As the national debate around an Indigenous Voice to Parliament becomes increasingly polarised, ongoing mobile coverage issues in Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands have left many within remote Indigenous communities disconnected from the conversation.

Recent outages in the region left remote islands and communities without mobile phone coverage for up to six days, leaving some residents unable to access cash, manage businesses, or even call triple 000.

The entire Northern Peninsula Area and Torres Strait are serviced by one main phone cable which relies on fly-in fly-out Telstra technicians to identify and fix any problems, which are increasingly common during the wet season when extreme weather takes hold.

Talei Elu is a Saibai Koedal woman from the Torres Strait Islander community of Seisia in Cape York and says despite consistent outages there doesn’t seem to be any thought given to training up local Indigenous techs to service infrastructure in the region, instead communities are left waiting on FIFO workers and parts to be flown in.

Talei was recently awarded the 2023 Queensland Young Australian of the Year for her work leading community initiatives that make a real impact for the Seisia community, and other communities across the region.

Since returning home during the pandemic, Talei has worked with the Australian Electoral Commission to remove barriers to voting for Indigenous people, but says despite Telstra’s support for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, their poor infrastructure, poor servicing times, and unwillingness to accept responsibility has left many in the far-north Queensland region voiceless.

Talei Elu’s full interview with NIRS News