HomeFinancebankingBranch closures pushing vulnerable even further behind

Branch closures pushing vulnerable even further behind

Some of Australia’s most vulnerable communities are at risk of falling even further behind as the big banks close hundreds of branches across the country.

Australia’s banks are closing branches in remote and rural areas at an alarming rate, encouraging customers to move to online banking services. But the cost-cutting move is leaving thousands effectively stranded without services.

The problem is, these remote areas also lack reliable internet infrastructure, making online banking difficult if not impossible. This leads to a double-whammy of disadvantage that is difficult to overcome.

These are the findings of a joint report from researchers at RMIT University and Swinburne University. The report also found our most vulnerable groups are being disproportionately disadvantaged by the closures.

The report formed part of a submission made by the universities to a Senate inquiry into bank closures.

Vulnerable most affected

RMIT Professor Julian Thomas, lead author of the study, says in-person interactions were especially important for complex banking tasks and for tackling elder abuse, scams and fraud.

“The quality, reliability and cost of internet in remote areas also pose challenges for these communities, making going to a branch to speak to a person even more crucial,” he says.  

“By removing banks in regional areas, it potentially disadvantages an already vulnerable community from accessing basic necessities such as financial services, impacting their independence.”

Despite the prevalence of online banking, Prof. Thomas says the report showed many remote First Nations groups still rely on face-to-face banking to get things done.

He says the closures risk further marginalising an already marginalised group.

Can’t connect even if they want to

Exacerbating this access problem is the fact that internet infrastructure and affordable internet services in remote and regional areas are seriously lacking.

Previous RMIT research has shown indigenous Australians are among the most ‘digitally excluded’ people in the country and that this exclusion increases the more remote the person lives.

Around 43 per cent of the 1,545 First Nations communities and homelands across Australia have no mobile service – including some with only a shared public phone or no telecommunications access – highlighting a need for action to close this digital gap. 

Residents in remote communities are typically on lower incomes, 84 per cent used a shared mobile device, and 94 per cent use pre-paid services. The high cost of pre-paid data also causes to significant affordability issues. 

Where to from here?

Dr Daniel Featherstone, RMIT senior research fellow, says as banking and other services increasingly move online, it is incumbent on the government to ensure all Australians have access.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from digital technologies,” he says.

“We use these technologies to access essential services for health, welfare, finance and education, participate in social and cultural activities, follow news and media, as well as connect with family, friends, and the wider world.”

Has your local bank branch closed? Do you use online banking? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Whistleblower details bank’s ‘deceptive’ tactics to close branches

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. I feel sorry for our regional people but bank closures are also affecting city dwellers. We have lost banks also my biggest beef is that they take away our banks and then you can find an atm that doesn’t cost you $3 or more to take out your own money. All fine well and good when you’re rich but being in a pension it can get expensive.
    Banks are making a fortune they should also be paying for the fees we pay because we have to use other atms

  2. We lost 3 Banks in 6 months. Westpac. ANZ & National all closed and left NO teller machines behind. Plus ANZ Has closed numerous branches in Northern Suburbs of Melbourne.
    ANZ has also removed in all Australia Post office. So you cannot deposit or withdrawn any money. When asked how do I pay or deposit money into my credit card. Was told by ANZ staff go to a branch close to your home? What ridiculous and disgraceful customer service.

  3. Perhaps the government could open “branches” in these remote areas. Offer banking services through either a government bank or a subsidized branch offering a combination of big bank services. I believe offering banking through post office services could also help many of these communities.

  4. It’s not just country branches closing. In the time I’ve lived in my current address, I’ve seen the local branch disappear, followed recently by the next closest one suburb over, plus one other two suburbs away have all disappeared.
    Am I really so fortunate to have fairly consistent internet access?
    If I have cash or cheques to deposit, I now have to travel a greater distance.
    There’s not even an ATM in my suburb.
    I can’t get 5 or 10-dollar notes at ATMs. I’m lucky to sometimes find an atm that gives $20 notes.
    How do shops that need coins for change carry on?
    And they’re talking about going cashless!!!!
    What a shower!!!

  5. Now we have to pay to get our money out of a Bank. Even with the shopping center Machines.
    Time to fight back.
    Tradies it is time. When ask to quote for a job try to find out where the prospective client works. If it is a bank then give a good price, wait for acceptance, then arrive late on the job, do half that day and go and get extra parts that can be fitted the next day.
    Make sure if a plumber the water is cut off for approx 24 hrs over two days.
    Car service, “waiting on parts and if only a normal service do some and the rest will be available the next day. Any other tradies that service, then spread the job over a day or two.
    We will soon see how the bank johnies like being held up and inconvenienced like the rest of us with closed banks, teller machines etc.

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