By Abbey Cannan
A simple idea from a Sunshine Coast man to help those in need has sparked a national initiative with the power to save lives.
The impact of Covid-19 created an increase in domestic violence reports, leaving many victims locked at home and in isolation with their abuser.
Their escape to safety can at times be just a phone call away, and DV Safe Phone founder Ashton Wood decided to put that notion into action.
Mr Wood said the DV Safe Phone initiative was created after he tried to donate a car load of his belongings to charity, but couldn’t find a place to take it after the Covid-19 lockdown hit.
“So, I rang someone I met through the Chamber of Commerce on the Sunshine Coast who deals with domestic violence and I asked her where we could take the stuff,” he said.
“She said, Ashton, what we need right now are mobile phones.
“I was pretty shocked. She said it was the first thing to get smashed or stolen during domestic violence and then the victims were stuck with no way to call for help.
“She said that old phone could save a life. And that hit me pretty hard.”
After taking in two of his old phones that were left in his draw, Mr Wood knew he wanted to do more.
In April, the IC3 Solutions manager reached out to a group of Sunshine Coast businesses — King IT, Domestic Violence Business Solutions and Fresh PR & Marketing — who partnered with the Red Rose Foundation to develop the pilot project that collects unwanted mobile phones and delivers them to those in need.
“We wanted to try to get 300 phones by the end of May and we got 330,” Mr Wood said.
“We’re all just doing this out of our own time and I decided to reach out further to some more contacts I had and we’ve had some big outcomes.
“We’ve now had 505 phones come in and 228 have gone out.
“There are a lot that have cracked screens or are iCloud locked so we’re slowly getting through switching the screens or unlocking.”
The initiative has recently received the backing of Jeep Australia, allowing people to donate their unused mobile phones to a drop-off point at any of the 69 national Jeep dealerships.
“One of the challenges I saw in the pilot was, if people didn’t live in Queensland, the only way we could get a phone was that would have to pay to post it to us,” Mr Wood said.
“I rang Jeep and said I need collection points across Australia and also asked them to pay for the postage to get the phones up to us in Queensland.
“So, they agreed. It’s moving really fast which is great.”
Mr Wood said in their next stages he wanted to get corporates on board to donate their old phones, along with seeking Government assistance.
“We’ve had one company named Southern Phone reach out and donate 120 new phones to us. That was amazing,” he said.
“I asked Betty from the Red Nose Foundation, ‘when do I stop?’
“It was a bit concerning to me when she said, ‘we’ll never have enough phones’.”
Mr Wood said he had learnt more than he imagined in the last two months.
“It’s pretty heart-wrenching some of the stories I’m hearing,” he said.
“Even people in my own networks have come forward and told me what they’ve dealt with in the past and I had no idea.
“They’re all saying having something like this would’ve allowed them to get help when they needed it instead of feeling completely isolated.
“It’s pushed me really hard to just want to make such a difference out there.
“Anyone who’s got a spare phone in their draw, you can drop it in to us as easy as dropping it in to your local Jeep dealer.”
To help, simply drop your spare working phone into your local Jeep dealership (Cricks Noosa Jeep) in Lionel Donovan Dr, Noosaville.
The next closest drop-off point is the King IT store at Maroochydore Plaza, or you can post them to PO Box 1440 Mooloolaba QLD 4557.
Further details are at www.dvsafephone.com.au