Old phones can save lives, campaigner says


When fleeing a domestic violence situation, a mobile phone is often one of the first items to be broken or stolen.

Leaving the victim cut off from the outside world, with no way to call emergency services or helplines for assistance, is often part of the hurt a perpetrator hopes to inflict.

By collecting mobile phones no longer in use, DV Safe Phone founder Ashton Wood is hoping to return that independence and security back to those in need.

“DV Safe Phone was launched to get unused mobile phones out of people’s ‘bottom drawers’ and into the hands of victims of domestic violence,” Mr Wood said.

“Our campaign is aimed at collecting working phones, testing the phones for functionality, ensuring that all user data has been erased and redistributing working mobile phones to victims of domestic violence.”

When extensive interstate and overseas travel came to a halt in early 2020, Mr Wood found some time for a much-needed clean-out.

Together with his partner Luisa the pair managed to fill their car with unwanted items to donate to charity.

“That night (in early April 2020) it was announced that all retail shops were shutting down, due to Covid-19 lockdowns, so we had a carload of items to take to charity and no place to take them,” Mr Wood said.

Calling on contacts for advice, Mr Wood spoke to Janine Lee, whom he’d met years ago at a Chamber of Commerce event at Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

“She was the only person I could think of at the time,” he said.

“I was just hoping she might know of a drop-off point.”

A former senior sergeant in the New Zealand Police Force for more than 20 years, Janine had spent a lot of time assisting with domestic violence cases.

Since moving to Australia, she founded Domestic Violence Business Solutions.

“Janine told me that domestic violence victims in Australia are in desperate need of working mobile phones right now,” Mr Wood said.

“When I offered up my spare phone, Janine said: ‘Ashton, your old phone may save a life.'”

Mr Wood has since formed DV Safe Phone.

Using registered not-for-profit charities who have existing relationships with domestic violence and law enforcement agencies, safe houses, crisis centres and volunteers Australia-wide, Mr Wood helps redistribute phones to victims.

To date, he has collected just over 1,000 phones, which he says ensures more than 450 victims of domestic violence now have a phone to use in an emergency.

“It’s such a simple idea with such a powerful outcome,” he said.

In the Hunter Region, used phones can be dropped at any Jeep dealership for redistribution through DV Safe Phones.