The Weekend Australian: 22 Oct 2011

Katherine’s quest for a council chief (The Weekend Australian: 22 Oct 2011)

SOMETIMES crises politicise people. For Katherine Town Council Mayor Anne Shepherd, it was the 1998 floods – which shattered the remote Northern Territory town of 10,000 people – that showed her the power of advocacy and opened her eyes to a political future. She’d long been interested in public affairs, as a nurse and board [...]

SOMETIMES crises politicise people. For Katherine Town Council Mayor Anne Shepherd, it was the 1998 floods – which shattered the remote Northern Territory town of 10,000 people – that showed her the power of advocacy and opened her eyes to a political future.

She’d long been interested in public affairs, as a nurse and board member of Katherine Hospital,
where she started work in 1967, and as a chairwoman of various committees.

But she never imagined she would work in local government.

“When the devastating 1998 flood happened, I headed up a reconstruction committee that did its best to take on the insurance industry to help the people who had been affected by the flooding, and had various degres of success with that,” Shepherd says.

“So then one thing led to another.

“I never really expected to get into local government but people kept pestering me, so I stood for election in 2001 and spent two years as an alderman.”

She’s been Mayor of Katherine Town Council since 2005; she was re-elected in 2008.

Shepherd believes in the power of local government and is proud of the council’s achievements over the past decades.

“It’s very powerful and quite rewarding because we are the level of government that’s closest to the community,” she says.

“We’ve consulted more with the community than happened previously, we do that frequently, and we have managed to increase our services over those years, while still putting money away in reserve.

“When I became Mayor we had no money in reserve.”

Shepherd has played a pivotal role in the establishment of an $8 million cultural precinct, which will be build with funding from the federal and Northern Territory governments as well as council money.

Several infrastructure projects are under way and there are also plans for a new museum.

The Katherine Town Council needs a new chief executive to oversee these projects and manage the business of council. The CEO will be responsible for developing and implementing council policy.

The successful applicant will be based in Katherine, which is 300km southeast of Darwin and the third largest community in the Northern Territory.

The remuneration packaged of $185,000 – $200,000 (depending on qualifications and experience) includes super, plus accommodation in a four bedroom house on the banks of the Katherine River, motor vehicle, phone and internet access, plus six weeks of annual leave.

“I want someone who is very enthusiastic about local government and who is very good at it.

“The CEO needs to quickly grasp a very good picture of what the community is and what its needs are.

“We have a population of over 10,000 and we have a very large indigenous population. We have a very varied population, there are many ethnic groups [including African and Filipino communities]. It’s really a very cosmopolitan place.”

A key industry in the Katherine region is tourism – 250,000 tourists visit Katherine Gorge each year.

Applicants need to have worked in a senior management position within local government, and should have extensive experience in financial management. They will also need a solid understanding of the political, social and economic factors that affect Aboriginal communities, and the ability to work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

“The indigenous aspect of our town is challenging, particularly since the intervention. A lot of people come into Katherine from outlying regions and that can be a challenge,” Shepherd says.

PENNY McLEOD

Applynow.net.au/jobs/26586

Mcleod, P (2011), Katherine’s quest for a council chief, ‘Weekend Professional Public Sector’: The
Weekend Australian, p.6.