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13 YARN, by Indigenous people, for Indigenous people

Dianne Bortoletto -

At the end of triggering or distressing media reports, "13YARN 13 92 76" is often provided.

Established in April 2022, 13 YARN is Australia's first and only national Indigenous-led crisis hotline.

Funded by the Australian Government (through the Department of Health), the purpose-built, 24/7 national telephone helpline has been co-designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and developed in collaboration with Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia.

13 YARN is run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the support of Lifeline. All crisis support workers are of Indigenous heritage and are provided with clinical and cultural support.

National Program Manager, Marjorie Anderson, said every aspect of 13 YARN has been designed to be culturally appropriate from the non-typical conversation approach to the welcome message and Aboriginal hold music.

"13 YARN offers a confidential one-on-one over the phone yarning opportunity for mob who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping," Ms Anderson said.

"It's a place where they can connect and receive help from a trained Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter."

The confidential crisis support service aims to help settle callers as well as help empower them to take control of what is possible. Callers are also referred to other speciality services and agencies as required.

"Mental health services are really hard to navigate, even more so when you're not well," Ms Anderson said.

"One client had been trying to navigate the system for two years couldn't get help she needed and said that with one call to 13 YARN, she was referred to exact place that was able to help her, and now she's well."

Ms Anderson said she was proud of the way the community has embraced the service.

"We've been in the community talking to people, telling them about 13 YARN and I'm very proud of its success and very proud of our team who take calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Ms Anderson said.

"When someone says that 13 YARN has saved someone's life, to hear that, it breaks your heart that it's needed, but it's incredible to be able to help and make a difference."

External influences often create common themes amongst 13 YARN callers.

"At the moment we are getting a lot of calls about financial hardship and about relationships," Ms Anderson said.

"Sometimes they are in a relationship and just want to vent, or something has happened that is making them anxious, and we're here to listen."

stressed out in front of laptop

After The Voice referendum, 13 YARN received close to four times the normal level of calls.

"We were slammed and about 95 per cent of calls were about racism, discrimination and harassment, it was a challenge," Ms Anderson said.

"What we try to do is reframe the situation, for example, highlight that there was a large proportion of 'yes' votes, that we have a lot of allies, and we look at the cup half full, rather than half empty.

"We are a resilient race, we try to rebuild the resilience, that's the aim of crisis supporter."

13 YARN employs seven people in its head office and has a team of 50 support workers.

"If you're feeling no good, helpless, or feeling down, give 13 YARN a call – it will be answered by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander," Ms Anderson said.

For more information, visit 13yarn.org.au or call 13 92 76.

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