Mae Govan was a pioneer and a trailblazer for Katherine's female and Indigenous leaders who walk in her footsteps and follow her example to this day.
Born in the late 1940s in North West Queensland, she came to Katherine with her parents and three siblings in 1953. People who knew her say the town is lucky the family settled here, as the impact of their eldest child Mae is still being felt today. But if you ever asked Mae she would probably tell you she was the fortunate one.
"Mum absolutely loved Katherine," Mae's middle child Jeanie Govan said.
"I remember years ago I said 'let me take you on a holiday overseas' and she said 'but I don't want to go anywhere'... that's how much she loved the town."
Growing up on the banks of the Katherine River, where Miali Brumby and the Katherine Town Council sit today, Mae came to love the country and the town where she spent the rest of her life.
Despite never going past seventh grade at school, Mae rose through the ranks of Indigenous and local government leadership and broke new ground for First Australians and women.
Not only was she the first Aboriginal alderman on the Katherine Town Council, she became chief executive officer of Kalano Community Organisation and CEO of Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health.
Jeanie said these fields were traditionally dominated either by men or a few women who were usually non-Indigenous. But it did not stop Mae from achieving her goals and making a difference for the entire community.
"Mum was able to achieve that because she was just a straight-shooter," she said.
"She didn't care if you were black or white, it's about making sure that we look out for each other."
Jeanie said her mother was never one to talk herself up and focused on the task at hand.
"She didn't beat her chest and talk about what she did," she said.
"She just got on and did it."
The task was significant. The town was fractured due to ongoing tensions about the Jawoyn land claim for Nitmiluk Gorge, and women were still fighting for many of their civil rights.
Accounts from the time record guns being fired at demonstrators and "White Pride" marches being held in the town.
"Back in those days in the 70s when women's rights weren't supported, Mum just went ahead and did it," Jeanie said.
Jeanie said her mother was a "trailblazer" and set an example for future generations of female leadership, which Katherine's Indigenous and non-Indigenous girls have followed ever since.
"It wasn't just about Indigenous people, it was about the town that you live in and the people who live there."
Those future generations of leaders from Mae's time are now the current generation. Within their ranks is Jawoyn Association Aboriginal Corporation chairwoman Lisa Mumbin, who met Mae as a teenager. They worked together at Kalano and their families have shared a close bond.
"She's always been my inspiration," Ms Mumbin said.
"She was like a light around me. Every time I saw her she would really inspire me."
Ms Mumbin said Mae brought people together and helped heal old wounds brought about by the Nitmiluk land claim.
"She made a big difference, there was too much politics... there was also great division," she said.
"When my people were running the land claim for the gorge, there were nasty things that took place... but with Mae taking on the council role... it was totally different.
"She would get along with all people, all races."
Ms Mumbin said she is grateful "courageous" women like Mae have made Katherine their home.
"I would say we were blessed."
After retiring, Mae lived the rest of her life as a loving grandmother and popular member of the community. She never left Katherine, and after a battle with cancer she died on December 5, 2011.
Her legacy lives today in her family and in the town, where the residents still remember her, with some even wishing her a happy birthday every year on Facebook.
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