Australia's only national crisis support line for Indigenous people, 13YARN, celebrated its first anniversary in Dubbo on Tuesday.
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Since it launched in March last year, the "life saving" service has received over 24,000 calls from people all across Australia.
"That's way more than what we predicted we would get and the feedback from the community is that it's really helping," Marjorie Anderson, national manager of 13YARN, said.
"We've had people come to us and say 'you've saved my life' - so the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It's an amazing service delivered by these crisis supporters who are just wonderful people.
"And the central west is our biggest centre. They're the backbone of 13YARN - they're always there to cover shifts that other centres can't do."
13YARN offers confidential one-on-one "yarns" with Lifeline-trained Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporters who are on hand to provide a listening ear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
"The service is co-designed, delivered and managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," Ms Anderson explained.
"Lifeline Australia saw the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have their own line because our suicide rates are so high. When they got some funding to start 13YARN they brought me on board as the national manager and I went out and co-designed it with the community.
"We wanted to make sure that we had input from people with lived experience - stolen generation, mental health professionals, youth, elders and LGBTQIA+ people. So that everyone had input into the way the line sounds."
According to figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, suicide accounts for 40 percent of all deaths of Indigenous children and the suicide death rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is approximately twice that for non-Indigenous people.
Claude Gordon, leader of the 13YARN team in Dubbo, said when he heard the statistics about suicide rates in the Indigenous community he wanted to do something about it.
"It's quite scary and confronting. So when the opportunity to be involved with 13YARN came up I jumped right on it. It's a hotline by mob for mob," he said.
"When people ring up they know they're talking to another person of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent at the end of the line, and it lets them know that it's culturally safe, with some of the stuff they might disclose.
"Right now we have 16 crisis support workers in Dubbo alone and we've just recruited so we have another eight coming through."
Ms Anderson said having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people manning the lines meant callers experiencing a crisis could feel comfortable knowing the person on the other end of the line had a culturally sensitive understanding of their issues.
"The feedback we were getting was if someone rang Lifeline, for example, that it's a great service but you get these non-Aboriginal people talking to you and you have to teach them on your culture, your family, your family dynamic and your link to community," she said.
"That is all part of our social and emotional well-being so the fact that there's an Aboriginal person answering, they know all of that, you don't have to train them in Aboriginal cross-cultural awareness before you can get the help you need.
"And another good thing about 13YARN is it's absolutely confidential, we don't ask for your name or anything else of you. We're just there to listen and get you the help you need."
To celebrate the anniversary, representatives of 13YARN and Lifeline gathered at Rhino Lodge in Dubbo to hear stories about the service's impact and welcome a cohort of newly-accredited call-takers to the team.
"This program is incredibly special and to each of the crisis supporters here today who have reached that accreditation I congratulate you, I know when I did my training how much I learned about myself and how much I learned about other people and it wasn't easy," Lifeline Central West CEO Stephanie Robinson told the crowd.
"Congratulations to every one of you who have reached that milestone for taking up that challenge to work in this area."
The hotline is supported by funding from the Australian Government and Lifeline.
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