BCiB Australian Jackaroo Natasha Van Eldik and recently-retired inter- national teammate Karen Murphy are amongst 22 current and former Australian athletes named AIS-Lifeline Community Custodians for 2020-21.
Now in its second year, the partnership between AIS and Lifeline Aus- tralia will help deliver the impactful community engagement program, with athletes stepping up to help increase awareness around suicide prevention and encourage anyone who needs support to reach out and ask for help.
The immediate focus for this year’s Custodian cohort will be lending their voices to Lifeline’s first-ever National Emergency Appeal, which is in direct response to the impact of COVID-19.
The campaign ‘You’ve got 30 seconds to save a life’ is aiming to raise $5 million to fill the funding gap caused by the cancellation of key fundrais- ing events, storefront closures and increasing demand for services.
Australians are turning to Lifeline in greater numbers than ever before, with the organisation receiving almost 90,000 calls for help in March alone, the most in their 57-year history.
AIS Director of Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Matti Clements
says while the program will be delivered a little differently to originally planned (as a result of COVID-19), the key objectives have not changed.
“We want to remind Australians of the importance of reaching out and staying connected and to give a voice to the struggles that we know many people are facing, especially right now,” said Clements.
“With travel and physical distancing restrictions currently in place, we will be looking at virtual engagement opportunities and utilising athlete’s digital presence to continue to share their personal journeys and assure everyone that if you need support, there is someone ready to listen.”
Recently-retired Australian netballer and current Melbourne Vixens player Thwaites is one of the 15 new Custodians for 2020-21 and is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community in a space she is very passionate about.
The 33-year old, who represented the Diamonds from 2012-2019, has been open on her struggles with depression and anxiety throughout her career, and hopes sharing her story will help others.
“I have had my journey with my mental health over the years and through this, I learnt so much about managing my wellbeing and de- veloped a number of coping strategies which I now use every day,” said Thwaites
“Thank you to both the AIS and Lifeline for providing the opportunity to be a part of this important program.
“I have been open in sharing my story and struggles when I am out in the community because I believe assisting to reduce the stigma, and educate the community is vital to helping people going through their own personal battles.”
Lifeline Australia CEO Colin Seery said he was ‘delighted the Lifeline Community Custodians are supporting our Emergency Appeal’.
“We know many athletes would be finding this time very difficult after the postponement of the Tokyo Games. So, it is a selfless act for them to help us ensure that every Australian has the opportunity to connect with Lifeline if they are struggling through COVID-19,” said Seery.
“It is both a testament to their strength of character and Australian spirit, they are a great group of athletes. We are very grateful.”
2020-21 Lifeline Community Custodians
Read full athlete bios – https://ais.gov.au/custodians
Alexandra Viney, Rowing Australia, Victorian Institute of Sport Amanda Bateman, Rowing Australia, Victorian Institute of Sport Amber Merritt, Basketball Australia, West Australian Institute of Sport Belle Brockhoff, Snow Australia, NSW Institute of Sport/Victorian Institute of Sport
Caitlin Thwaites, Netball Australia, VIS
Catriona Bisset, Athletics Australia
Dane Bird-Smith, Athletics Australia
Erik Horrie, Rowing Australia, NSW Institute of Sport
Georgia Wilson, Hockey Australia, West Australian Institute of Sport Jenna O’Hea, Basketball Australia, Victorian Institute of Sport Jonathan Goerlach, Triathlon Australia, NSW Institute of Sport
Joshua Di Nucci, Gymnastics Australia
Juliet Haslam, Hockey Australia, South Australian Institute of Sport Karen Murphy, Bowls Australia
Kristy Harris, Boxing Australia, Victorian Institute of Sport
Lily Gresele, Gymnastics, West Australian Institute of Sport
Louise Ellery, Athletics Australia, ACT Academy of Sport
Matt Lewis, Wheelchair Rugby
Monique Murphy, Swimming Australia, Queensland Academy of Sport Natasha Van Eldik, Bowls Australia
Nathan Katz, Judo Australia
Rachael Lynch, Hockey Australia, Victorian Institute of Sport
To find out more about the AIS and Lifeline Community
Custodians program – visit: https://ais.gov.au/custodians
To donate to the Lifeline National Emergency Appeal – visit: https://fundraise.lifeline.org.au/ emergency-appeal
You can contact Lifeline by phone on: 13 11 14 (24 hours / 7 days) or
chat to a Crisis Supporter via text on: 0477 13 11 14 (6 pm – midnight.)
Image: Bowls Australia