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Each of Katherine’s four mayors since the beginning of the town’s local government council in 1978 has been a larger-than-life character.

Mayor Fay Miller arrived in Katherine a year after the first Mayor, Patricia Davies, had completed her term – and found she was still held in high regard by the community. Pat was followed by Jim Forscutt, who became the longest-serving Mayor by being in office for 16 years and a councillor for 23 years.

Even today, he is recognised everywhere he goes. When Fay’s daughter arrived in Katherine in 1991, Jim happened to be at the Greyhound bus depot — he waited as she came off and said: “I’m the Mayor. Welcome to Katherine.” “She was flabbergasted,” says Fay. “But it’s the mark of his personality.”

Anne Shepherd became Mayor after Jim retired to his nearby property in 2004. Both Anne and Fay had been elected to council at a by-election in 2002. Fay was elected to the NT Legislative Assembly in 2003 after Mike Reed stood down. She retired as the Member for Katherine and Deputy Leader of the CLP after a near-fatal car accident in 2006 and her husband Mike’s cancer diagnosis in 2009.

After her husband’s death, Fay was asked to stand for Katherine Mayor. “I initially refused. I was still grieving. But it made me question: what was I going to do with my life?” Fay became Mayor in March 2012 and was resoundingly re-elected in 2017. She attributes her wins to a combination of trust, confidence, honesty and fairness, which she’d also demonstrated during her terms in the NT Legislative Assembly. “I’m involved in numerous committees and boards and not afraid to lobby for support.

I’ve secured funding for many significant Katherine and regional projects, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes years. “It’s taught me to have bucket loads of patience and accept the process, especially as the inaugural chair of the Big Rivers Regional Economic Development Committee — the great outcomes for the region are continuing.”

Like everywhere, Katherine’s tourism has been devastated by Covid-19. Some businesses have adapted, others are so specific they are unable to. With tourist numbers dramatically down, local businesses across the board are also feeling the pinch. “With only intrastate travel available, it’s a great opportunity for Territorians to revisit or visit for the first time our fabulous Big Rivers Region,” Fay says.

Aside from tourism, Katherine does have a bright future — expansion of RAAF Base Tindal for years ahead; developing horticulture and agriculture, including dry farm cotton and hemp; and the long-planned Agribusiness Hub will also prove to be an advantage in the future. Fay’s main wish?

“To see more of our talented and aspiring younger people commit to becoming an elected member on Katherine Town Council. They have so much to offer and are Katherine’s future.” TQ