Telstra Creator Space Render - Melbourne Connect - University of Melbourne
Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Building Australia’s technology future through education

By Alex Badenoch July 13, 2020

We’re committed to playing our part in building a pipeline of technology talent in Australia. So we’re partnering with a number of universities to equip graduates with the skills and adaptability they need to succeed in our rapidly changing global environment. Our latest partnership is a $5.14M investment in the Telstra Creator Space (fabrication lab) at University of Melbourne’s new Melbourne Connect technology and innovation precinct and 10 scholarships in STEM that focus on diversity and inclusion.

Having a highly-skilled, diverse and practically trained technology workforce is critical to the success of Telstra and of the nation. And yet, we have an estimated shortfall of 60,000 skilled ICT workers in Australia over the next five years. More of these skills must be developed locally.

As one of the country’s biggest employers and a major driver of the digital economy, we’re committed to playing a part in the solution. Investing in STEAM is required to transform Australia into an innovation hub and support businesses that are themselves transforming. To that end, our partnership with the University of Melbourne is our next education investment and part of our ongoing collaboration with five Australian universities to build a strong foundation for STEAM skills education for the future.

As part of our partnership with the University of Melbourne, a new Telstra Creator Space at the Melbourne Connect technology and innovation precinct will give students, start-ups and industry access to an onsite fabrication and prototyping facility, running workshops, events and industry-based projects. Our partnership will enable research and development between Telstra and the university focused on technology, engineering and innovation concepts. This laboratory will support open innovation using world-class equipment, letting students gain practical experience and a real-world understanding of highly technical concepts.

To further demonstrate our long-term commitment to boosting diversity in Australia’s digital economy, we will also offer 10 Technology and Innovation Scholarships for University of Melbourne students in a program that aims to increase the number of women and Indigenous Australians in STEM, particularly from rural and regional areas. We’re starting these scholarships with two awards in August 2020 to female students or students of Indigenous descent intending to become professionally qualified engineers or technology professionals.

Why developing technology talent is such an urgent issue

Technology skills shortages in Australia were already an urgent issue before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We now need to boost numbers at a much faster rate to support our nation’s transforming businesses and the digitisation of our economy. Fewer new students in Australia currently enter STEM degrees than in other OECD countries, and we need to change that.

We’re working with universities to enhance student learning, implement industry placement and work experience, research and career opportunities. This includes innovation in curriculum design and delivery, particularly to support the continuous learning or reskilling of those already in the workforce. Micro-credentials are a great example of this and it’s encouraging to see the government also recognise the importance of these qualifications.

So far we’ve partnered with RMIT Online and the University of Technology Sydney on new micro-credential programs covering software defined networking, data analytics and machine learning. These programs are helping to upskill our own teams, but are also open to anyone who is interested. Such partnerships are an example of how business and education providers can collaborate to jointly develop the critical technology skills Australia needs.

A new innovation precinct for Melbourne

This is an artist’s impression and does not represent health and safety standards of the Telstra Creator Space.

Melbourne Connect is the University of Melbourne’s new technology and innovation precinct. It will bring together world-class research, industry, government and higher-degree STEM students in a space that will foster engagement, collaboration and networking.

Our investment in this new precinct will help realise its potential, fostering Melbourne Connect as a hub of technology innovation. We and the University of Melbourne share an ambition for transformation and an appetite for collaboration – we both want to grow Australia’s technology talent pipeline and to equip graduates with the skills and practical experience they need to succeed.

Melbourne Connect is expected to be completed in late 2020 and open to students in 2021. We look forward to the opportunities it offers to Australia’s brightest science, engineering and technology students, and for our industry and education partners to bring innovation to life.

Regional Australian town
Regional | Telstra News |

Giving back to our regions

By Dr Ben Gursansky June 26, 2020

Telstra’s executive regularly travels to regional areas to meet with rural and regional customers and stakeholders in their communities to get a firsthand sense of the issues that matter most to them. While this hasn’t been physically possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t stopped us from keeping a strong focus on connecting with and supporting regional Australia.

We care deeply about keeping communities connected, which is why our purpose is to create a connected future where everyone can thrive. It is also why we’re working to help foster digital inclusion and provide support to community organisations. In more recent times that is especially so for those that have been impacted by the various crises experienced right across our country, from bushfires, drought, floods and now COVID-19.

