Page 1546 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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to listen and to share with them their problems and concerns. We must acknowledge Lifeline Canberra’s good work and that of its paid staff and volunteers.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (4.10): I would like to add a few comments in support of this matter of public importance that has been brought before the Assembly. The reason I do is that I have a particular interest in Lifeline. My family has had an involvement—not in Canberra but in Hobart, where my mother was a telephone counsellor for 15 years and was recognised for that. I found great value in talking to her about the issues that she was dealing with.

I served on the federal government’s ministerial advisory council on gambling and the thoughts my mother would give me in terms of her experience in dealing with people troubled by problem gambling—from everything I can gather it seems it is very much related to issues of self-esteem and in many cases there are parallels to the circumstances that bring people to alcoholism—were most valuable. She spent many nights at the Lifeline rooms in the local church near our home. My father, in retirement, would often stay overnight and sit there to keep her some measure of company while she took calls.

It was very important work and I came to understand the depth of training that was in place. It certainly is not the case that people just turn up, field calls and make their own decisions. It is a very thorough process and I was extraordinarily impressed when she explained to me the sorts of, if you like, constraints—but very sensible constraints—based on specialist advice that Lifeline has gleaned from the professionalism of their work, and of course by the tremendous assistance they are rendering to so many people under desperate circumstances.

There has been a lot mentioned about the history of Lifeline. Looking over some of that today, mention has been made by other members of the role played by the Reverend Dr Alan Walker in Sydney—how he became determined to throw a mantle of care over Sydney and obviously came up with the idea of inviting people who were lonely or troubled to call a telephone number. With the help of so many volunteers to take calls, as has been recognised by members on all sides of the Assembly, tens of thousands of people have had the benefit of those listening ears and of volunteers giving of their time to help make our society a better place and to help people in times of distress and need.

I understand that there are about 42 Lifeline centres in urban and rural Australia and about 5,000 trained counsellors. The role this organisation has played in Australia and in 15 countries—I think Mrs Burke mentioned that—is quite extraordinary and must be recognised and should be encouraged and supported. I understand that the issues most typically raised are relationship and family problems, mental health concerns, people coping with loss and change, traumatic experiences, dealing with violence and abuse, dealing with addiction to harmful substances—a perennial problem in our cities, and our country areas even, these days—disability and illness and, of course, the very critical suicide prevention and the processes involved there. I have learned much about these issues through our family participation in acting as volunteers for Lifeline, which has been most enlightening and valuable, through my career, to understand situations.

In Canberra and other major centres there is also face-to-face counselling support to help people deal with these issues. We have had some discussion about the issue of the public

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