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Telstra payphone data exposes sad truth for thousands of Aussies

Australians are increasingly using free calls to seek help.

New figures released by Telstra serve as a grim reminder of the tough times people are going through across Australia. Data shows that over 40 million calls were made from Telstra payphones in the past two years, with demand more than doubling since they were made free in August 2021.

In the years since, there has been a spike in calls to critical helplines from Aussies facing hardship, including those experiencing isolation, homelessness, financial stress and escaping an unsafe situation. In the past 12 months alone, calls from payphones to Lifeline have jumped 30 per cent.

Telstra free payphones
Over 40 million free calls were made from Telstra payphones in the past two years. Source: Supplied

Support calls skyrocket

According to Telstra there has also been a sharp rise in calls from payphones to mental health and emergency services, a 28 per cent spike in calls to Centrelink's Indigenous call centre, a 25 per cent increase in calls to Australia's four major banks, and a 15 per cent jump in calls to the Salvo's Assistance Line, showing that countless vulnerable people have benefitted from access to free calls.

Telstra payphone data shows that in the past year:

  • 12,000+ calls were made to Lifeline, up by more than 30 per cent from the previous year.

  • 12,000+ calls were made to Headspace, up by over 28 per cent on the previous year.

  • 85,000+ calls were made to Centrelink's reporting line, up by over 30 per cent on the previous year.

  • 250,000+ calls were directed to emergency services, up by 15 per cent on the previous year.

'Absolutely brilliant'

Salvation Army Commanding Officer Brendan Nottle praised Telstra for offering free payphone calls.

"Payphones becoming free has been absolutely brilliant because it has given people access to services that they're in desperate need of, with a lot of people able to connect with housing and support services," he said. "It's fantastic that they can just go straight to a payphone and they know they don't need coins, they don't need money, they can just jump on the phone and get support."

There are now around 15,000 free public payphones around Australia, 3,300 of which also provide free Wi-Fi access. To find the closest one to you, head to Telstra's payphone finder.

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