We’ve identified a range of essential services – not-for-profit, and cause-related organisations – that are on the frontline of helping disadvantaged groups and impacted communities, and we’re working closely to help them with various philanthropic endeavours and initiatives. Many of these organisations we already partner with through our business, and this donation is an extension of that support to further enable their important work continuing through technology.

This includes organisations like the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS), where COVID-19 affected students’ ability to stay connected to the school during the ongoing lockdown.

It was critical that students remained connected with the school and each other during the lockdown. MITS staff had to ensure they were able to continue their academic growth when away from Melbourne, which means a heavy reliance on technology. Technology that isn’t as accessible in remote Indigenous communities.

We helped to keep students connected to their schooling with a donation of mobile broadband devices delivered safely and contactlessly into Indigenous communities to ensure classes could continue remotely. Schoolwork is now completed at a distance via virtual software applications each day. The children are able to connect in real-time and discuss their work via online learning.

We remain committed to supporting regional Australia. As restrictions lift, we are looking forward to getting back out across our beautiful and vast country to hear from our customers, and continue to provide assistance in the future to organisations that are helping to improve the lives for all Australians.

Cyber security control room team, development and operations in the Digital Economy of the future
Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Growing Australia’s digital economy out of COVID-19

By Andrew Penn June 26, 2020

When COVID-19 made many of us shut our doors, something happened. Digital doors opened in their place. We embraced technology like never before to keep businesses running, people working, kids learning and ourselves entertained.

We now have a growing digital economy – something I recently highlighted as a significant opportunity we as a nation should seize. With businesses reopening and social restrictions relaxing, (albeit with some constraints given the risk of increased infections), we should stop thinking about post-COVID-19 as only a “recovery”, but as an opportunity to grow the economy in the long term and put us in a better global position.

From the Industrial Revolution to the Great Depression, profound disruption has brought opportunities to be bold, to re-think conventional wisdom, and seek out new economic and social opportunities to help build a stronger future for everyone.

COVID-19 has proved change can be made and embraced quickly. During the height of the pandemic we saw a huge acceleration in digitisation – from telehealth to online learning, remote working and e-commerce – and the fast-tracking of numerous policy and regulatory changes to break down long-standing digital roadblocks.

As a nation we have achieved in a few months what might have taken us years to progress, and it is important that we now do not lose that momentum.

However, a single company, a single organisation or a single government cannot achieve this on its own. Through coalitions across the public and private sectors, we can affect change by removing barriers and incentivising growth so it is faster and more pervasive.

Over the past few weeks I have been Chairing the Business Council of Australia (BCA) Digital Economy and Telecommunications working group, and this is exactly our aim: to map out tangible ways we can put Australia at the forefront of a digital future – paperless, cashless and virtual – so we can come out of this stronger as a nation, not just bounce back.

This requires reform in five key areas: 

  1. Digital transition 
  2. Infrastructure 
  3. Regulation 
  4. Cyber Security 
  5. Skills  

1. Digital transition

Australia’s local businesses and enterprises pivoted quickly to ensure they could keep running – from working from home, to medical practitioners delivering telehealth consultations, we even saw interactive online cheese tasting sessions!

Technology was at the core of many businesses that adapted well. That said, a range of recent studies found that Australia’s small-to-medium enterprise sector could be substantially enhanced by a greater investment in digitising their internal processes and developing an effective web presence. Xero’s September 2019 Small Business insights indicate that businesses that boost technology spending the most grow revenue three times faster than those with the weakest technology spend.

Some options we are exploring include potential incentives and assistance to help the small business sector access the benefits of greater digitisation of business processes and an improved online presence.

2. Infrastructure

Connectivity is what powered many workers and businesses during the crisis, ensuring they could continue running.

For Australians to effectively participate in the digital economy, they need access to affordable, fast and reliable telecommunications services.

Telstra announced $500 million of capital expenditure planned for the second half of FY21 would be brought forward into the calendar year 2020, to increase capacity in our network, accelerate our roll-out of 5G, power more people with connectivity as well as provide a much needed economic boost.

With the completion of the nbn rollout nearing, there is now an opportunity for the Australian Government to develop its future vision for Australia’s digital economy and the telecommunications industry for the next decade – a vision that is technology agnostic and provides an environment that is pro-investment and pro-innovation.

