The 2024 National Reconciliation Week theme, Now More Than Ever, emphasised the ongoing need to advocate for justice and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Recognising the intricacies of rural life and a commitment to financial inclusion and wellbeing, CBA has launched First Nations Reach, a program bringing banking services to First Nations Australians living in remote communities. 

“CommBank's First Nations Reach program is more than remote banking assistance. It's an educational initiative that helps remote communities feel more confident using self-service options,” CBA’s Senior Manager of Indigenous Affairs Brooke Scott said.

Ms Scott said the goal of the program is to empower First Nations customers, to boost confidence to use self-serve options and to establish a sustainable approach for them to access basic banking services.

How did it all begin? 

CBA’s remote banking journey began in 2009, when the Bank established an industry-first Indigenous Customer Assistance Line (ICAL) to support First Nations customers living in remote communities. Early awareness for the breakthrough service varied, which was sometimes coupled with limited infrastructure in communities, meaning some customers still faced challenges with certain everyday banking tasks. 

In 2022 and 2023 CommBank launched three “remote banking” pilots, ultimately establishing the First Nations Reach program.

Representatives from local CBA regional branches and teams from Group Customer Advocacy and Vulnerability and the ICAL first visited residents in Mornington Island (Queensland), Fitzroy Crossing (WA) and Palm Island (Queensland) During these visits, the CBA team provided face-to-face support for remote customers to help them with their banking needs: from opening accounts, restoring access to banking, resolving identification issues, lodging dispute enquiries, to providing banking education.  

This initial work helped CBA develop a deeper understanding of the complexities within remote community life. Recognising the important role banks can play in addressing financial exclusion for First Nations Australians living in remote areas, CBA CEO Matt Comyn announced the First Nations Reach program in September 2023, officially launching it in March 2024.

Mimili operations Mimili operations
First Nations Reach Program on ground team First Nations Reach Program on ground team

What’s next for the program?

This year, CBA will visit 13 remote locations, increasing the reach of the program from around 7,500 individuals to more than 18,000. The CBA team has seen growing engagement with digital banking among remote First Nations communities - a significant accomplishment for both the team and the customers they serve.

The program is grounded in cultural sensitivity and focuses on communities where there are already a number of CBA customers. Between now and 2026, the CBA team will visit communities in four regions. During these visits, CBA will spend 3 to 5 days in community, providing banking assistance. The CBA team base themselves at a central location and arrange for free buses to bring residents in from nearby communities, where possible. 

Map showing communities covered in 2024 Map showing communities covered in 2024

On each visit, the CBA team works with local organisations to share the program's purpose, better understand each community’s needs, and offer targeted banking support.  First Nations Reach Program Manager and proud Malyangapa man Cody Milnes recently made a trip to the Fitzroy Valley, a beautiful remote area home to over 45 First Nations communities.  

Cooking breakfast for the Mimili community Cooking breakfast for the Mimili community
Dawn on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Dawn on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands

While each day brings something new, for Mr Milnes, a typical morning during each visit starts at sunrise: “It’s always an early start, around 6am, to allow us to prepare for the day. There are two or three of us, and then a whole community. We have breakfast together, have a yarn and a debrief and prepare for the day ahead,” he says.

“Days are busy – we don’t turn anyone away when we are out in community. We have a ‘soft close’ policy, meaning we'll stay open as long as we have customers still waiting.”

One of the most important parts of the program to him is education.  

“We’re helping build self-determination within Indigenous communities which is something so powerful. Mob have the right to make their own choice about what they should and shouldn’t be doing, or want and don’t want to be doing, but we’re giving them the tools to be able to make those decisions. It’s really powerful to be able to do that,” he says.

“I’d definitely feel a bit sad if we didn't go back to the communities we've visited. But if the reason is that they no longer require our assistance because of the popularity of digital banking in the community, I’ll be thrilled. It will mean we’ve successfully fulfilled our purpose. We can’t just do it in metro areas, we must do it on Country, as it’s integral to how we build connections with First Nations people.”

CommBank delegates offer a free translation service, quickly connecting customers with interpreters for 14 most prevalent Indigenous languages. The team uses portable technology to support customers and provides high-speed internet and mobile phone connections for customers if needed during meetings.  

Despite being in the early stages, the program has received a positive response from communities visited so far. They are eager to expand their reach to help more First Nations communities access basic banking services and, through CBA’s Reconciliation Action Plan, will ensure the financial wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is supported in a culturally informed way.

CBA is working hard to understand the challenges faced by remote First Nations communities and is committed to making a positive difference. If you would like more information around the program, you can reach us at We’d love to hear from you.

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