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15,000 Australian Telstra payphones become pay-less

Today marks a significant day in history as Telstra announced free phone calls from more than 15,000 payphones across the country.


This comes as data reveals 230,000 calls were made to critical services in the last 12 months. Emergency calls to ‘000’ and Lifeline have highlighted the crucial service, especially for some of the country’s most vulnerable people and those in regional and remote communities.


Telstra CEO, Andrew Penn said this decision meant everyone could now use payphones to make a free local or national call to a standard fixed line or a call to an Australian mobile, when they needed to.


“…. The availability of a payphone is a vital lifeline, especially for those vulnerable including the homeless, people who are isolated or someone escaping an unsafe situation. That’s why I have taken this decision to make national calls from payphones free, because they play such a critical role in our community, particularly in times of need and for those in need,” said Mr Penn.


Mr Penn said as Telstra’s purpose was to build a connected future so everyone could thrive, we wanted to contribute to a better, more caring, and more inclusive Australia.


“An Australia where people can reach out for help when they need, or just connect if they feel like it. We take our responsibility for keeping people connected seriously, and today’s announcement reinforces that commitment.”


A brief History of Public Telephones in Australia


The first public telephones were introduced to Australia in the late 1880s, with Sydney launching it’s first payphone on 3 March 1893. By 1910, there were 2000 public telephones operational in the country, that number doubling a decade later.


Prior to 1920, residents needed to make calls over the counter at the post office.

Multi-coin public payphones came into operation in 1935 and in August 1986, the payphone we know today was established. In 2019 significant changes improved the value of calls and enabled incoming calls to payphones for the first time.


The oldest Telstra payphone in Australia is in Sydney’s Argyle Street.


In 2001, the highest number of calls ever made peaked at 36,000.




Photos and history provided by Telstra Australia