HUNDREDS of mourners filled Aurukun’s Uniting Church on Thursday to farewell beloved community member Waal Waal Chevathun, who recently lost her battle with cancer.
Ms Chevathun was a highly respected senior police liaison officer, whose years of dedication to her community were recognised at the service by Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll with a posthumous Exemplary Conduct Medal.
The funeral was attended by dozens of police officers and the Governor of Queensland, Her Excellency Dr Jeannette Young, who joined community members for the lengthy service.
Aurukun mayor Keri Tamwoy said the proud Wik woman, whose passion was working with young people and her Wik culture, was a bright spark in the community.
“(She was) a bright spark who loved wearing even brighter lipstick as a young girl,” Cr Tamwoy said.
“She was fearless, selfless, loyal, passionate and had a very big heart that she gave to the whole community.
“She always cared about people, their health and their education. She was a driving force who would never give up – we could not be more proud of her.
“Her passing leaves a hole in our hearts and in the community.
“We pray that there is another young person among us with her drive and determination who will step into those very big shoes and validate Waal Waal’s belief in Aurukun’s youth to take our community forward.”
Commissioner Carroll was scheduled to fly in to speak at the service, however, had to cancel at the last minute due to a death in her family.
In remarks provided to Cape York Weekly, she spoke of the immense pride the Queensland Police Service had for their colleague, and Ms Chevathun’s unwavering dedication and love for Aurukun.
“Waal Waal was a proud First Nations woman,” Commissioner Carroll said.
“She was also a proud police liaison officer and a proud member of the Queensland Police Service.
“Her legacy is far reaching – yes, we will miss her, but we will never forget her.
“It is incumbent on all of us to continue Waal-Waal’s work, remember her finest attributes, remember what was important to her and use this to guide us and make a difference – in honour of her.”
In addition to the Exemplary Conduct Medal awarded on Thursday, Ms Chevathun received a Commonwealth Games Citation in 2019, a Queensland Police 150 Years Citation in 2021 and the Queensland Police Service Medal in 2023.
Ms Chevathun was born in Aurukun in 1976 and was one of nine children.
She spent much of her childhood in Aurukun before moving to Cairns for education and eventual employment with Tjapukai Cultural Centre.
In 1996, tragedy struck when her mother was murdered.
This incident drove Ms Chevathun to move back to her hometown and to work to form the Aurukun Justice Group and serve as its youngest member.
She joined the Queensland Police Service as a police liaison officer at the Aurukun PCYC in 2015. She thrived in the role, delivering youth engagement programs and sport, working to support and influence her community in a positive way.
Commissioner Carroll said Ms Chevathun was a woman of action who wasn’t afraid to say it like it was and get her hands dirty to solve a problem.
“Waal Waal was often utilised to help ease tension and de-escalate violence,” she said.
“Her work in this space has reduced violence in the community innumerable times.”
Her dedication led to her promotion to Senior Police Liaison Officer in 2023, being awarded her epaulettes by Police Minister Mark Ryan in front of her colleagues.
“She served with honour and it is we who were honoured to have known and served with her,” Commissioner Carroll said.
Ms Chevathun is survived by her beloved partner, Aurukun deputy mayor Craig Koomeeta, father Leith Ngakapoorgum, adopted father Jackie Castelain, seven siblings and adopted daughter Norma Chevathun Jnr.
This story has been published with the permission of the family.