It?s not every day you see the boys from the Coffs Harbour City Council almost baring all for the community.
It?s not every day you see the boys from the Coffs Harbour City Council almost baring all for the community.

Lifeline funds hang in limbo

By Ann-Marie Nay

If a woman named Kath Lindsay comes bashing on your door later this year, it means that Telstra has decided to stick with their decision to axe its funding for Lifeline.

As general manager for Lifeline North Coast, Ms Lindsay is holding onto the hope that Telstra will reverse their decision today, but if they don't, she's prepared for a fight.

Telstra yesterday announced that they would spend the next day or two deciding whether it should once again pick up the bill for a crucial Lifeline hotline after pressure was put on them by Prime Minister John Howard.

Ms Lindsay said she was grateful for Telstra's support over the past 12 years and hoped they would reconsider.

"But if they don't we will survive. We have been open 17 years and have never missed a shift," Ms Lindsay said.

Lifeline North Coast has a full-time centre in Coffs Harbour and a part-time centre in Grafton, providing a telephone counselling service to people throughout northern NSW, stretching from Yamba to Macksville and Dorrigo to Casino.

With 130 volunteers on the roster, their telephones are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the Coffs Harbour centre also offering face-to-face counselling, community programs and on-going training.

So what would it mean for Lifeline North Coast if Telstra decide to axe their funding?

"It would be detrimental," Ms Lindsay said.

"If we lose the funding on June 30, we will need to fundraise in the vicinity of $40,000 ? $60,000 a year on top of what we already have to raise."

What many people aren't aware of is that Lifeline North Coast receives no government funding.

"We are funded by our op-shop and the community," Ms Lindsay said.

"So if the Telstra funding goes we may have to close some of our services to focus more of our time on fundraising.

"The 24-hour crisis line is our principal focus. We won't allow this to close down."

In a time when we need more accessible counselling services, losing the centre's other services would have far-reaching affects on the entire community.

"We would have to look at referring people back to the hospitals and could no longer take referrals from GPs and health and social workers," Ms Lindsay said.

In NSW alone, Lifeline takes more than 180,000 calls a year. Nationwide it's half a million.

"If that's not testimony of what a vital service Lifeline is, I don't know what is," Ms Lindsay said.

People turn to Lifeline because they are struggling with one or more elements of their life.

Talking to one of the service's trained counsellors can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Currently, no Lifeline centres have closed and the telephone counselling service 131 114 remains open for everyone ? and that's the way Ms Lindsay wants it to stay.

"I will be bashing down doors to keep it open," she said.

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