1046

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Submission Number
1046
Participant
Mary Exel and Audette Exel AO
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

I was born in New Zealand. I became an Australian citizen by descent yesterday, on 24
March 2021, through my extraordinary Mother, Mary Exel. Mary was born on the goldfields
in Kalgoorlie before WW II. This submission is made jointly – by Mary Exel, a proud, senior
Australian and by me, Audette Exel, Mary’s daughter - a brand new Australian.

This is my first formal act as a new citizen of Australia.

Mary and I believe that the Government must honour its election commitment to hold a
referendum, once a model for a Voice to Parliament has been settled. We further believe
that a properly constituted Voice will enhance the lives not only of First Nations people, but
of all the people who call this ancient land, Australia, home.

I grew up in New Zealand, surrounded by friends who came from around the world –
including Maori, Pakeha and Pasifika people. We learnt Te Reo (Maori language) at school,
and I studied Maori language in my first year in University. Street signs and TV shows in
New Zealand are in Maori and English. The history we were taught was rich with stories of
our Maori ancestors and the fierce and inspiring ways that they had shaped the land and
Aotearoa. Even though I am not a mad rugby fan, when the All Blacks come onto a field to
play and begin with a haka, even now I shed a tear. I was raised to have a deep pride in,
and understanding of, Maori heritage and contribution to my country.

Mary’s life growing up in Australia was profoundly different. Her family were not connected to
First Nations people – and the stories and culture she grew up with were not enhanced with
their knowledge. She did not learn of the 60,000 years of people walking the land before her.
She did not know about the way they had looked after their country, or the history of horror
since white man arrived. In that respect, our childhoods were profoundly different.

When I first came to Australia, I was horrified by the torrid history of subjugation, disrespect
and pain for First Nations people. And I felt a sense of great sorrow for other residents and
citizens of this country – that they did not have the kind of connection to their First Nations
people which had been such a wonderful part of my early life. They did not know the
language, or culture, or humour, or wisdom, of these incredible people who have survived
here for millennia. I was astonished at the vile commentary that met Adam Goodes when he
performed that spear dance in an indigenous AFL round – we Kiwis would have loved that.
What a huge loss has resulted from this terrible divide - for everyone in Australia.

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to form a friendship with the Lead Singer of the rock
bank, Yothu Yindi, and his bandmates, and was welcomed onto their country, Yolngu
Country, a number of times. I remember the wonderful moment when one of the band
members, Witiyana Marika, saw that Mary had joined me on a visit to the Garma festival –
he picked her up with glee and spun her around to welcome her as my Mum! It was a joyous
moment of connection across culture, age, and land.

Roll forward a few years and I was catching up with the band as they were honoured in
Sydney for the ARIA awards. They needed to catch a taxi to the airport – but as they stood
out on the streets to flag a cab, empty taxi after empty taxi drove past them – until one of the
balanda (white guys) went and stood beside them. A taxi drew up. I was so ashamed.

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I have also been lucky enough to be welcomed onto Bardi Country and to meet some of the
Wiggan mob – who opened their hearts, their laughter and their lives to a strange Kiwi girl,
simply because I was a friend of one of their extended family members.

The welcome and the friendship accorded to Mary and me by First Nations people at every
turn stands in such stark contrast to the treatment of First Nations people in their own
country to this day.

It is long past time for Australia to begin the process of healing.

The co-design work done on the Voice and the Uluru Statement from the heart represent an
act of grace from all those involved – and an invitation to walk beside the original inhabitants
of this land.

Mary and I believe that it is long past time for a Voice to parliament be enshrined in the
constitution, once a model has been settled through the co-design process. We believe that
a Voice will be a powerful step towards Makarrata.

The lives of every resident of this country – no matter where they were born, will be vastly
enhanced by an embrace of the culture, the caring and the knowledge of First Nations
people.

Audette Exel AO and Mary Exel

25 March 2021

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