Lifeline (crisis support service)

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Lifeline Australia Logo.gif
Founded 16 March 1963 (1963-03-16)
Founder Reverend Dr Sir Alan Walker
Area served
Product Telephone and Online Crisis Support
Key people
CEO: Pete Shmigel
Chairman: John Brogden AM
National Patron:
Over 11,000
Mission An Australia Free of Suicide

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 2012, there are more than 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 more than 400,000 calls every year. In the 2009/2010 financial year, 449,946 telephone calls were taken.[1] In 2010/2011, Lifeline reported an income stream consisting of 26% from community support, 63% through government grants and 11% from other sources.[2] Income is then distributed to: service support (72%), fundraising and promotion (18%), and administration (10%).[2]

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.


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.[3]

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.[3]

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,[4] 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 over one million contacts each year from help-seekers, via mediums such as telephone, web and face-to-face.[5]
  • Lifeline's 24-hour crisis support line offers a confidential, non-judgemental service offered by trained telephone support volunteers[5]
  • Somewhere in Australia a new call is made to Lifeline every 50 seconds[5]
  • Lifeline answers around 1400 calls a day in Australia[5]
  • 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[5]
  • Lifeline receives more than 50 calls a day from people are high risk of suicide[5]
  • Lifeline is involved in all aspects of suicide prevention across a spectrum of care including early intervention, continuing care and postvention bereavement support[5]
  • 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[5]
  • Lifeline relies on funding from the community through donations, fundraising and corporate partnerships[5]
  • Around 80% of Centre operating costs are funded by revenue raised from Lifeline's retail, book fairs and fundraising activities[5]
  • Lifeline receives some government funding at both the national and state level, which goes towards specific programs and services[5]
  • 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[5]
  • Lifeline operates a free call donation line 1800 800 768, however people can donate securely via the national website[5]
  • Lifeline is always in need of volunteers to work in telephone crisis support, in retail operations or to assist with fundraising efforts[5]
  • 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[5]
  • Lifeline runs a National fundraising campaign – Stress Down Day around the end of July. The campaign is on 27 July in 2012 and encourages Australians reduce stress and have fun in return for a financial donation to Lifeline: for more information[5]
  • For many years, some Australian television stations 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; Darwin

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; North West Tasmania

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

Western Australia: Western Australia

Suicide prevention in Australia in the 2000s[edit]

The 'Causes of Death Report' released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2012 showed a greater number of deaths by suicide for 2010 than previous years.[6] It recorded 2,361 deaths by suicide, an increase of 480 deaths from 2007 – a useful baseline year when revised methods in data collection were adopted by the ABS.

While Australia's suicide rate of 10.5 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 27.7 per 100,000 in the age group 40–44 years.

There statistics show a significant over representation of suicide in GBLTI and Indigenous Australians, as well as in rural and remote Australians. In March 2016, Lifeline Central West, which covers about one third of New South Wales, has proposed establishing a national call centre in the central west city of Dubbo run by Aboriginal counsellors.[7]


Natalie Imbruglia "I am proud to acknowledge my support for Lifeline. There are times in everyone's life when we all need help and encouragement." [8]

Georgie Parker "I am delighted to be able to support Lifeline Australia in my role as Lifeline National Ambassador. For many Australians life can feel like it's just too much and they don't know how they will cope. Mental illness is a problem for one-in-five Australians, who experience disorders such as anxiety and depression."[8]

Joe Roff "I support Lifeline because it provides a service that has helped a friend of mine, and has helped countless other Australians as well."[8]

Rove McManus "It's vital for us all to have someone to reach out to in times of need and Lifeline is that helping hand for thousands of Australians."[8]

Preston Campbell "I came on board as a National Ambassador for Lifeline's Make Your Mark campaign to promote Indigenous suicide prevention and awareness. I would encourage others to show their support for this issue, and help Lifeline save lives."[8]

Steve Bastoni "Everyone has their ups and downs and we all face our own challenges and problems in life. For many Australians however, feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression can be chronic or prolonged."[8]

Kate DeAraugo "Show your support for Lifeline like I do, and help send the message that no one needs to face their problems alone."[8]

Shelley Craft "Life is a precious thing, but it also throws many obstacles and challenges our way. It's how we face and overcome these challenges that can ultimately determine our happiness and emotional wellbeing."[8]

Natalie Gruzlewski "Australia is such a big country. For many the tyranny of distance can leave us feeling isolated and alone. But people are never alone thanks to the services of Lifeline."[8]

Natasha Ferré "I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to be supporting Lifeline Australia as one of their national Lifeline Ambassadors.Lifeline plays such a vital role in helping all Australians by offering a vital 24-hour crisis line as well as many other services throughout Australia such as counselling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and bringing much needed community awareness to the prevention of suicide."[8]

John Howard (Actor) "There are many reasons why we can feel defeated by life. There are times when we feel friendless and alone. There is no reason to suffer in silence. Lifeline has helped millions in need of help and advice. I support their ongoing work because I know first hand what a scourge depression can be and how a call to Lifeline can be the beginning of a happier life."[8]

Zoe Balbi "I have come on board as an Ambassador for Lifeline because like many Australians I have been through many trials and tribulations which in turn have made me question life and whether it was all worth it."[8]

Dr. Katrina Warren "I am honoured to be an ambassador for Lifeline because it is exactly that- a lifeline to all – a supportive voice on the other end of the phone that is always there, always listening, when things are tough." [8]

Kimberlee Green – Kim is a prominent member of the world champion Australian Diamonds netball team, who most recently shot to prominence after losing a heartbreaking double-overtime final against arch-rivals New Zealand in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a game many called the greatest netball contest of all time.[8]

Trent Copeland "People face different stresses every day... I know in my job as a cricketer there can be a certain level of tension brought on at different times, from various influences. In my experience, the greatest way to combat stress is by having a strong support base around you, which is why I want everyone to know about Lifeline Australia." [8]

INXS and John Fariss "Lifeline Australia offers help around the clock 24-7, so you can always talk to someone about your troubles. I believe Lifeline is an extremely important organisation doing great work in our community and they need our support – so they can support us." – Jon Farriss, Musician[8]

Tim Campbell "Lifeline is synonymous with telephone counselling, and is as important now as ever. I applaud their confidential non-judgmental approach. If you need to talk, please don't hesitate to call."[8]

International operations[edit]

Lifeline is part of an international network and through LifeLine International has centres in nineteen countries. All Lifeline Centres adopt the same standards but use different names in some countries. For example, in Canada the service is called Telecare; in Japan, Inochi no Denwa (meaning "life phone"); and in the United States of America, Contact.

Lifeline is also a member of the Volunteer Emotional Support Helplines (VESH) – a partnership between Befrienders Worldwide, International Federation of Telephone Emergency Services (IFOTES) and LifeLine International. Members have pledged to work together to provide an effective telephone crisis counselling service throughout the world. The VESH network of volunteer counsellors provides services in 61 countries.


  1. ^ "Lifeline Annual Report 09/10" (PDF). 
  2. ^ a b "Lifeline Annual Report 10/11" (PDF). 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ "Evangelism: Throwing Out the Life Line". Time. 24 January 1964. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Australia, Lifeline (2 April 2012). "Lifeline Media Kit". Lifeline Australia. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2010, Australian Government, archived from the original on 28 April 2016 
  7. ^ Lifeline calls for specialist hotline to address high Indigenous suicide rates
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Australia, Lifeline (19 June 2010). "Lifeline Ambassadors". Lifeline Australia. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 

External links[edit]