Payphone initiative to help vulnerable community members

Mark Schatz
Mark Schatz

When was the last time you used a payphone? For some of the most vulnerable people in the community owning a mobile phone is a luxury they simply cannot afford and payphones were invaluable to help keep them connected to loved ones.

Salvation Army South West captain Mark Schatz said for many in the community, a phone was necessary to let people know they were safe.

"You need that connection with family and friends they desperately need, it is an essential thing for a lot of people to have access to a payphone," he said.

Mr Schatz welcomed a new initiative launched by Telstra, which saw the telco reduce distanced-based pricing for national calls to a simple flat rate of 50 cents unlimited to standard fixed lines in Australia.

As well as the land line rate reduction, Australian mobile call rates were also reduced from 50 cents per 35 seconds to 50 cents for 10 minutes.

Call rates to 11 international destinations were also changed to 50 cents per 10 minutes; with reduced pricing and longer calls planned to be introduced to a further 60 countries.

On top of these pricing changes, for the first time nationwide, publicly accessible payphones could now receive incoming telephone calls.

Despite the growth of mobile phone usage, payphones still remained a critical piece of social and community infrastructure, serving some of our most vulnerable citizens in their times of need.

Mr Schatz said these changes would really benefit people who could not afford a mobile phone.

"Mobile phones are a luxury most people have, but there are some people the most vulnerable, who do not have that basic necessity," Mr Schatz said.

"The Salvation Army is pleased that Telstra has recognised the importance of those most vulnerable in the community by easing pricing costs and providing an option for people to receive calls at a unique number at each location," he said.

A Telstra spokesperson said overtime new payphones will provide additional services.

"Future payphones could contain a range of features including digital screens, Wi-Fi, 5G enabled technology, mobile device charging, as well as providing a space for communicating everything from emergency alerts to a range of content services such as public transport information to city maps, weather, tourist advice, information on nearby cultural attractions and the ability to promote the work of charitable organisations," the spokesperson said.

There are 10 payphones located across Northam, Wundowie, Bakers Hill and Clackline.

There are an additional 35 payphones in the Avon Valley and central Wheatbelt.