’Selfless’ leader farewelled

Photos of Amanda Stapledon in her mayoral robes and with son Pete. 266587_01 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Former Casey mayor Amanda Stapledon will be remembered as a ‘people’s councillor’, loyal mother, sister and daughter and an unflagging community servant.

At her funeral service on 2 February, family, friends, former councillor colleagues and faith leaders spoke of a tireless person who always put others first, one who was admired for her voice and work for a wide range of groups and causes, especially for disability and carer issues.

Pete – her adult son who has multiple disabilities – led the tributes with a montage of photos to the tune You’ve Got A Friend In Me.

To the relief of many, Pete has secured NDIS funding support, thanks to the efforts of Blairlogie chief executive Carolyn Carr in recent days, the service was told.

Ms Stapledon’s brother Michael Lord said, as a child, she was a “cheeky little cherub” with “a thick mop of snowy white hair” and a huge smile.

From early on at Kallista State School, she gravitated to and focused on less fortunate classmates. It was an innate part of her that stayed with her through life.

She’d never complain, strove for excellence and led by example.

She shone brightest as a parent where she believed she could effect change against all odds, Mr Lord said.

Mr Lord thanked friends and colleagues for their kindness and support in recent days.

Former Casey councillors and friends Wayne Smith and Damien Rosario, friends Kerril Burns, Colin Butler and Jan Gilchrist also paid glowing tribute at the Berwick Church of Christ service.

Mr Smith described her immaculate presentation. Her entrance into the room was characterised by her brisk walk, her adjusting of her jacket and her scarf for every occasion.

Many at the service would have been interviewed by Ms Stapledon on her show on Casey Radio.

She made many friends, left a lasting legacy and was a respected colleague.

Mr Rosario listed her record in service of the community, including her co-founding of Casey Kidz Club – an after-school care program for disabled teenagers.

Other achievements were two 75-kilometre Mayor’s Walks for Disability, her Paul Harris Fellowship bestowed by Rotary Club of Berwick and Star News’s Person of the Year 2013.

“No matter the appointment, she was always active and committed to doing justice to her council and community responsibilities.

“She was no stranger for hard work.”

People gravitated to Ms Stapledon because of her character and integrity.

“You can’t fake that.”

Ms Burns said she didn’t know of a person so loyal to friends and such a loving daughter and mother.

“Goodbye my friend. Rest in peace and in the knowledge we’ll look after your Dad and Pete.”

Mr Butler told the gathering that “you are her life” and that she would have helped and influenced many of them.

The “most selfless woman I ever met” made her council decisions out of what she believed was best to the community.

Mr Butler said he warned her that, as a councillor, she had to be careful of people taking advantage of her trusting nature.

“I think we got the answer to that.”

The 58-year-old former councillor – who had been rocked by an IBAC inquiry into Casey councillors – was found dead in a car in Stringybark Drive about 12.30pm on Tuesday 18 January. Her death was being treated by police as not suspicious.

Friend and former vicar David Powys told mourners of Ms Stapledon’s “profound Christian faith”.

There were many questions that could be asked today – such as why and what should be expected from those who conduct corruption inquiries, Mr Powys said.

“How should we respond to the decisions taken by Amanda leading up to 18 January?

“I expect we’d say your decision was probably ill-advised but I think I would say, and possibly you would say, that it was understandable.”

Mr Powys said he wasn’t rushing to judgement on the circumstances of Ms Stapledon’s death.

“No one should judge her decision until they have stood in her shoes. And who would want that, given the developments over recent years?”

He urged others to follow Ms Stapledon’s example in longing to make the world a “better place”.

Merinda Park Learning Centre chief executive Anne Gilchrist, in tribute to her friend, said: “Amanda, you will never know how many people supported you and had your back.

“Our friendship was special and nothing will change that.

“I just wish I could say that one more time.”

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