“Uwa, Uwa. Palya,” Jason Harvey, a Westpac Indigenous Connection banker, says down the phone line after asking a customer where they were calling from.
It means “yes, yes, good”, and was Harvey’s response when the customer revealed they were calling from the APY Lands in the north west of South Australia.
“I think she realised that I had an understanding of where she was,” Harvey tells Westpac Wire on a recent trip to the Indigenous Connection operation in Adelaide.
“From there. I used a little bit of language back to her, you know, uwa is yes…and things like that.”
Since the Royal Commission and changes to the Banking Code of Practice, Westpac has been building and developing a team for remote and indigenous customers to call “who up until now have probably had some challenges getting in touch with the bank and getting access to their basic banking products”, says Chris Hampton, who manages the Indigenous Connection team.
It’s part of the bank’s overall 5000 strong team in South Australia, a milestone announced by chief Peter King alongside State Premier Steven Marshall last month.
“We’ve got a target to speak with 20,000 unique customers over the next three years and assist them with financial health checks, talking to them and educating them around their banking. At the moment, we're at about 7000 customers,” Hampton says.
Suzi Hullick, Westpac’s head of Indigenous Banking, says the difficulties people living in remote areas have in accessing everyday essentials, such as banking, groceries and telecommunications, isn’t always appreciated.
“We've had experiences in remote communities where individuals are telling us that they haven't been able to go shopping for food for two weeks, (or) a simple thing of getting your card reissued, a pin reissued, it’s critical,” she says.