Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh says Woorinen has had enough of living in the digital darkness and has launched an online petition to end its years in a mobile black spot.
Mr Walsh said while the hamlet is only home to 300 people – plus surrounding farmland – it is part of an agricultural powerhouse region worth almost $3 billion every year.
But he said its population, along with Woorinen South and Beverford, remains trapped in a no-call zone.
“Or more frustratingly, in an occasional part call, which comes through but usually drops out at the crucial moments according to petition coordinator and local horticulturist Dean Morpeth,” Mr Walsh added.
“When you are running seasonal production you must be able to talk to potential clients – even more importantly, they must be able to speak to you. Every time. And that’s simply not happening in this area,” he said.
Dean said local residents have been fighting a losing battle for the past three years for some kind of upgrade and right now would take anything.
“I have even paid for a booster at my property; but you can be in the shed for a while and receive nothing and the minute you walk outside your voicemail goes bonkers,” Dean said.
“You can’t run a business with that sort of service,” he added.
The poor coverage was also a COVID-19 issue as students not allowed to attend school found it almost impossible to do their remote learning because there is such limited internet service.
Local resident Muriel Scholz agrees; and she has been at the forefront of the fight for the right to be heard – and hear – around Woorinen.
Muriel said she has a thick file jammed with emails to and from anyone with any skin in the digital game.
She said there was a Telstra study of the area, with the promise of upgraded services; but as with most people in her neighbourhood they aren’t exactly holding their hopes too high.
“I have at least 15 reports into the problem; and have tried everything, from the federal government to the local council to get someone, anyone, on board to help make it better,” Muriel explained.
“Within a day of launching the petition we were on our way to 100 signatures and that just goes to show how urgent the need is here,” she said.
“And it’s not just us, go anywhere off the highway between Swan Hill and Robinvale and you’ll see what we mean. The highway itself is OK but 10km inland and if you only have a ‘normal’ phone you are in trouble.”
Muriel said if you look at a map of the region and see just how many horticultural blocks are in the region you will get a “very clear” picture of the importance of good communications.
She acknowledged attempts had been made to improve signals; but they have not changed much as you move inland from the Murray Valley Highway.
“In some places it is better than it was but when you live barely 15km from a major hub such as Swan Hill it is so frustrating that you have such poor coverage.”
You can access the Woorinen digital petition at: https://www.aph.gov.au/petition_list?id=EN1993