3. Regulation

Governments and regulators play a significant role in enabling a digital nation, as well as ensuring as many Australians as possible can take advantage of the opportunity.

They took significant steps forward during the pandemic, including measures to help provide better access to telehealth, virtual AGMs, electronic execution of documents, and national electronic pharmacy scripts.

In the spirit of those last two initiatives, the BCA will be recommending a systematic review of regulation from federal to state to local, to eliminate barriers to a virtual and paperless society and a cashless economy.

4. Cyber Security

Last week was a timely reminder about the importance of strong cyber security, with the Prime Minister highlighting major cyber-attacks that are putting pressure on critical infrastructure and public services.

Cyber security is a large and growing area of risk for the security of the nation, and COVID-19 has increased that risk with so many people working and studying from home, away from traditional security measures.

Separately, I have been working with the Government chairing its industry advisory panel on the development of the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy. This will contain a number of significant initiatives to strengthen our collective cyber defences.

5. Skills

It was inspiring to see the flexible and innovative mindset many businesses adopted during the pandemic. This mindset needs to be deeply ingrained in Australian culture and to do this we need to invest in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) skills.

We have partnered with five Australian universities to jointly develop critical skills and capabilities in areas such as network and software engineering, cyber security and data analytics. But we also need more people entering technology courses, and particularly more diverse talent, including female and Indigenous students.

We are also working on a suite of proposed improvements to the way industry and the education system collaborate, to ensure Australia’s school leavers have the foundation skills needed to succeed in the modern digital economy.

Australia’s opportunity to lead

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 has left many businesses and families doing it tough and we need to do everything we can to build a stronger economy in the longer term in response.

Australia has been a world leader when it comes to protecting the nation’s health and economy during COVID-19, and now we can lead again. It will be important in so doing that this includes success for all of our communities.

I recently posed the question What type of historical moment will this turn out to be?. As life slowly begins to return to some type of normal, we are approaching a sliding doors moment.

We can go back to the way things were, or we can build on the innovative, can-do mindset that drove so many positive changes during the most significant disruption to daily life in a generation.

Telstra Foundation | Telstra News |

Silver linings: a step change for youth mental health

By Jackie Coates June 17, 2020

Silver linings can be found in unexpected places. While the current global health crisis has created additional uncertainty and genuine anxiety for many young people it has also been a catalyst for a step change to transform youth mental health support services.

There is no question that the pandemic has driven unprecedented demand for digital mental health services. However, it has also surfaced the limitations of our current mental health system – namely, its historical reliance on face-to-face care and the untapped opportunity to integrate digital technologies into clinical services, at scale.

With so many young people doing it tough and the wider acceptance that digital can play a role in the successful treatment of youth mental health issues, leading mental health innovators are seizing their opportunity to scale and enhance their tested, evidenced-based, digital solutions.

That’s why we’re providing a new $2M mental health relief package to longstanding Telstra Foundation partners ReachOut and Orygen Digital to fast track and enhance online mental health support for young people across Australia – during and beyond COVID-19.

Our partners are world leaders in the design and digital delivery of youth mental health services and care, going well beyond standard video conferencing to provide solutions that transform the way both clinical services and support resources tools are delivered in the short and long term.

The mental health relief package will be used to support ReachOut’s innovation program to provide personalised digital mental health support for young people. In the first five weeks following the introduction of social distancing measures, ReachOut saw an almost 50 per cent increase in visitors to their relevant support services online for COVID-related support.

The high demand continued along with the lockdown, with almost 10 people every minute accessing ReachOut’s services since mid-March. With this funding, ReachOut will be able to include targeted support to those at risk of suicide and a new best-practice digital peer support experience to meet young people’s needs and expectations.

Orygen Digital, meanwhile, is on a mission to offer young people outstanding therapeutic care and experiences to dramatically improve the accessibility and impact of mental health care through technology. It’s working with both young people and clinicians to make all mental health services in this country digitally-enhanced and enabled by 2024.

Funding will be allocated over a two-year period, with Orygen Digital and ReachOut receiving $1m and $800K respectively. The Telstra Foundation is also offering $200K worth of in-kind support and access to data scientists and agile coaches to help reduce admin burden and to upskill, coach and support all of its partners during this period of uncertainty and beyond.

