5 March, 2021
Mareeba’s Leading Woman – Angela Toppin
With International women's day on Monday, we spoke with the first female mayor of the MSC, Angela Toppin.
Mareeba’s Leading Woman – Angela Toppin - By Ellie Fink
From farm girl to leader, Mareeba Shire Council's first
female Mayor, Angela Toppin, has overcome many challenges to become the
influential woman she is today.
From the early stages of life, Angela was always a determined and resilient woman working on her immigrant parent’s tobacco farm, knowing not a single word of English.
As the eldest daughter of four, Angela would take on the responsibility of household chores from a young age, on the farm doing heavy work and cleaning up after dinner, leaving little time for homework.
“Homework wasn’t really a thing for us,” she said.
“You would come home from school and help out on the farm and then you would have dinner and wash the dishes, meaning you wouldn’t get time for homework until 7pm!”
Angela excelled in school, learning English quickly and becoming one of the first few women in the Shire to graduate grade 12.
She said she was driven by her passions in mentoring young minds leading her to pursue her dream career in teaching.
“Lack of money did not stop me, I worked hard to be rewarded with a teaching scholarship and travelled to Brisbane to start her tertiary education.” she said.
A few years later, Malanda State Highschool was under the command their first female Principal.
After moving on from Malanda Ms Toppin became the second ever female Principal at Mareeba State Highschool and later moved onto Principal of Cairns High.
In 2016, she deserved the recognition that she deserved.
“One of my proudest moments was when I was awarded the Queensland Secondary Principals’ Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 for significant contribution to Queensland state education.” She said
Ms Toppin says that although she has accomplished many firsts, she did not set out to do that.
“I set out to achieve my goals,” she said.
“I wanted that tertiary education and to have a career.”
While at school, female students were unlikely to graduate and go into university, but Mayor Toppin was determined to do so and now wants to inspire others as well.
After retiring from the rewarding role of Principal of Cairns High, her family had convinced her the Council needed her community spirit.
“I thought that now was my time to give back to the community that supported me in achieving all the goals I have achieved,” she said.
“It was time for me to give back.”
After spending time as a Councillor, Ms Toppin and her family thought it was time to run for Mayor.
“It was hard to gauge because people would talk to you and say they would vote for you, but you never know what they are doing at the ballot box,” she said.
“But I do believe in a ‘Can Do’ attitude and I used to always tell my students to never give up and if you preach something you should definitely practise it.
“I knew when I became Mayor that my past history of commitment, hard work, honesty and integrity was very important to me.”
Mayor Angela Toppin has succeeded in some of a hardest circumstance, going from a lower-class immigrant tobacco farm family to Principal of three lucky schools to the Mayor of the Mareeba Shire.
Through many highs and lows as Mayor, Angela says that something most important to her is her family.
“I now have the greatest pleasure of being the grandmother of four beautiful grandchildren.” she said.