Rural Australians are making treacherous trips through winding mountain ranges to get to the nearest bank, taking days off work to manage their finances and live in fear of being left behind if they cannot access cash.

More than 150 people and organisations have written to the Senate inquiry into the closure of country bank branches, describing the effects of losing their essential local services.

The inquiry is examining increasing branch closures across regional Australia, as more than 650 branches have shut in the five years to June.

Many have pleaded with governments and the big four banks to back country people and their communities.

“Please I beg of you do not allow this matter to be swept under the rug, for the sake of this nation’s future,” wrote Jim Seymour, a former resident of Tenterfield, in northern NSW.

The community of Alexandra, in regional Victoria, was concerned for its elderly people, who will have to travel 68 kilometres to Healesville to do their banking when the NAB closes its branch in May.

The direct route to Healesville is via the Black Spur Drive, a scenic road known for its hairpin turns.

“The Black Spur is very windy and steep, has a lot of wildlife crossing it, has buses, log trucks and many tourists … using it,” one resident wrote.

Many carers and elderly people have written about fears of online scammers if they use digital services and being shut out from society if they cannot access cash.

The coalition government’s Regional Banking Taskforce, which reported on the effects of closures last year, found farmers were vulnerable when a bank closes.

Mary Killeen, a grazier in outback Queensland, relied on the NAB in Longreach for 40 years before the company announced the branch would close.

“The ability to have a face-to-face meeting with a person who is based in the area and knows what is happening in the industry, with seasonal variations, market fluctuations, and government policy is invaluable,” Ms Killeen wrote.

“Sending a representative from far away … does not provide the same depth of understanding.”

A resident in remote Victoria said her family could not rely on online banking because internet and power were patchy.

“We just seem to lose more and more services,” Meredith Haugen wrote.

The Country Women’s Association of Bridgetown, in southern WA, said businesses often had to close their doors early to cash in takings at a Commonwealth Bank 35km away, and others took time off work to deal with their finances.

“If residents are forced to go to another bank in a different town, it is entirely likely that they will end up purchasing goods and services in that town, reducing the viability of their own small town businesses,” the CWA said.

Submissions to the inquiry extended to 28th April.

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