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Westpac closed its branch in Tennant Creek, Northern Territory in 2022 (ABC News)

CatholicCare Northern Territory was on the frontline of managing the fallout of the sudden bank branch closure in the isolated Northern Territory town of Tennant Creek. Source: ABC News.

Australia’s banking watchdog has publicly sanctioned Westpac over the bank’s sudden branch closure in September 2022.

The disadvantaged town, about a 10-hour drive south of Darwin, is a key service hub for more than 6000 people in the remote Barkly region. 

Many residents are Indigenous people who speak limited English and don’t have bank cards, mobile phones or internet connection. 

In September 2022, hundreds of Westpac customers in Tennant Creek and surrounding remote communities were alarmed to find their local branch had closed without notice. 

While some customers adopted online banking or made the switch to ANZ, the sudden loss of face-to-face banking left many people unable to access their money.

After a lengthy investigation, the Banking Code Compliance Committee has found Westpac breached its obligations in a “serious and systemic manner” over its sudden departure from Tennant Creek. 

The watchdog found Westpac failed to provide customers with information about how to continue accessing its services, and did not provide enough support for affected customers following the branch closure. 

Kelly Gulliver, manager of CatholicCare NT’s financial wellbeing and housing support programs, said within days of the closure, her staff in Tennant Creek became inundated by Westpac customers requiring help ordering new key cards, setting up internet banking and arranging transfers and withdrawals.

“It’s somewhat vindicating that [Westpac] has been held accountable to the code, but it really doesn’t take away from the impact to vulnerable customers at all,” she said. 

“We’re still seeing people every day who need help with their banking and have accounts with Westpac.”

In a statement, a Westpac spokesman said “ongoing safety and security threats in Tennant Creek meant we needed to close the branch outside the standard process in order to protect our people”. 


Australia’s banking watchdog sanctions Westpac over sudden branch closure in Tennant Creek (By Samantha Dick, ABC News)