1 September 2004
Improved telephone access for remote Indigenous communities
Indigenous Australians living in remote communities will enjoy improved access to telephones as the result of an Australian Government initiative, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, said today.
"The Government's Community Phones Program supports carriers and service providers in increasing services for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities," Senator Coonan said.
"We are selecting providers that can partner with communities in trials of innovative phone products and systems.
"This initiative represents a $3 million investment in improved service provision to communities with the greatest need. It is a key element of the Australian Government's $8.3 million Telecommunications Action Plan for Remote Indigenous Communities (TAPRIC) for improved telecommunications access and opportunity."
Studies suggest that as few as five per cent of people in remote Indigenous communities have access to a phone at home, compared to 99 per cent of Australians as a whole. The high cost of new connections in remote areas and difficulties with existing billing arrangements have resulted in very low levels of telephone take-up.
The Program will target very small communities without public phone facilities and will support pre-paid services that better meet local needs.
"This highlights the Australian Government's work with communities and service providers to make lasting improvements to the telecommunications services available to Indigenous communities in remote areas," Senator Coonan said.
"Under TAPRIC, further efforts are improving Internet access in these communities, providing education and training services to enable community members to make full use of their communications resources and supporting communities in the use and promotion of their languages in an online environment."
TAPRIC complements initiatives announced by the Government in response to the Regional Telecommunications (Estens) Inquiry-including the Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme (HiBIS), the Coordinated Communications Infrastructure Fund and the IT training and support services funding for regional Australia.
For information on how to apply for the Community Phones Program, call reverse charge on 02 6271 1567 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Contact: Jane McMillan 0438 690 305