Internet connection delays plague Newcastle abuse victims' support service

Limbo: Matthew Lamont, acting CEO of Family Support Newcastle, which has been trying to connect to the NBN. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Limbo: Matthew Lamont, acting CEO of Family Support Newcastle, which has been trying to connect to the NBN. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

A community organisation that helps victims of abuse and domestic violence says it has lost thousands of dollars worth of staff time trying to connect to the National Broadband Network in the past six months.

Family Support Newcastle acting CEO Matthew Lamont says the organisation has been left without phone or internet service for days on end during the transition period.

He said he was at his wit’s end and that an estimated $40,000 worth of staff time had been consumed trying to sort out the issue.

But frustration hit its peak when service provider Telstra told the Hunter support service that the process was still at square one because the network and modem were not compatible.

However, an NBN spokesperson told the Newcastle Herald that NBN had not received an order for Family Support Newcastle’s Waratah address.

When contacted by the Herald, Telstra area general manager Tricia Wilson said “it took us longer than we would have liked to establish the customer’s network wasn’t compatible with our modem”.

“We have provided a temporary solution but it will require further work to have a permanent service,” she said.

“We apologise to the customer for the extended time-frame and we will work with the customer to ensure the permanent solution meets their expectations.”

Mr Lamont said he was most concerned about not being able to update the organisation’s database.

"We work closely with the Department of Family and Community Services when children are at risk of removal or in the process of restoration to their families,” he said.

“Without the most up-to-date information in the database, there’s a real risk we could do more harm than good to families and children that are already facing trauma. I’m also very worried about how we will cope if we don’t have full services back by the time we need to do our end-of-year funding acquittals.”

Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said she planned to raise the issue with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield this week.

“I’m especially concerned there may have been calls from vulnerable families looking for help that went unheard when phone services failed,” she said.

“My office spends many hours each week trying to help victims of this government’s chaotic NBN rollout, but this is one of the most serious cases I have seen.

“My office has escalated this case to the highest levels within Telstra and I will be bringing it to the minister’s attention next week in parliament.”