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Lifeline service closes in Northern Territory after 10 years after lack of funding.

The Top End’s Lifeline service has closed after 10 years, and its chairman is blaming successive Northern Territory governing for failing to fund the frontline service.

All calls to Lifeline will still be answered by the national phone network, but face-to-face counselling and interaction with the Darwin region community will stop.

The organisation had serviced the Top End for a decade, while its predecessor, Crisis Line, had supported Territorians since the days following Cyclone Tracy.

Lifeline Top End’s chairman Andrew Wharton said all avenues had been explored to fund the centre.

“We’re confident as a board of directors that we’ve done everything humanly possible to try and keep this business alive,” he said.

“We’ve lobbied two successive governments on the same point, with the numbers and the same purpose, and unfortunately none of that lobbying has been successful and that’s why we’re at, where we are now.”

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said in a statement that “Lifeline in the Northern Territory will not be interrupted. The Northern Territory Government is still negotiating with Lifeline Australia”.

Mr Wharton said the centre had struggled financially over the past year, surviving on $200,000 in government money as well as fundraising in the community.

“Last financial year we operated very close to the wire. If it wasn’t for the support of community, corporate Northern Territory and the people we serve, we probably would’ve been having this conversation about 12 months ago,” he said.

“What’s different now is that we will not [have] that face-to-face counselling service or that community engagement or the shop front.

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“We will not have that in the Top End or northern Australia, and this is a place where we stand with the highest suicide rate in Australia.”

The contribution of 35 professionally-trained volunteers at Lifeline Top End will also come to an end.

‘Sad day’ for Northern Territory

Volunteer Mark Dodge said he had worked at the service for two years and had 12 months of training, but the Territory had no other similar organisations to take trained volunteers like himself.

“Here we are, we’re well-trained, we’re professional, we’re ready to get on the telephones and help people, to help save lives, help people to have someone to talk to, and we can’t do it, and there’s nowhere else in the Territory that we can deploy to to work in other organisation,” Mr Dodge said.

“Apart from the national call centre, which is the same number, we won’t have a presence here, we won’t have Lifeline house here, we wont have people here to talk to them face-to-face.”

The loss of the expertise will be felt by the community, and importantly by the volunteers, Mr Wharton said.

“As far as we know, there’s nowhere else we can deploy them to use the same skills at the moment, so that is a loss because a lot of money has been invested in those people’s training,” he said.

“More importantly, they as volunteers have invested an awful lot of time, some of over decades, to gain the skills necessary to come to the office two or three or more times a week, to give their time to people in need.

“This is a sad day for the Northern Territory when you see the closure of a frontline service like this, in a place with a suicide rate as we have.

“But there’s a big picture out there, and there’s a whole lot of agencies out there, both Government of Northern Territory and Commonwealth Government.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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