Kaytee Collins

After spending a terrifying night with fellow evacuees on the Kingscote Jetty at Kangaroo Island, BankSA Branch Manager Kaytee Collins headed straight to the branch, opened the doors and started to get the message out for anyone who needed help to drop by the bank.

Kaytee, who is a local-born resident of Kingscote and has managed the branch for five years, then got to work. “On that first day, most of the customers didn’t know where to go so they’d just turn up to branch because we were familiar.’’

“If their feet were bare, we got them some shoes. If they needed clothes, we got some,’’ Kaytee said.
“So many people had been evacuated so many times that they had become numb. They needed people to think for them and to look out for them.’’

She purchased food and fuel vouchers from local businesses to distribute to community members with nothing. She was able to do his with the backing of Westpac’s “EmpowerMe’’ program that enables bankers to provide special assistance to customers in crisis. 

In the days afterwards, she worked with BankSA’s senior management to get funding for 19 electricity generators worth $33,000 so local businesses could re-open.

Peter King, CEO Westpac Group

"It has been a great privilege to see the commitment of our bankers working in disaster zones this year, particularly bankers such as Kaytee Collins. Kaytee is one of those exceptional team members who demonstrates that we are not just a bank who can provide financial support but a company with a deep connection and care for the community.

While Kaytee was coming to terms with the bushfires on Kangaroo Island and facing the longer term rebuild and recovery, she continued to do everything within her power to support affected customers and the community at large.

In what has been a challenging year Kaytee continues to provide extraordinary care for our customers, communities, and her immediate team."

Leon Bignell MP, Member for Mawson

Excerpt from parliamentary statement

The Hon. L.W.K. BIGNELL (Mawson) (15:11): “I rise to support this motion as well and to talk about the really hard time that the people of Kangaroo Island have had in the past 50 days or so as this fire snaked its way across the western end of Kangaroo Island. It touched people's properties but did not destroy them the first time around. It touched them again on the other side the second time around. It touched them for a third time, in some cases. People thought they had miraculously survived, only to be hit by this serpent that came a fourth time and wiped them out.

The fires started on 20 December. Priscilla and Geoff, friends of mine—Priscilla is here today—were the first to lose their home. Priscilla works in my office in Kingscote …….

I want to thank BankSA for their tremendous response to their customers and to those who are not their customers. I have never met a more generous person in my life than branch manager Kaytee Collins. She is amazing. Nick Reade is the CEO. We might have had our differences over the years, but I have to say that Nick Reade and the BankSA crew have really stepped up.

Not only did they help out their customers, but he rang me and asked, 'What do you think we can do?' I said, 'There are a whole lot of people out there who have lost everything. The only thing they want to do right now as part of the grieving process, as part of the cleaning process, as part of the rebuilding in the early stages, is to get back out on their property, so what they need is power. How about we get some generators for them?'

BankSA chipped in $35,000, the Hotels Association, $30,000, and Dudley and Irina Brown from Inkwell Wines in McLaren Vale, $25,000."

Anne McLean, regional fire management officer National Park and Wildlife SA

“In many ways exceeding the challenging requirements and expectations of a small rural community during such a natural disaster event, Kaytee’s can do attitude, intelligence, and caring outlook was precisely what the Kangaroo Island community needed whilst in the grips of such a prolonged and devastating natural disaster.

Kaytee’s skills do not end with her office work. She also projects a warm, cheerful attitude to her customers. I have personally seen her resolve issues and handle other difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact.

In the community she went out of her way to help people in need and was always seen in the Incident Management Team and the broader community lending a hand where she could. Kaytee’s willingness to take on difficult projects like she did during the fire event and seeing them to successful completion has repeatedly impressed me.

She loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her. I believe these characteristics represent all that is good in her role as Branch Manager and a member of the community. I did not work for Bank SA during the fires but Kaytee’s demonstrated leadership helped in my decision to apply for the role here in Kingscote being able to start a new career.”

Branch manager went out on a limb to help fire victims

This article first appeared in The Australian newspaper on Monday 1 February 2021.

On Kangaroo Island, the January night sky had turned a ghostly, unnerving burnt orange.

Kaytee Collins kept one eye on the sky and one on her computer as the emergency unfolded. One piece of advice, an odd rhyme, stuck in her head.

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