2 March 2024

'It's time': Mapoon mayor prepares for life after 14 years of community advocacy

| Lyndon Keane
Start the conversation

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch, pictured with retiring Mapoon Mayor Aileen Addo, has described her as an “absolutely brilliant” leader and a “dear friend”. Photo: Matt Nicholls.

After 14 years of dedicated representation, retiring Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Aileen Addo says she has no regrets and no unfinished business, but is committed to remaining a fierce advocate for her community.

Mayor Addo, who was first elected in 2012 before taking on mayoral duties in 2016, has not nominated for a fourth term on the council, and will be replaced by one of the four candidates vying for election success when voters go to the polls on 16 March.

“I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved,” Mayor Addo told Cape York Weekly.

“Some people have asked me to do another four years, but you’ve got to still have that fire in your belly; I think it’s time to go, and I know my time’s up.”

When asked to pinpoint the highlights of her leadership, Mayor Addo wasted no time in identifying the development of key community infrastructure, including the church, cultural centre, and home and community care (HACC) facility.

Building council-controlled visitor accommodation was another significant victory for Mayor Addo, who explained it allowed service providers to give Mapoon a much-needed economic boost.

“I think when I came into council, I seen Mapoon as having a lot of opportunities and we weren’t taking full advantage of that, and we needed infrastructure for the community to grow,” she explained.

“We had people coming to deliver services in Mapoon … and they were staying in Weipa and we saw that as a way to raise revenue, by doing the accommodation.

READ ALSO At long last: Mapoon church opened after years of lobbying

The opening of the church and cultural centre was celebrated as a way for Mapoon residents to share their stories and receive spiritual guidance as the community recorded 64 per cent population growth between 2011 and 2021.

“We had a lot of stories we wanted to share with people who came to visit Mapoon, and also just for the kids here to learn about their community and Mapoon,” Mayor Addo reflected.

“We needed to get a church here, and a lot of them old people, a lot have passed on now, they wanted one, and we saw that as a way to have a spiritual place for Mapoon to get guidance from.”

Mayor Addo said advocating for funding for infrastructure projects had not been easy for the council, but added the results of the effort spoke for themselves.

“A lot of the stuff we wanted to get with council when I started, we got,” she said.

“It wasn’t easy; we got knocked back a lot of times when we went for funding, but we got there.”

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch praised Mayor Addo’s leadership and said she had been “a really significant part of a beautiful community”.

“She’s going to leave the community in a very, very good position,” he said when asked what he believed the popular mayor’s legacy would be.

“She’s an absolutely brilliant leader and she’s a very, very strong woman, understated in many ways, but she just made sure she made things happen.

“Remote communities can do well; they can thrive and they can stand out, and Mapoon’s a classic example of that, her leadership and her council.”

Mr Entsch described Mayor Addo as a “dear friend” and said her contribution to the council and growth of Mapoon would be difficult to forget.

“I used to drive around with her and just listen to the enthusiasm about what she’s done, and how it has helped the community,” he explained.

“I’m going to miss her like crazy.

“We’ll be talking about Aileen well into the future.”

READ ALSO New health care centre a coup for Mapoon

With just three weeks left in the job, Mayor Addo said she intended to remain a strong presence in the community, and offered some advice for whichever candidate replaced her.

“For a community to be sustainable and progress forward, we need to have a community and that passion and spirit, and I’m going to be part of that,” she said.

“We need to stay on course and make the organisations who come into Mapoon accountable; we need results, and we need them to be making Mapoon better by them being here.

“We community people can’t be blaming government; we need to take ownership and we need to take the blame when things go wrong.

“If you stay quiet, nothing ever happens.”

Mayor Aileen Addo says the construction of a new church in Mapoon is one of the highlights of her time at the helm of the western Cape York council. Photo: Cape York Weekly.

Start the conversation

Cape York Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest edition of Cape York Weekly in your inbox each Monday.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Cape York Weekly's terms and conditions and privacy policy.