It’s exciting to see how innovative non-profits are harnessing technology to pivot and future-proof their service models to help more young people. We’re keen to shape both a strategic and compassionate response to youth mental health service delivery – from therapy to prevention – and one that can leave a lasting legacy well beyond this current crisis.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Michelle Cherry
Tech4Good | Telstra Foundation |

National Reconciliation Week – supporting Indigenous communities

By Vanessa Hounsell June 3, 2020

Image: Big hART

Today marks the final day of National Reconciliation Week, a time to celebrate what has been achieved through Australia’s continuing journey towards reconciliation. There is a lot more to do and Telstra is determined to play a role in creating a fairer, more equal Australia.

The theme for #NRW2020 – In this together – is resonating in ways we could not have foreseen when it was announced last year. It reminds us, whether in a crisis or in reconciliation, we are all #InThisTogether.

Much like Telstra’s purpose, our vision for reconciliation is an inclusive Australia where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected and empowered to thrive. To help us realise this vision our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)  pledges to develop respectful relationships and create meaningful opportunities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  

In recognition of National Reconciliation Week, we want to share some of the programs we support to help achieve our vision and foster stronger relationships between the Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 

Extending our partnership with CareerTrackers

Career Trackers

Since 2015 we’ve partnered with CareerTrackers – a national not-for-profit organisation that aims to create paid, multi-year internship opportunities for Indigenous university students in Australia. During this time we’ve hosted 48 interns as part of our Summer Vacation program, with some going on to take part in our Telstra Graduate program 

We will now extend this partnership for the next 10 years and guarantee an intake of 20 students each year to help improve the participation of Indigenous Australians in the workforce and develop future technology talent.  

Deadly Digital Communities  

This program provides community-based digital literacy in remote and regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Queensland. As more and more services and daily interactions move online, the ability to use digital technologies is increasingly critical to unlocking vital health, social and financial benefits – especially for people in regional and remote locations. Deadly Digital Communities is an initiative of the State Library of Queensland and Telstra in partnership with Indigenous Knowledge Centres and local councils. 

Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX)

IDX Virtual Gathering - Aunty Beryl

Co-founded and designed by the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) and the Telstra Foundation in 2013, IDX unlocks digital opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. IDX currently works with more than 30 Indigenous remote and regional communities across Australia.  

Due to COVID-19, the Annual Champion Camp at NCIE went online in May kicking off with a Smoking Ceremony and Welcome streamed live from the NCIE across all participating communities. The camp ran 15 sessions over five days with activities such as digital storytelling, 3D printing, coding and how to bring business ideas to life.

Big hART 

Big hART is Australia’s leading arts and social-change organisation that brings stories of injustice to mainstream attention through compelling content to drive change. With Telstra Foundation’s support, Big hART has been working closely with the Indigenous community in Roebourne, WA, to develop their NEO-Learning program – an engaging, future-focused education resource on Indigenous culture for primary schools across the country. Neo-Learning educational experiences were launched in early May, and the education team is currently delivering free lessons and digital drawing workshops via virtual classrooms and smart boards to schools across the nation. 

InDigiMOB 

inDigiMOB Zoom workshop

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 2,000 people through a series of workshops, mentoring, and culturally appropriate digital tools.  A recent project that was rolled out is ‘Indigemoji’  Australia’s first series of Aboriginal emojis, in partnership with the Alice Springs Public Library, the NT Government, CAYLUS and Ingeous Studios. 

Disconnect  

Disconnect podcast - RMIT University

This podcast series delivered by RMIT tells contemporary stories of how the internet is used in Aboriginal communities across the country. Disconnect is available on IndigiTUBE, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and other podcasting apps. Each episode examines a unique aspect of internet use and its impact – good and bad, in Aboriginal communities.

On this journey towards reconciliation, Australians are all #InThisTogether  every one of us has a role to play as we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. 


National Reconciliation Week is book-ended by the same dates every year, 27 May and 3 June, to commemorate two historical milestones in the reconciliation journey – the successful 1967 Referendum to amend the Australian Constitution and the High Court’s Mabo decision.   

Telstra recognises and acknowledges the original and ancient connection Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have to the lands and waterways across the Australian continent. We pay respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation.