• Pay-phones will now be free-of-charge in hundreds of remote communities nationwide (AP Photo/Rob Griffith) (AP)Source: AP
Over 550 pay-phones are now free-of-charge across remote Indigenous communities in Australia.
Bernadette Clarke

5 Apr 2020 - 1:18 PM  UPDATED 6 Apr 2020 - 11:33 AM

An initiative led by Telstra is helping mob stay connected to friends, family and health workers by making 573 payphones across remote Indigenous areas of Australia available and free to use. 

Many remote Indigenous communities are in lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 so the initiative will be useful to keep mob in contact with one another.

Some towns on the extensive list include Caroona, Kakadu, Horn island and Cherbourg.

Wakka Wakka man Uncle Eric says the initiative will be useful in communities like his own in Cherbourg, but only if mob follow the health regulations. 

“Not everybody’s got a mobile phone and the internet. It’s tough times, so we’ve got to get through it a little differently. I think it’s a good initiative, but the health requirements really have to be taken seriously and really have to be policed.”

“How are you going to police this stuff and make sure it happens? Especially in our communities, you know. We need to make sure that we’ve got those health conditions applied for every use of the public phones.”

“Like everything, if a new situation arises there’s got to be health conditions do go with it otherwise, we’re going to take 3 or 4 steps backwards.”

However, Uncle Eric believes that the only payphone in Cherbourg isn’t actually working - either that, or mob haven’t been using it. When NITV News tested the payphone by calling it several times, we received a signal confirming it isn't operational. 

“Especially now that we’re in real serious lockdown we should have access to everything that’ll keep our mob connected.” 

Telstra has asked that users maintain social distancing and hygiene when using the phones.

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