A Community Fellowship Award was bestowed upon Lifeline South Coast today (13 May 2015) at the organisation’s annual Volunteer Recognition lunch during National Volunteer Week.
The Community Fellowship Awards recognise the contribution of organisations for their outstanding community leadership in one or more of the University’s communities. Lifeline South Coast is the inaugural recipient of this prestigious award.
Speaking to ABC Illawarra’s Peter Riley before the event, Director of Advancement Monique Harper-Richardson said the award acknowledges the life-saving work done by Lifeline South Coast as well as its 20 year long relationship with the University.
“Our relationship is multi-faceted: psychology students volunteer as telephone crisis support counsellors; we assist with research to strengthen Lifeline South Coast’s ability to undertake its suicide prevention activities as well as best professional development activities; and some library staff even help out at the Book Fair.”
After Chancellor Ms Jillian Broadbent, AO, admitted Lifeline South Coast to the inaugural Community Fellowship Award infront of more than 200 Lifeline South Coast supporters, Deputy Chancellor Dr Stephen Andersen OAM delivered a citation.
“The University of Wollongong treasures the relationship with Lifeline South Coast. As dedicated volunteers, you give your time and you are trusted because the people who call upon your services know that they will be listened to. As dedicated supporters, you have a strong sense of social responsibility and the ability to generously provide the means and knowledge for Lifeline South Coast to operate,” Dr Andersen said.
“As Lifeline South Coast, you are united by a shared belief in community and provide vital social, emotional and mental health support services,” he added.
Upon receiving the award, Lifeline South Coast Executive Director Grahame Gould said: “It’s not easy work to help a caller find a way forward when considering life or death … at times we become fatigued by the challenge.”
“However, Chancellor, we are nourished by the fact that we are working together to play our part in building a world where there is a sense of hope for everybody.”
MEET THE VOLUNTEERS
Lifeline South Coast’s annual Recognition event celebrates the unwavering contribution its volunteers make to the community with particular interest being paid to long service volunteers.
Ron Hill, a founding member of Lifeline South Coast, attended the recognition event. He said while, today, Lifeline is a national helpline and the number of calls to the service is getting close to one million every year. But it was a very different scenario back in the late 1960s.
“In those early days it was very much a local service as we could answer calls only from people in the Wollongong telephone area. There were four phones sitting on the counsellor’s desk – one green, one yellow and one grey for each of the three incoming lines and then a red phone so you could call your supervisor or other emergency services if the caller needed them. Many social welfare agencies didn’t exist then in Wollongong as they do these days so we did everything – not just take phone calls. We sometimes had to take in women and children fleeing from domestic violence, and some of our volunteers remember driving in the middle of the night to railway bridges or wharves to respond in person to distressed people threatening self-harm.”
Ros Clare has served as a Volunteer Telephone Crisis Supporter with Lifeline South Coast for more than 19 years, completing her training with Lifeline South Coast in 1996.
“I believe so strongly in the value of the Lifeline service and the role we play in suicide prevention. As a volunteer, it is rewarding to know you have genuinely connected with someone and helped them to rethink the decision to end their life,” Ms Clare said.
Current Volunteer Telephone Crisis Supporter, Associate Professor Audrey Wilson has served with Lifeline for 19 years.
“It’s been almost 20 years since I trained with Lifeline South Coast. At that time I didn’t know how to deal with people who were having problems so I started volunteering. There is a big need out there for a service like Lifeline, sometimes people just need someone who will listen.”