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Giving Indigenous Australians a visual voice with Indigemoji

Regional

Posted on December 19, 2019

4 min read

Emoji help us tell our stories in visual ways, and through our Indigenous digital inclusion efforts, we’re working alongside our First Nation’s people to help tell their stories digitally and visually with the “Indigemoji” project.

Graham Wilfred Junior was born with spina bifida in 1983, and his family was told he would never walk on his own. Shifting between various family members in Arnhem Land and foster homes in Darwin, Graham eventually wound up sleeping on the streets of Katherine. But he had a deep inner strength and the innate artistic abilities of his parents, and these led him – along with a great deal of pain and perseverance – to the doors of inDigiMOB in Alice Springs.

This gentle artist is now the driving force behind a vibrant ‘digital arts hub’ at the Alice Springs Public Library, where a group of inDigiMOB mentors, artists and Arrernte speakers are helping hundreds of young Territorians to hone their digital skills.

InDigiMOB is a pioneering digital inclusion project established by First Nations Media Australia and Telstra, which since 2016 has delivered hands-on training to more than 6,000 people through a series of workshops, mentoring, and culturally appropriate digital tools.

The project is currently preparing to roll out ‘Indigemoji’: Australia’s first series of Aboriginal emojis, in partnership with the Alice Springs Public Library, the NT Government, CAYLUS and Ingeous Studios.

The Indigemoji project was developed as part of digital art workshops with members of the Mparntwe/Alice Springs and other remote Australian Indigenous communities. Over seven weeks of workshops, hundreds of emoji designs were developed.

Caddie Brain, a former ABC journalist who co-founded the Indigemoji project, says the digital storytelling skills developed through the Indigemoji project provide new opportunities for preserving the culture and iconography of remote communities – not to mention their threatened languages.

“Many communities around here have only recently got mobile phone coverage and Internet access, so the uptake of technology is still relatively new,” says Caddie. “The new emoji icons are a response to that, enabling people to communicate in a way that’s culturally relevant to them – one small way of decolonising the Internet.”

The striking series of locally-themed ‘emoji stickers’ will be usable in mobile messaging via a free app developed by the Indigenous design agency, Ingeous Studios. The project has brought together a vibrant community of artists, illustrators, Arrernte linguists and young people – all committed to capturing their culture’s essence in a series of hand signals, facial expressions, plants, animals, and other instantly-recognisable facets of local life.

Ben Smede, inDigiMOB’s project manager, says that Indigemoji is designed to give a visual voice to Indigenous Australians.

“This project is a great way to make these symbols more relevant and inclusive for the rapidly growing numbers of Aboriginal people who are communicating through social media,” Ben says.

“Every emoji has an Arrernte name and description” adds Caddie, “and this connection between new technology and ancient Arrernte culture is at the heart of the Indigemoji project.”

Besides this sense of belonging and cultural identity, there are other benefits for the individuals involved that cannot be measured or captured in a simple turn of phrase, including Graham Wilfred Junior.

“Making these emojis takes me far away from my old depression and nightmares,” says Graham. “When I was a teenager living with this disability, I went through times where I wanted to commit suicide. But coming to this place and working with Caddie has been a life-changing experience.

“People see me out and about on my bicycle, and they say ‘Hey, you’re that artist from the library’. It’s so motivating for me – just feeling that I’m helping these young people to build their future.”

The Indigemoji sticker set will be released later on in 2019 as a free app for all.

This article was originally written for Telstra’s All In Accessibility & Inclusion newsletter by Ralph Johnstone.

Stepping up to meet the challenge of climate change

Telstra News

Posted on December 19, 2019

4 min read

Climate change – two words that mean so much for our future and for the generations that come after us. Here’s what we’re doing to make a difference.

As the largest telco in Australia, our network provides a critical platform to support the digital economy of the country.  And with governments, companies, communities and our customers embracing digital technology more broadly, we’re seeing more demand for capacity, faster speeds and greater coverage. Data volumes are increasing 30-50 per cent each year.  This in turn requires greater resources and power to drive our network putting pressure on our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Through the use of digital technologies utilising our network, many of our customers are reducing their emissions.  Similarly, we’re also very focused on reducing our own GHG emissions.

