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Telstra is giving away free calls from payphones this Christmas

A cleaner working on a Telstra phone booth at Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia. (Photographer: Gillianne Tedder/Bloomberg News.)

Telstra has announced its national payphone network would provide free local, national and mobile calls for three days this Christmas.

The telecommunications giant, which has 16,000 payphones around the country, will allow Australians to make free calls over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

While most Australians take their mobile phones and internet connections for granted, Telstra Foundation head Jackie Coates said that for those “doing it tough” one free phone call could make a huge difference.

“It’s easy to forget that there are many Australians who don’t have the technology or financial means to access a phone line, or a way to connect with their loved ones at Christmas,” she said.

Major Brendan Nottle from The Salvation Army, which is partnering with Telstra to promote the scheme, said the free calls would help the most vulnerable.

“With many vulnerable people suffering from feelings of social isolation, a free phone call removes financial barriers and gives everyone – regardless of their personal circumstance – the chance to make a positive emotional connection.”

The telco is also providing free wi-fi from selected Telstra Air public hotspots.

A similar initiative last year saw 170,000 calls made over the three days, with Melbourne’s Swanston Street and Bourke Street sites attracting the highest number of callers.

Untraceable postcards

Telstra’s program comes after the Australian Federal Police unveiled its “traceless postcards” last week.

The Salvation Army is involved with this initiative as well, in conjunction with the AFP’s National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) and Australia Post, which sees non-traceable, postage-paid postcards distributed to those disconnected from their loved ones.

AFP assistant commissioner Debbie Platz said that while it is not a crime for people to intentionally go missing, the Christmas period can be painful for family and friends.

“Receiving a message from a missing loved one could be the greatest Christmas gift for families waiting for answers,” she said, adding that the postcards are delivered anonymously with “no identifiers of the sender’s location”.

“This method ensures that those people who choose to be ‘missing’ can send a message home without their whereabouts becoming known.”

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