12 June, 2023
Four honoured on King’s Birthday
A mayor, a councillor, a wildlife carer and a firefighter from the Tablelands received the highest honours on Monday for the King’s Birthday.
A MAYOR, a councillor, a wildlife carer and a firefighter from the Tablelands received the highest honours on Monday for the King’s Birthday.
Mareeba Mayor Angela Toppin received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), while Tablelands Regional Councillor David Clifton received an Order of Australia medal (OAM), Tolga Bat Hospital founder Jennefer McLean also received an OAM and Yungaburra Fire Station Auxiliary Captain Ashley Cupitt received an Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM).
Ms McLean received her OAM for animal welfare and land management for her dedication to the Tolga Bat Hospital.
From humble beginnings in 1990, Ms McLean started the Bat Hospital after hearing of hundreds of flying foxes and bats who were orphaned due to tick-spread diseases. She said receiving the OAM reflected the importance of the work done at the hospital and her passion for particularly wildlife-friendly fencing.
“Welfare, which is what the OAM is for, is really reflected in the hospital’s work and that is mainly about bats, but the land management is about wildlife-friendly fencing to stop animals getting caught on them,” she said.
“It’s to do with anything the people do on this that makes it impossible for animals to live in the wildlife.
“There are so many people who do great things – if this OAM raises the profile of the things we do and the things I am passion about and the important role of bats and flying foxes in the environment, then that is great.”
Commenting about his award, Cr Clifton said he considered himself a “proud Australian”, serving in Vietnam as a young man before making his move to the Atherton Tablelands.
Making a significant contribution to local government and indigenous affairs, Mr Clifton said he was proud to receive an OAM and will proudly showcase “our medal”.
“I always wear the Returned from Active Service badge on my jacket not because I’ve been on Active Service, but in memory of all those men and women who wore it before me and will after,” he said.
“Their memory is very important to me and if one person says, ‘oh look, he’s wearing the same badge as my dad used to wear’ then it’s worth it. It’s the recognition of belonging.
“In the same way, I’m very grateful to the members of the community in Cairns, in the Aboriginal communities and the Tablelands who have seen their way to nominate and recommend me for an OAM.
“It is ‘our’ medal because we all worked together, and they tolerated me for years. I am so proud to be Australian and grateful for the recognition.”
Passionate about education, Mrs Toppin has spent her life committing to be a leader who “makes a difference to young people”.
After 46 years in secondary school teaching, Mrs Toppin retired as principal of Cairns State High School in 2016 and then took on the role of Mayor for the Mareeba Shire in 2020.
“To be awarded an AM is a significant honour and I am truly humbled by this announcement,” she said.
“I am proud of all that I have achieved during my career, as an educator, an elected member and as a volunteer in various communities. This is especially true for those achievements which have directly impacted the lives of young people in Far North Queensland.
“To be recognised with this most prestigious award is unexpected and somewhat surreal.”
Mr Cupitt has been an active member of the community for several years, with 46 years behind him as an auxiliary firefighter. He has consistently displayed leadership and commitment to enhancing auxiliary firefighter workforce throughout QFES’ Far Northern Region