Katherine’s longest serving mayor Jimmy Forscutt has been awarded an Order of Australia medal.
“It’s come out of the blue, I’d like to know who put me up for it,” Mr Forscutt said.
“It’s been a fair while since I was in the spotlight.”
Modest to his well travelled boot straps, Mr Forscutt, 79, has been front and centre at some of the pivotal moments in Katherine’s recent history.
Probably the only question was not why he has now been recognised for his “long service to the community of Katherine” but why it has taken so long.
Chief among his achievements are standing alongside then Prime Minister Bob Hawke for first the operational launch (1988) and then the official opening (1989) of the Tindal RAAF Base.
He says Katherine is the envy of most other regional Australian towns because of the economic boost provided by having a large, and growing, military base on the town’s doorstep.
“The town’s population basically doubled overnight,” he said.
The second major event was with another Prime Minister, this time it was John Howard.
“I flew out from Tindal in a storm, and I hate flying at the best of times,” he remembers today.
His beloved town had been devastated by a record flood in 1998, and its citizens were still in shock, trying to figure out whether to leave or stay.
Mr Forscutt accompanied NT Government leaders on a mission to Canberra to give the first hand account of the town’s virtual destruction.
Howard ordered the immediate payment of money to get people back on their feet and back into their homes.
He soon followed Forscutt back to Katherine to assure citizens the town would be rebuilt.
Mr Forscutt has offered his life to public service.
Although slowly recovering from a bad bit of health himself – “I had a bit of a stroke,” he says – his service to “the first lady of the outback” as his favourite poem likes to capture Katherine, will likely never be matched.
Lets do some of his amazing numbers.
He was Mayor from 1988-2005 and an alderman from 1981 to 1988.
Before there was a council, there was a Town Management Board, and Mr Forscutt was elected to that in 1972.
He still reckons the NT would be better off with boards like that and not councils to save duplication, costs and another layer of tax.
He has been a member of, and chaired many other committees and the like over his life.
He represented Katherine Town Council and Australia at International Union of Local Authorities meetings.
He is a past president and vice president of the Northern Territory Local Government Association.
Mr Forscutt is a past vice-president of Australian Local Government Association and a foundation member of the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and the Farmers Association.
He is also a life member of the Katherine and District Show Society.
He was also a member of the NT Place Names Committee when they gave Ayers Rock the joint name of Uluru.
“My wife and I were in business distributing soft drink so I was about the town a lot and thought there were things I would like to see done,” he explained of his amazing commitment to public service.
“I wanted to look after my community, something to help the town.”
He said most of the roles he performed were voluntary, and the Mayor’s role “was not a full-time job”.
He was instrumental in a sister city tie-up with the Philippines which gives him pride.
Securing freehold title to the hot springs, the showgrounds and other areas were important, he believes.
There are lots of achievements which fill many folders in his home.
Mr Forscutt still has opinions on where the NT and Katherine should be headed.
He likes to state his case, often quite bluntly, and the soften his stance with his obligatory “in my view”.
Some burning issues:
PFAS contamination – “Katherine has been treated shabbily by the Government. I would have taken a whole different approach.”
Governments – “Neither side has much to offer for Katherine in the way of leadership.”
The future – “Because of tourism, Tindal and the people here the town has a wonderful future I believe.”
His opinion has counted for a lot over the years.
He still loves the Katherine lifestyle – “the people of Katherine who hold you here”.
“It is just home to me.”
Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at www.gg.gov.au.
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