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TIO at Outreach Event

Patchy, unreliable service and connection problems – just some of the telco problems affecting regional and rural Victorians

In late February, TIO’s Outreach Team headed to Gippsland to attend a series of events run by the National Recovery and Resilience Agency and Rotary Australia. The team travelled to Nowa Nowa, Buchan and Mallacoota in regional Victoria and heard from residents about their phone and internet problems. What they learned from the locals they spoke to was invaluable.

Member and Community Services Manager Shaun Kingma was touched by the powerful stories he heard from residents. Many of these communities are still feeling the impacts of the 2020 bushfires.

“It’s important to see, feel, and hear the real impacts consumers experience,” Shaun said. “I met a resident in Buchan called Henry, who lost everything in the fires. Henry was in Melbourne when the fires hit, but his entire family were on the outskirts of Buchan. He told me of the sheer terror he felt when he was unable to reach them and was frantically trying to call everyone he knew to make sure they were safe. Every call was unsuccessful due to damaged towers, and there was no back up for mobile reception.”

The Outreach Team also spoke to Mallacoota local Helen, who shared how phone and internet problems impact her health and safety. Helen has a pacemaker, and she uses her mobile services to update her specialist on her progress and health. But because her phone connection is patchy, she has to travel to the other side of her property just to get connected.

“She told us she often worries that if she has a health episode, she won’t be able to call an ambulance or let anyone know,” Member and Community Events Coordinator Eloise Anderson said. “This is a very common thread. We are seeing a lot of the senior population with health ailments struggle from the isolation without basic phone or internet services. It was reiterated many times that residents in these areas feel access to phone and internet services is critical for their safety.”

The National Recovery and Resilience Agency and Rotary Australia events bring together all levels of government, charities, not-for-profit and agricultural organisations to support farmers and rural or regional communities living through the immediate and longer-term effects of bushfires, floods and droughts.