(Australian Associated Press)
A chat with a loved one over Christmas can be a potential lifesaver, the Salvation Army says, as it backs a campaign of free phone calls across the nation.
For the second year, Telstra will offer free local, national and standard mobile calls from its home phones and more than 16,000 pay phones between December 24 and 26.
The aim is to help all Australians hear the voice of a loved one this Christmas, especially homeless and isolated people or those doing it tough.
“We actually see the number of people who consider suicide at this time of year increase considerably,” Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“There’s a growing group of people in our community who feel disconnected at this time of year.
“We don’t want to see anyone lonely. We don’t want to see anyone isolated at this time of year.”
Major Nottle says hundreds of people who go through the Salvation Army centres in Melbourne feel “forgotten” at Christmas.
He says a simple phone call, talking about the “simple things of life”, can make a huge difference for those who feel disconnected.
“Go to a payphone, pick it up and just have the courage to call,” he said.
In 2016, more than 271,000 free payphones calls were made during the three-day campaign – a number Telstra hopes to increase “tenfold” between Sunday and Tuesday.
Free Wi-Fi at payphones with pink symbols will also be available.
The offer excludes international calls, 13 numbers, premium and directory services.