Telstra has announced a surprise shift in how payphones work, now acting as free phones for anyone in Australia to use.
The change was prompted after 11 million calls were made from Telstra-operated payphones, including over 230,000 going to emergency services or similar critical services like Lifeline.
Payphones often offer much-needed help to people at their most vulnerable, such as those experiencing homelessness, the socially isolated and people escaping domestic violence. It was this fact that pushed Telstra to make payphones free, no-strings-attached.
CEO of Telstra Andrew Penn released a statement.
"During COVID-related lockdowns, we've seen domestic and family violence agencies report a 60 per cent rise in new clients seeking help for the first time, and an increase in abusive behaviours overall. It's not always easy for people in these situations to use a home phone or their mobile to get help, so I hope making payphone calls free might play a small part in helping them get the assistance they need," he said.
Telstra currently operates 15,000 payphones through the country, including ten in Griffith.
Val Woodland is the co-ordinator of the Griffith Suicide Prevention and Support Group and says that this could change a lot of lives, particularly for people escaping from domestic violence.
She explained that while payphones were definitely falling out of favour in modern days, the group regularly received payphone calls in their earliest days back in the late 90s and early 2000s.
"It could certainly give someone the opportunity to reach out. Sometimes they leave with nothing and if there's a payphone available, it gives them a chance to contact someone," she said.
She added that the extra anonymity behind using a payphone could go a long way as well.
"When people reach out, they make sure they're alone. This will allow them to remain anonymous."
"It's a good initiative. Particularly at night, it's a good service to have."
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