The Federal Government's independent monitor for remote Aboriginal communities says poor mobile phone coverage is putting people's safety at risk.
For months Remote Indigenous Services coordinator-general Brian Gleeson has been unsuccessfully lobbying telecommunications providers to improve their services in remote areas.
Mr Gleeson experienced the problem first-hand when he was in Wilcannia - a predominantly Indigenous town about 200 kilometres east of Broken Hill - when it was cut-off by floods earlier this year.
"The people were asked to stock up in their freezers with food because of the impending floods," he said.
"Unbeknownst to them the local council was told to turn the electricity off because the waters were getting up pretty high on the electricity poles.
So, as a result, they had to throw all the food away.
"So the point is there, they couldn't ring anybody up and say, listen you know our freezers, all the stuff is now rotten, we've got no food." Wilcannia is one of eight communities with limited coverage or identified problems.
Mr Gleeson said the communities of Amata and Mimili in South Australia's APY Lands (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) and Umbakumba in the Northern Territory have no mobile phone coverage at all.
Telstra is the only service provider in Wilcannia and the Rural Fire Service has raised concerns with the company, fearing its emergency warnings might not get through to people in the town.
Mr Gleeson has also written to Telstra requesting action.
"I have not been able to progress a resolution on that issue," he said.
"I understand that there are commercial imperatives in terms of a Telstra providing mobile services in every remote community in every part of Australia, but I think there are some obligations on companies like Telstra to look at a corporate social responsibility here." Wilcannia resident Jack Beetson says mobile phone coverage is hit-and-miss despite nearby communities having adequate reception.
"Most people out here usually carry a pre-paid mobile phone rather than have a landline and it is...
quite dangerous," he said.
"In Wilcannia the moment you go under a roof or under a veranda awning, you do lose your service.
"You don't become aware of those emergency things if some of the fire brigades or other health warnings or SES warnings are sent by the mobile service, then you might not get it unless you happen to walk outside." Telstra says it would cost about $400,000 to install a new base station in Wilcannia and suggested the community seek funding support from the Government.