10 February 2023

'Never had a bank card in her life': Junee's fight against last branch closure has first win

| Oliver Jacques
Join the conversation
A woman holds bank passbook

Maisie Robinson shows the passbook she opened in 1943 in Junee. Photo: Struan Timms Photography

A new parliamentary inquiry will be held into regional bank closures, following a sustained campaign by Junee Shire Council and its residents against the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) decision to close the last remaining bank in the town.

On Wednesday 8 February, a motion was passed in the Senate to examine the impact of rural branch closures and to propose solutions. The inquiry committee, which includes members from all major parties, is now accepting submissions and will provide a report back to parliament with recommendations on 1 December 2023.

The successful vote occurred on the same day the council’s general manager James Davis penned an open letter to parliament calling for an inquiry.

“We made a strong contribution to the decision,” Mr Davis said.

“We have now written to the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, asking them to reverse their decision to close the last branch in our town … they are obligated to sit back and wait for that inquiry to be heard.”

READ ALSO Big Four ‘abandoning rural towns’: Junee fights back as town loses only bank

So far, CBA has vowed to push ahead with plans to permanently shut its Junee bank branch and ATM in March, despite pleas from those who now face an hour-long round trip to Wagga for transactions and loan services.

But the town’s residents have ramped up their campaign, with more than 100 people protesting outside the CBA branch on Thursday 9 February.

Leading the charge was 88-year-old Maisie Robinson, who pulled out the passbook she opened at the Junee branch in 1943.

“She has never had a bank card in her life. Now, she must get one. It’s almost an impossible situation for her. Why should she need to feel anxious?,” Mr Davis said.

“I talked to a lot of people aged over 80 who are in the same boat.”

A group of Junee residents holding placards

Junee residents protest the CBA bank closure. Photo: Struan Timms Photography.

Researcher Dale Wester estimates there are 597 small towns across Australia that once had a bank but no longer have one, with recent closures also occurring in Victoria and Queensland. Following considerable media attention surrounding the Junee decision, a number of politicians have begun to speak out.

Victorian Nationals MP Darren Chester was scathing of Westpac’s announcement that it would close its last branch in the town of Sale by May.

“Forget about crooks wearing balaclavas – the real bank robbers are the executives making decisions in city boardrooms. These corporate bank robbers are robbing country towns of jobs, they’re robbing vulnerable people of services and they’re robbing regional Australia of growth opportunities,” he told parliament in a speech on Monday 6 February.

Maverick Queensland Liberal National Party MP Gerard Rennick renewed his calls for reestablishment of a government bank that would service regional towns when private financial institutions abandoned them.

“Since the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank and State Government Insurance Offices, prices have risen dramatically in the banking and insurance sectors. At the same time, services have fallen dramatically … I believe that Australians do need the Government to provide banking and insurance services in addition to those provided by the private sector.”

READ ALSO Labor’s candidate for Wagga picks women’s health as election battleground

Region put questions to Treasurer Jim Chalmers on whether his Federal Government had any policies or plans in place to stop regional bank closures. We did not receive a response.

In Junee, CBA has said people wanting to do their banking after March could instead go to the post office.

“The community and council have recognised that the post office is doing everything they can to support people, we appreciate the work they’re doing,” Mr Davis said.

“But we need to recognise that post office services are inadequate.”

Mr Davis pointed out that the post office wouldn’t offer loan services or issue bank cards.

“The CBA made a massive profit; they should not walk away from communities that helped them earn that profit.”

Further details on the new Senate inquiry into regional bank closures can be found here.

Original Article published by Oliver Jacques on Region Riverina.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.