I’ve spoken before about how between 2016 and 2018 a small number of Telstra’s licensee stores sold mobile phone plans to approximately 100 indigenous customers that ultimately did not suit their needs.
This led to an ACCC investigation and last year we agreed to a series of undertakings and a fine of $50 million.
Today the Federal Court has formally approved the settlement. This brings an end to what has been a deeply challenging and disappointing chapter in our history and one in which we are already taking steps to fix.
Many of the programs that form part of our undertaking with the ACCC are already well underway.
A First Nations Connect hotline set up now in Darwin is providing some in language support to these customers. Our cultural awareness training has been improved and is now mandatory for anyone at Telstra who engages with Indigenous consumers. A new Indigenous Cultural Compliance Officer has been appointed and is now charged with reviewing and continuously improving the way we engage with Indigenous customers and live up to our commitments to them.
We also continue to offer remediation to any customers who might have been impacted between 2016-2018 by our past conduct at the stores in question but who have not yet come forward. An information program is underway to make sure that offer is well known across these communities.
And finally, we have also launched our new Indigenous Policy statement which details how we engage, support and play our part in Indigenous communities, including through the positive difference that communication and connectivity can have in these communities.
It is an important document, but I want to stress that words are easy but it is living up to them that is the real test. It’s a test all of us at Telstra accept and are committed to passing.
Again, I want to apologise to all of the Indigenous customers affected by this. I am deeply and personally disappointed that we have let you down. We should have listened more carefully. We should have been more attuned to what was happening. We should have picked this up earlier.
It is clear we need to better understand and support our Indigenous customers. That means spending time on Country, as I have done, on several occasions since this issue came to light and will continue to do as well as listening to and learning from Indigenous customers and communities, meeting with community leaders, Elders, and Indigenous organisations.
What we want to build is connection and a partnership and that will be at the heart of our approach going forwards. It is only through a true partnership with Indigenous Australians that we will see the opportunities, address the challenges and understand their hopes for a better future.