For example, by June this year, we’d reduced our carbon emissions intensity by 40 per cent since 2017 and we’re on track to get them down by 50 per cent in June next year. We’ve also managed modest reductions in our absolute emissions, down 6 per cent since FY17 despite the demand for data continuing to grow. You can read more about our progress in the Sustainability Report.

Earlier this year, we were recognised by CDP’s Global Climate Change Index as one of three Australian companies to receive an A rating for our actions to improve our environmental performance.

But, there’s more we can do and we are committed to continuing to challenge ourselves because climate change is one of the most significant global issues facing us today.  At Telstra we know we have a responsibility to help meet the challenges climate change presents.

Position statement

Since we released our position statement in 2015, just before the Paris Agreement, a lot has shifted in the climate change space – and so have we.  We are in the process of updating our position statement to be stronger and clearly set out our position on key issues impacting us today.  This will also include updating our GHG emissions targets before they expire mid next year.  It will also include our commitment to achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement.

Solar farm - Emerald Solar Park
Courtesy of Emerald Solar Park

Belong Carbon Neutral certification

Today we are proud to announce that Belong, our challenger brand, has become the first Australian telco to be certified Carbon Neutral under the Climate Active initiative, underpinned by the Australian Government. For all GHG emissions associated with its operations and products, Belong will invest in certified carbon offset projects which will remove an equivalent volume of GHG emissions from the atmosphere.

As we look for more ways to reduce our impact on the environment, we will be able to use our experience with Belong to help our broader company consider how we can reduce our emissions.

Industry review

We have also been conducting a review of our industry and broader business associations to better understand their position on climate change and their commitments to improvement.

Through our review we have found that, in the majority of cases, our position and that of our industry associations are aligned and where they are not these differences are relatively minor.  There are also some differences in the way associations act or talk about climate change.  We are engaging with associations to address any differences in our positions and if we think any of our industry associations aren’t aligning with what the science is telling us we will consider the future of the relationship.  In the meantime, we do believe we’ll be more effective at driving change from within.

Specifically, we will engage directly with the Business Council of Australia as we found some discrepancies where they have deviated from their policy in the way they speak and act.

More free calls and data over Christmas for those in need

Network

Posted on December 18, 2019

3 min read

Christmas is a time for connections. Too often, we take the phone in our pocket, the laptop on our desk or tablet in our bag for granted as a means to reach out to those we love. We’re driven to connect every Australian to the ones they love, especially those in need. This year, we’re not only bringing back our free payphone calls over Christmas, but we’re expanding it for anyone who needs it.

Once again, we’re opening up our payphone network to provide free local, national and standard mobile calls from Telstra payphones around the country. On top of the free calls, we’re also making selected Telstra Air Wi-Fi access points free to anyone during this time.

Free calls and data over Christmas for those in need
Jana Kotatko, Telstra, and Major Brendan Nottle, The Salvation Army

In previous years, we had opened our payphones from December 24-26, but this year we’re extending the time Aussies can take advantage of the free calls. We’ll be opening our payphone network up from December 24 – 1 January 2020 inclusive.

Last year, over 120,000 calls were placed during the period. Meanwhile, over 23,000 users connected to our Telstra Air hotspots over the period, with 3.55 terabytes transferred in total. We’re proud to expand the window this year to ensure more people can connect than ever before.

We’re driven to ensure that those who are separated from their families by circumstance, or even those who want to reconnect for the first time in a long time are given every opportunity on our network. Christmas is a time where feelings of isolation and loneliness can be at their peak, so we want to bring families closer together with a simple phone call, text or video call.

Image: Herald Sun

“We know it’s some of the most vulnerable members of our community who’ll benefit most and we hope they can take this opportunity to reach out and reconnect with their loved ones over Christmas,” said Major Brendan Nottle, The Salvation Army.

“A simple phone call could make all the difference this Christmas and help reconnect Australians doing it tough with their loved ones or long-lost family or friends.”

We’ll be spreading the word about this offer far and wide in the lead-up to Christmas so we can be sure those in need know that a friendly voice is just one free call away.

Nothing beats the sound of hearing a loved one’s voice, especially at a time like Christmas when a focus on families coming together is really heightened. It’s an important opportunity for those in the community who might be feeling isolated at this time, and we hope that even more Australians take up the opportunity to connect with their loved ones this year.

Things you need to know:

Free calls around Australia to local, national and standard mobiles from Telstra payphones from 24 December 2019 – 1 January 2020 inclusive. Free calls exclude international calls and premium services (19x), Mobile Satellite, and 1234, 12456 directory services. Excludes Telstra rented payphones. Free Wi-Fi data at select Telstra Air payphones and Telstra Stores, in Australia only. Telstra Air available for Wi-Fi enabled devices only.

Images: Herald Sun

A connected future is an accessible future

Inspiration Business and Enterprise

Posted on December 3, 2019

4 min read

Tuesday 3 December is International Day of People With Disability. The TelstrAbility Employee Representative Group hosted a panel on accessibility in Sydney and Melbourne to hear about how we can build a connected future so everyone can thrive. The event was live-streamed to audiences around the country.

One of the key takeaways was recognising that becoming an accessible employer and an accessible company doesn’t just happen overnight. At our collaborative panel event, our people who live with disabilities discussed the long journey towards becoming an accessible business.

They each identified areas where there have been improvements, while highlighting shortcomings that we’re well on our way to addressing.

Chris Riley, one of our Ways of Working coaches, offered an interesting insight on the journey of accessibility and how we all have a role to play.

“Is technology perfect for accessibility yet? Heavens no. But is it getting better? Absolutely.

“But accessibility is not just about building better technology, it’s about people. It’s about mindset. As a coach I train people on mindset as the powerhouse behind everything.

“By making small changes of mindset, you can have a big impact towards creating more accessible working environments,” Chris said on the panel.

Adem Cifcioglu, Founder and Director of Accessible Technologies at Intopia, told the audience that “you don’t know what you don’t know”, and that people “never set out to make something inaccessible”. Inaccessibility happens when teams building products and services don’t seek diverse perspectives from someone who may use that product or service with a specific requirement.

He added that accessibility is more than just a checkbox: it’s about designing something to be accessible in every step of the development process.

One of our key values is “better together”. It’s about understanding that we benefit from what we have in common and strengthen our internal culture by leveraging our differences to build things collaboratively. Amy Whalley, Deputy CEO of Australian Network on Disability, recognised that as part of our “better together” practices, we need to recognise that accessibility is everyone’s job.

“There isn’t one person responsible for driving accessible culture and accessibility,” Amy says. “Everyone is responsible for disrupting biases to make sure that we’re creating an accessible workplace. If you see something that isn’t accessible, make sure you call it out within the organisation,” she added.

Amy said that the most effective way to ensure you’re being open and accessible is to remember the acronym “ATP”. That stands for “Ask The Person”.

“By thinking about the humans who interact with the technology, we get the best results. Asking the person what they need is the biggest leap forward we can take for accessibility,” Amy said.

Chris Riley added that ATP is great, and needs to be a constant feedback process: “Keep checking in on people and keep asking the questions about what they need to do their job well!”

Amy also mentioned that Telstra has recently become one of only a dozen Australian organisations to be recognised by the Australian Network on Disability as a Disability Confident Recruiter. This is significant, as it recognises us as an accessible workplace of choice for the 1 in 5 Aussies living with a disability.

We’re obsessed with attracting the best talent to help build a connected future, and by making our recruitment and employment processes more accessible we’re now able to select from a broad and diverse talent pool.

Becoming a Disability Confident Recruiter, or DCR, sends a message to skilled candidates with disabilities that they can feel confident to apply for roles with us, and that we have the flexibility, the technology and the culture that supports them to thrive.

Being certified as a DCR means we’ve worked to remove barriers to the recruitment process and build new workplace adjustments to cater for those with an accessibility requirement, while becoming an employer of choice within the disabled community to attract more talented individuals to our ranks.

Being an accessible employer unlocks huge value for a business, and in turn its shareholders. Companies that improve their accessibility are four times as likely to build greater shareholder return after doing so. That’s why we’re acceding to the requirements of being a DCR and updating our internal disability policies to ensure everything from our premises through to our products are accessible to everyone.

A connected future has to be an accessible one, and by working collaboratively to ensure we’re better together, we’ll ensure that we’re building that connected future for everyone.

Our new dads embrace our parental leave policy

Telstra News Community

Posted on December 2, 2019

4 min read

We’ve been named number two on the list of best workplaces for new dads according to research conducted by HBF Health and CoreData. 

Since we announced changes to our parental leave policy in July, more than 400 Telstra dads have taken up the new entitlements which are designed so that every new Australian based parent, regardless of gender, can share caring responsibilities while maintaining their career. 

Changing our policy removed the distinction between primary and secondary carers. Now, any eligible parent who has been with Telstra for a year or more can take up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave within the first 12 months after their child’s birth or placement. Secondary carers previously received two weeks of paid leave. 

And there’s added flexibility – it can be taken in one block or multiple blocks and can also be used to return to work on a part-time basis. 

We talk to some of the new dads here who are loving the new policy. 

First-time dad – Steve Papayianis 

Operations Specialist – providing operational support to the Telstra Business Technology Centre 

Steve and Jordan Papayianis, first-time dad

Jordan Papayianis was born on August 17, 2019 to Steve and Jo. The first-time parents were excited, in love, anxious and wide-eyed as their world had just changed forever. This is his story.

I took off five weeks from the birth to help care for Jordan and help Jo as she recovered and adapted to motherhood. 

What I really love about the policy is its flexibility in allowing me to take the 16 weeks in intervals, meaning I can spend quality time with Jordan during different phases of the first 12 months of his life.  

The extra time at home gave Jo and I the chance to really go into parenthood as a team. It’s also allowed me to spend quality time with Jordan and enjoy moments I would have otherwise missed. 

I’m extremely fortunate to be part of a very flexible team and supportive manager who continually promotes the values of family and work-life balance. 

Second-time dad – Dylan Radcliffe 

Enterprise Architect – lead solution architect on the Consumer and Small Business Digitisation Program 

Dylan and Leon Radcliffe, second-time dad

Leon Radcliffe arrived in April to join big brother Eric who is five years old. Dylan has worked at Telstra for 17 years and is relishing the new parental leave policy combined with All Roles Flex. This is his story.

I took two weeks off when Leon was born and I am taking another five weeks over January, which enables me to take on greater parental responsibility and support my partner as she prepares to return to work.  

I believe society has started to acknowledge that women do more than their fair share of domestic work in general, including parenting, and that dads need to lift their game. 

We’ve shown real leadership in this policy change by acknowledging that both parents have a role to play, not just the primary carer (very often the mum). From a personal perspective, this has given me an opportunity to spend more time off work with my youngest son Leon than was possible back when my eldest was born. 

As a leader myself, I believe it is vital we take care of our people – one of our values is show you careafter all. Part of that is recognising their home responsibilities including as parents or carers and providing flexible working arrangements to help with this.  

Soon-to-be-dad – Mark Soffer 

Global Footprint Principal – leading the Global Footprint function which coordinates on what Telstra does across the globe 

Mark and Sasha Soffer, expecting their first child in February

Mark and his wife Sasha are expecting their first baby in February. Sasha is a doctor and won’t be able to take much time off, so Mark is taking a different approach to parental leave. This is their story.

The new parental leave policy has literally been life-changing for me. I’m not just taking the 16 weeks, I’m taking 32 weeks at half pay to stay home with our child and enable my wife to focus on her medical career.  

This wasn’t something that we had considered when we decided to start a family, but the new policy has meant we have been able to prioritise as a family what works best for us and our baby. 

The leadership that we’ve shown by introducing this policy has meant that I haven’t had to choose between being a dad and working full time as we bring our baby into the world.