Gay and Lesbian Switchboard’s new president wants to get the community enthusiastic about the organisation again and raise its public profile in 2013.

Natalie Reid, a 23 year-old junior doctor who prefers Nat, will head the volunteer-based service after former president Dominic Smith stepped down having served a full two-year term. She came on board at the November AGM with two years as a volunteer and one year as a committee member.

“I just want the experience, I love this organisation,” she told the Star Observer.

“I want people to be enthusiastic about the organisation again I think it’s turning, especially from the volunteers.

“People are becoming more enthusiastic but I want the community to be enthusiastic and know who we are and what we do.”

The telephone counselling service is still very popular, Reid said, despite the rise of online support services from other organisations such as headspace. Reid said in the early days of Switchboard, before the rise of publicly available internet, people would use the service to ask about social events or organisations.

“So now we’re increasing our amount of counselling calls and we’re still getting high numbers of people calling so I think that’s evidence that we’re still relevant,” she said.

“We still do referrals and if people still want that, we can do that but we’re sort of taking on a more counselling role in the community.”

It would be easy to assume the demand for this high service meant many people were still suffering discrimination and isolation but Reid said that was not the case.

“People are comfortable talking to people who they think are their peers, I suppose,” she said.

“You could say it’s a bad thing that the service is needed but on the other hand, it’s really good that the service is need in that people are still wanting to engage.

“I think it’s a sense of community for a lot of people.

“We get a lot of calls from the country and it’s a way of connecting.”

Like most community organisations, the Switchboard needs volunteers. The new president said anybody was welcome to volunteer but they were specifically looking for people with organisational skills, such as fundraising and administration. She said the current board was only about half full and invited Victorians to pitch in and back this still vital service.

INFO: www.switchboard.org.au 

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