Burradoo Journal

By Burradoo

When did that happen?

I was standing beside a payphone (waiting for take away fish ‘n chips actually) and happened to see this notice. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known that you can now call anywhere in Australia free from any Telstra payphone. Did everyone except me know that?

Apparently it was announced in August, and Telstra is promoting this as a community service, focused particularly on natural disasters and vulnerable people in crisis. (Telstra has a ‘universal service obligation’ to provide all Australians with reasonable access to a pay phone, though not to provide free calls.)

There are about 15,000 payphones in Australia (half what there were before mobiles arrived). We have had public phones since the 1880s. Last year we made one million calls on payphones, 230,000 of them to triple 0 and other emergency services.

In the Devonshire village where I grew up, we had two public phones, one at the top of the village and one at the bottom. They were proper red phone boxes of course, and the phones were clunky black metal things.

You put your four pennies in the slot and dialled the number (yes, they had a dial). If there was an answer, you pressed button A to be connected. If not, you pressed button B to get your money back, and the pennies dropped noisily down into the holder.

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