Tireless champion celebrated: ‘His passion didn’t end’
EVEN in his final moments, a spark of passion and joy could still inspire Tim Mulherin to dream about Mackay's potential.
The former Mackay MP, Mackay Hospital and Health Service chairman and board member had been fighting for his life after being diagnosed with lung cancer in late 2019.
At his State Funeral today, St Patrick's Church Father Don White said Mr Mulherin's spirit did not fade, even in those final days.
Father White said he visited Mr Mulherin while he was in hospital.
There he said he had shared a story of his first visits to the recently upgraded Mackay Base Hospital, one of Mr Mulherin's legacy projects during his term as Mackay MP.
Father White said he was called to the hospital to perform the sacraments over a man waiting for a critical heart operation.
"I was even more surprised when I expected the patient would be transported to Townsville for a particular procedure when I found he was able to have it here the next day in Mackay," Father White said.
"It was a story that brought a very big smile to Tim's face.
"And then, despite being so ill, he told me all about the pathway to funding and the policy challenges.
"His passion didn't end.
"Tim was so committed right to the very end of his days."
Father White said the outpouring of grief across Mackay reflected the fact Mr Mulherin lived a life in the service of his community
"Tim poured out his effort, his energy and his life for the good of others," Father White said.
"When you think of the energy Tim must have expended day after day in the service of this community, and people beyond this community."
Father White said this passion could be seen when reading through a speech "a very young looking Tim Mulherin" delivered as his opening address to Queensland parliament in September 1995.
"When I read it I thought 'This is just a glowing endorsement of life here in Mackay'," Father White said.
He said that opening address paid tribute to the region, its opportunity and past leaders.
"(He wanted) to build on the legacy of the past to build a future for the people he was elected to represent," he said.
Father White said the Mackay community mourned alongside Mr Mulherin's family.
"Those two words really underpin Tim's life - family and community," he said.
"As we know his great love was his family.
"We very much stand with you today."
The region's leaders, now walking in Mr Mulherin's footsteps, shared how the Mackay MP influenced their lives.
Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said Mr Mulherin was always ringing or texting about "whatever was passionate in his mind in the moment".
"I go back a long way with Tim Mulherin but the lasting thing for me is that he never gave up," he said.
"Even in his so-called retirement he was always on the phone to me or sending texts saying 'I want to introduce you to this bloke who can do this in this area'.
"He was so passionate about what could happen in Mackay and he just never stopped.
"He might not have been the Member for Mackay any more but he certainly still had Mackay at heart."
Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker said the funeral had been a fitting farewell for a man she held in high regard.
"Talking to Tim always made me happy or frustrated," she remembered fondly.
"I think one of the things I valued most and loved about Tim was his commitment.
"It's one thing to put yourself into public life but to be as committed and as passionate about not just Mackay - though certainly Mackay was his first love - but he also had a love for the Isaac region right up until his last days.
"He was still working on the much-needed improvements to the Moranbah Hospital.
"In the last months, he had been so inclusive in working with me and our community on that. I'm very grateful.
"It's a blessing for everyone to know he's left such a legacy through his own family.
"It was beautiful service for a really humble, passionate, committed person."
Mackay Regional Council councillor Belinda Hassan said Mr Mulherin had always given her wonderful advice throughout her career.
"I've known him since I was six so he's always been someone really important in my life," she said.
"When I ran for the Federal seat (of Dawson) so you have to be nominated by two members of the party and Tim was the one who signed off on my nomination which was a really nice connection because I've known him for so long.
"He was just a good man and I think he completely went above and beyond any politics.
"He was just a good bloke and I know people say that but he was and you can see that by the tributes from everyone on all sides of politics."
Former Canegrowers representative and 2020 council candidate Peter Sheedy said his personal, family and professional life had often brought him together with Mr Mulherin.
"I always found him a reasonable person. He listened," Mr Sheedy said.
"He was a good friend and a good supporter.
"The person he was, his commitment to friends and family, they're the values I can remember."
POLITICAL JOURNEY: From South Mackay boy to deputy opposition leader
FOR a working class boy in South Mackay, membership to the ALP was a tradition.
But Tim Mulherin's journey from campaigner to leader has been remembered as nothing short of extraordinary.
At the former Mackay MP's wake, Barbara Hill remembered Mr Mulherin as a fresh-faced high-schooler joining her political campaign - his first taste of Mackay politics.
Ms Hill said she was running for the seat of Dawson in 1980 when the young Mr Mulherin walked through the door.
Warren Hill, Ms Hill's husband, said the young political operative showed a natural skill for the role.
"You could see he fitted into that mould," Mr Hill said.
"Tim was very diligent and liked people.
"If he was given a task he wasn't happy until it was complete.
"It was an introduction to a new world."
Fellow Labor Party member Mick Colwell said he first met Mr Mulherin in 1993, only a few years before his victory in Mackay.
"He's always been the same bloke, the same Tim," Mr Colwell said.
"He was always the leader of the group - whether he deserved to or not."
Former Southport MP Peter Lawlor, who served with Mr Mulherin in 1995, said he was a tireless advocate for regional communities, and together they would take road trips to explore the Queensland's rural towns.
"He was always looking up the mayors in the various towns to find out what he could do for them," he said.
"He was always prepared to listen."
But his favourite memory of Mr Mulherin was far away from the halls of parliament.
Instead it was in Dublin, where Mr Lawlor said they drank a bar dry to celebrate Mr Mulherin's 60th birthday.
"At one particular bar we drank them out of Guinness," he said.
Queensland ALP president John Battams said during the darkest day for the Labour Party, Mr Mulherin was still able to see the light.
"It was 2012 when Labour suffered a heavy defeat and we were left with seven members," Mr Battams said.
"People were saying the LNP would be in for a generation.
"When everyone else was doom and gloom, he was still optimistic."
The former South Mackay resident said he and Mr Mulherin bonded over their shared time in high school and their passion for the ALP.
"Our families came from working class backgrounds so it was tradition we could join the Labor Party."
But for his family, Mr Mulherin's political future was not always clear from the start.
Mr Mulherin's uncle, Herb Case, said he had fond memories of babysitting a tiny misbehaving Tim when he was a child.
Mr Case joked the young Mr Mulherin did not show his political talents as a child, as a "quiet" and "spoiled boy".
"But he's always been a good bloke," Mr Case said.
"I'll never forget him."