tasmania: Hobart

Victoria: Ballarat; Central Victoria & Mallee; Geelong Barwon Region; Gippsland; Melbourne; South Western Victoria

Western Australia: Western Australia

Suicide prevention in Australia 2010s[edit]

The 'Causes of Death Report' released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016 showed that 2866 people died by suicide in 2016, down from the 10-year-plus high of 3027 in 2015.[5] This was an increase of 985 deaths from 2007 – a useful baseline year when revised methods in data collection were adopted by the ABS.

While Australia's suicide rate of 11.7 per 100,000 is relatively low by world standards, closer examination of the data shows male suicides account for around three quarters of these deaths, and that the male suicide rate peaks at 27.2 per 100,000 in the age group 40–44 years.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Lifeline Annual Report 16/17".
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "Evangelism: Throwing Out the Life Line". Time. 24 January 1964.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Australia, Lifeline (2 April 2012). "Lifeline Media Kit". Lifeline Australia. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  5. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2010, Australian Government, archived from the original on 28 April 2016

External links[edit]