LIFELINE Gippsland has joined a range of local organisations reporting a critical shortage of volunteers.

Recently published census data reveals that there has been a 19 per cent decline in formal volunteering since 2016. The reduction in volunteers surged when the pandemic reached Australia, and many volunteers have not returned.

This has caused significant problems for Lifeline Gippsland, which requires more money to run Lifeline’s 13 11 14 Crisis Line. To make up the funding shortfall, the organisation operates six charity retail stores across Gippsland and relies upon the goodwill of volunteers to keep these operational.

Lifeline Gippsland chief executive Michelle Possingham said volunteers were the backbone of the organisation.

“The current shortage of volunteers across our warehouse and retail stores has significantly restricted our ability to raise vital funds to ensure that no one has to face their darkest moment alone,” Ms Possingham said.

Lifeline Gippsland chief executive Michelle Possingham. Photo: File.

In 2022, calls to Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis line reached record levels, and demand remains high. Ms Possingham said that this increase coincided with a decrease in the number of queries received about becoming a crisis phone volunteer.

“There is a common misconception that you have to be experienced in mental health to become a volunteer on the phones,” she said.

“Lifeline provides world-class training and ongoing support to all phone volunteers, and people with a wide range of life experiences join us in supporting people.

“We provide training in the Sale area and Wellington (Shire). The dollars raised through our shops will go towards training future phone volunteers, who will take calls from the Maffra phone room.”

Lifeline Gippsland also expressed concern about the impacts of the loneliness epidemic on the mental wellbeing of the community.

Australian National University’s COVID-19 Impact Monitoring Survey Program revealed that 36 per cent of people reported that they had felt lonely in 2021. One of the many recognised benefits of volunteering includes building social connections through the development of new friendships.

“Loneliness is the most common thing raised by those who call into Lifeline,” Ms Possingham said.

“Individuals have to isolate due to COVID, and then try to become accustomed to go out and see other people. There’s a sense of anxiety, so they still feel alone.

“We also hear from people who are expressing concern about their financial security and access to affordable housing.

“If you’ve ever thought about volunteering, now is the time. We have a wide range of volunteer roles available across retail, warehousing, driving, events and crisis phone support.

“You are invited to join an organisation that has served the Gippsland region for 54 years. Put simply – we need your help.”

Lifeline Gippsland’s Sale shop on York Street. Photo: Stefan Bradley.

Kim (pictured at top with Moana) volunteers at the Sale store on York Street, and said they would absolutely welcome more assistance in Wellington and throughout Gippsland.

“All the branches need volunteers. In the op shops, we do a bit of everything – pricing, sorting and register work,” she said.

“All the money goes back into suicide prevention.”

To learn more about volunteering, visit www.llg.org.au or call the friendly team on 5136 3500.

Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis support service is available 24 hours a day.