Farmer forced to crawl 1km for help after motorbike accident in telecommunications dead spot

Will PickerCountryman
Telecommunications is a major issue for those living in the bush.
Camera IconTelecommunications is a major issue for those living in the bush. Credit: albertoadan/Pixabay (user albertoadan)

NSW farmer Will Picker was mustering when his bike hit a wombat hole, throwing him off and injuring his back. He had no mobile service and could not call for help. This is his story.

My name is Will Picker and I am a fifth-generation sheep farmer from Bigga, northwest of Goulburn in NSW.

I wanted to share with you what happened to me in June 2020 when I broke my back and was unable to immediately phone for help.

I was mustering when my bike hit a wombat hole, throwing me off. There was zero mobile service — I couldn’t even make an SOS call. I had no choice: I had to get help, even if that meant moving. I knew I had hurt my back, badly, and I was acutely aware of the risk of causing further damage, so I crawled 1km to a roadside where I had just enough service to call my partner Hannah Sparks to let her know I was in deep trouble.

The call cut out but luckily Hannah had some idea of where I was. When Hannah found me I was in pretty bad shape.

I was still conscious, but the pain was so bad I could barely communicate with her. I was airlifted to Orange Hospital, where a team of 20 doctors were waiting.

An examination found I had floating vertebrae.

The doctors said had the vertebrae moved a millimetre or so more, there was a real chance of permanent damage. More than a year later, I am back working on the farm but I do experience ongoing back pain.

There is still no mobile phone coverage where the accident occurred. Why am I telling you this? Because we are in the midst of a Federal election campaign and this is our chance to let the political parties know we need better communication services for people in the bush. I’m not saying every square kilometre of Australia should have mobile coverage, but we have to work together to find smarter ways to extend our coverage. I know we can’t just rely on mobile coverage to keep us safe on farm, but increasingly these days our mobile is the device we have with us.

It is one of the most effective and accessible tools to keep us connected to help when we need it, especially considering many farmers work alone. The National Farmers’ Federation is calling on the next government to deliver $5 billion to improve telecommunications in regional Australia for meaningful, future-focused improvement through an independent regional, rural and remote telecommunications fund. Unfortunately there are many stories like mine out there.

Then there are also the stories about people left stranded on a regional road after their car has broken down and they can’t call for help, or those who are struggling to run a business or educate their kids from home because the internet is so poor. If you want better telecommunications in the bush, this is your chance to have your voice heard so our candidates stand up, listen and respond.

I encourage you to do what I have done and back our regions by signing up to the National Farmers Federation’s #TimetoThrive platform to receive a policy voting guide so you too can make an informed choice come May 21.

Will Picker, Bigga

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