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Our History

We’ve always been for locals, but we haven’t always been “Cairns Bank”: in April 1899 a group of residents established The Cairns Weekly Penny Savings Bank, and the bank by locals, for locals was launched.

In fact, we’ve had no less than five name tweaks throughout our history, but we’ve never wavered in our commitment to personalised banking, focusing on people over profits.

Because that’s the way banking should be.

April 5, 1899

The Spark

A specially convened meeting, chaired by the Mayor Lyne Brown and attended by prominent Cairns business people proposes the establishment of a “penny savings bank” in Cairns (the promoter of the scheme, J.G. Hoare, informed the meeting that one had opened already in Mackay – they were seen as a great way to encourage young people to be “thrifty” and learn good, regular savings habits).

April 22, 1899

Up and Running

Just 3 weeks later, the Cairns Weekly Penny Savings Bank was open for business, once a week. Mayor Brown was elected Chairman, J.G. Hoare secretary, and some well-known Cairns business names became founding directors including Castle, Boland, Mayers, Hollis, Aumuller and Draper.  Minimum deposit, one penny. Maximum amount in any one account, £50. Oh, and children are charged 3 pence for their passbooks (although to encourage customers, the first 400 were free). Deposits and withdrawals happen on a Saturday between 2.30pm and 4pm – these transactions are handled by the directors working on an unpaid roster system.

June 30, 1899

Successful start

The Bank is delighted to already hold a total £73/16/11 in deposits. In line with their aim of investing in worthy local projects that offer good returns, they decide to invest £60 in Cairns Showground debentures (paying 8% interest).

August 18, 1899

New home

The Bank has its first meeting in the Cairns School of Arts building (an association that would continue until 1972)

May 1900

Jockey Club

The bank invests in £100 worth of debentures from the Cairns Mulgrave Jockey Club – they are wishing to purchase grounds for a racecourse.


War hardship

The First World War has an adverse effect on the bank at first, but trading actually recovers after 1915. By the end of 1917, annual deposits reached £900.


Post-war struggles

The expected prosperity doesn’t arrive for Cairns (and the bank) following the war’s end. Industrial unrest and poor mining returns bring only slow growth.


New rules

Maximum balances allowed were increased from £50 to £200. Interest rates which were previously determined by directors now became fixed.


The Great Depression

Tough times for everyone – with the Cairns economy so reliant on export of raw materials and agricultural produce, the effects were catastrophic. Deposits were down, and the bank had trouble finding suitable places to invest.


Bigger limits

The maximum deposit allowed was raised to an impressive £500.


New president

The bank’s long-serving president, Mr Stillman, resigns after 25 years, and is replaced by Mr C. Woodward.


World War 2

Restrictions imposed by the Second World War have a big impact on the bank. The possibility of invasion from the north causes an exodus of population, and building and development grinds to a halt. Commonwealth Government war loans were a timely solution, with the Cairns Weekly Penny Savings Bank investing £200 in 1941, £1,000 in 1942, £3,000 in 1944, and £2,000 in 1945.