Half of this remote island has no internet but is about to host Telstra’s brand new call center

A small island off the coast of North Queensland will soon be home to Telstra’s brand new Australian call centre.

Located 65 kilometers north of Townsville, the indigenous community of Palm Island is home to just over 2,000 residents.

But in four months, a team of 20 local operators should receive their first service calls from customers across the country.

“This is great news for my community,” said Mislam Sam, mayor of the Palm Island Aboriginal Council.

“There has always been a high level of unemployment on the island.

“This will only improve that situation and give us that recognition as far as being a part of the corporate world is concerned.”

The Telstra call center on Palm Island is expected to be operational by October.()

Telstra executives visited the island on Friday to officially launch the project and inspect a newly built commercial area in the island’s city center where the call center will be located.

Contact Centers Executive Clair Johnston said the new center is part of the company’s initiative to improve the outreach of remote Indigenous communities.

Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Mislam Sam says the call center will provide local jobs.()

“We have a long history of Telstra working with the Palm Island community, so it made sense to us in terms of proximity,” Ms. Johnston said.

“There’s a real mix of tech and customer service roles that we’ll be exploring for the career path, so it’s going to just go beyond the initial call center job.”

Internet, mobile connectivity problems

Applicants will begin a 12-week training course next month before the center begins operations in October.

But Mr Sam said the community continues to be plagued by “black spots” in internet connectivity, with around half of the island classified as having no mobile phone or internet coverage.

Mr Sam said he hoped that partnering with Telstra, which is the island’s main service provider, would advance plans to install more telecom towers to expand coverage.

He hoped Telstra would extend its network to parts of the island that currently lack internet and mobile phone service.()

“It’s just a matter of the federal government and the state supporting us on our journey to better services on their own,” he said.

Work was completed last year to strengthen internet connectivity near the city center on the west of the island.

Mark Frost, chief of operations at ONQ Communications, the telecommunications company that spearheaded the upgrades, said internet speeds remained “dismal” in parts.

“It’s definitely a point of frustration for residents, businesses and other community organizations,” he said.

“While we’ve been able to solve the problem for some from a commercial perspective, we haven’t been able to get it to stack for others.”

Strong interest in local jobs

With around 66 per cent of the island’s population unemployed according to the 2021 census, Wade Chiesa, chief executive of Regional Development Australia, said the call center would bring economic and social benefits.

Telstra board members visit Palm Island to officially launch new call center.()

“It’s also about encouraging our children to live, learn and earn in the region,” she said.

Mr Sam said there had already been keen interest in the jobs, with capacity for 10 more once the center opened.

“I think once people see the value of jobs in the community, they should welcome it with open arms.”

Palm Island is located approximately 65 kilometers north of Townsville.

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