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Need a yarn? Australia’s first Indigenous-led crisis helpline is here to help

6 April 2022 at 4:14 pm
Maggie Coggan
A new helpline has been designed specifically to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in crisis 

Maggie Coggan | 6 April 2022 at 4:14 pm


Need a yarn? Australia’s first Indigenous-led crisis helpline is here to help
6 April 2022 at 4:14 pm

A new helpline has been designed specifically to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in crisis 

With the suicide rate for Aboriginal people twice that of the general population – up to three and a half times in some places – a new crisis helpline is opening its phone lines to support First Nations people who are struggling to cope.  

Launched last week, 13 Yarn is a 24/7 nationally available crisis hotline, developed in collaboration with Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia and run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the support of Lifeline. 

The design process consulted widely across the sector, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and mental health experts, to those with lived experience of Stolen Generations, suicide, and mental health issues.

National program manager Marjorie Anderson said every aspect of 13 YARN was designed to be culturally appropriate – from the non-typical conversation approach to the welcome message and Aboriginal hold music. 

All crisis supporters are provided with clinical and cultural support, and crucially are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, something Anderson said was critical to breaking down the barriers to seeking help.

“When our people are ringing through to a service like Lifeline, even though it’s a good service, they often have to explain their culture, their community responsibilities, their connection to land and the responsibilities within family before they can get the help they need,” she said. 

“But when you get put through to an Aboriginal person, that understanding is already there. You don’t have to put yourself through telling that yarn to get the help you need, you get the help straight away.” 

Despite the service only just launching, the response so far has been incredibly positive, with one caller saying the service was completely unique. 

“There’s never been a national service run by mob that’ll let me spin a yarn, and will take the time to listen, anytime that I need it,” they said. 

Anderson added that smaller existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island crisis lines will be supported by 13 YARN, which will openly share resources and expertise to build on the network of resources and programs available for people in need. 

“We don’t want to swallow up any of those smaller, local lines who have been doing hard work in the community for long periods of time,” she said. 

As the line grows, helpline staff will be spread across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, with a virtual workforce and training model ensuring that information and expertise can be shared to every corner of the country.

Find out more information here, and if you or someone you know needs to access the service, call 13 92 76. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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