Former Warwick footy star turned Mayor
FORMER Warwick student Rex Burke has come along way since the halls of Slade School.
Growing up in Napranum, ten minutes outside Weipa in far north Queensland – an indigenous community of which he is the newly elected Mayor, Mr Burke said he completed Year 10 in Weipa before moving to Warwick.
“Mum asked me if I wanted to go to boarding school and a couple of girls from Napranum had gone to Slade (now the Warwick Christian College) in Warwick and really liked it,” he said.
“So I came to Warwick and did Year 11 and 12 and loved it.
“I found it pretty cold, coming from Cape York, but I really enjoyed my time there.
“I was rugby league mad, so I joined up with the Collegians footy club and played alongside guys like Arnold Alldridge, Simon Scanlan and Dean Taylor.
“I met a lot of new friends there that I’m still friends with today. We keep in touch with the occasional message on Facebook.
“I was planning to join them all for a Warwick Old Boys team at the Masters Games last year on the Gold Coast, but I was just too busy with work.”
After finishing high school in Warwick, Mr Burke said he was offered a Broncos sponsorship and moved to Brisbane.
“It didn’t eventuate, I got homesick and went back to Napranum,” he said.
“Not long after I went to visit a mate living in Coffs Harbour and ended up staying there for seven years, working as a labourer and playing footy for the Coffs Harbour Comets.
“I eventually moved back north in 2001 and lived and worked in Marpoon, near Napranum, another indigenous community where I worked for the Aboriginal council.
“In 2007 I got a job with Rio Tinto as a warehouse officer on one of their mines.”
While working for Rio Tinto, Mr Burke decided to run in the 2012 local government elections and was elected as a councillor.
“It was pretty easy doing both,” he said.
“Rio Tinto were really good, I got time off for meetings and they were very supportive.
“After doing that for four years, in early 2016 I decided to run for mayor and had a fairly convincing win.
“I always saw myself as a leader and it was something I really wanted to do – I’d always been involved within the community.
“Napranum has similar problems to all the other communities in Cape York; housing, employment, education.
“We’re working towards more infrastructure. There’s a shortage of housing, and an extensive list of people waiting for housing.
“We’re a Government-funded community, but we have a lot of pastoral land that we are looking to lease to bring in our own revenue.
“This is what I do full-time now and I feel very privileged to lead this community.”