Page 1535 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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Lifeline is there when many other services are closed and, most importantly, is non-judgmental, informative and immediately accessible for everybody. Those needing someone to talk to need only to call 13 11 14 and they will be put in touch with a trained telephone counsellor who will help talk clients through their issues. They listen with care and acceptance, whatever the issues may be.

It is important to note that the majority of the training telephone counsellors are volunteers. These people are to be congratulated and thanked for their tremendous dedication and support. Twice a year, Lifeline Canberra offers a comprehensive telephone counselling development program for volunteers and also specialised customised telephone counselling training. I urge anyone interested in counselling who is not already a Lifeline volunteer and has the time to take advantage of these training sessions.

With more than 40 Lifeline centres located throughout Australia and more than 235 centres around the world, Lifeline provides an invaluable service to millions. It has not been an easy few years for Canberrans and other Australians—in fact, the world in general. Many people have felt the traumatic effects of events such as September 11, the Bali bombings, the January 18 bushfires, the ongoing drought, the war in Iraq and, most recently, the Boxing Day tsunami and the ongoing threat of terrorism. I would add to that the events that occurred on the weekend. I am sure that they will have had an impact as well.

The closest issue to home for Canberrans, the January 2003 bushfires, left the entire community shattered. Four people lost their lives, more than 500 homes were lost and millions of dollars worth of property was damaged. Families were left devastated, with little more than the clothes on their backs. Lifeline became a support for many people during the initial period after the fires and will continue to provide long-term support and counselling to the Canberra community during its time of need. In fact, calls to the service have increased by 75 per cent since the January 2003 bushfires.

Alarmingly, there has been an 80 per cent increase in suicide-related calls to Lifeline Canberra. More and more people in our community are finding it difficult to cope with everyday stresses, relationships and responsibilities. This further proves the need for, and importance of, Lifeline Canberra in our community.

On this point, it was encouraging to see that in the ACT government’s 2004-05 budget, suicide prevention was targeted as a major area of mental health funding, with $1.373 million being allocated over four years. Importantly, this initiative includes the employment of a full-time prevention project officer to develop strategy and promote a more coordinated approach to the management of self-harm and suicide in the ACT. Hopefully, that will begin to address the traditional shortfalls in the management of mental health as well as provide for a healthier, happier and more tolerant community.

Lifeline has commented that only about one out of three of the people with a mental health disorder are accessing care. This was similarly recognised in the ACT’s development of the mental health strategy and action plan in 2003. Within the 2004-05 budget allocation, the government has aimed to remedy this problem by providing

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