AFTER years of dedicating time and effort to her community, Sue Exell has received the ultimate recognition.
Mrs Exell was honoured with an Order of Australia for her service to the community of Haven.
She said the announcement came as quite a shock.
“It’s a bit exciting and a bit overwhelming as well. It’s made me reflect on what I have done and there has been a lot. I have worked really hard with the people on my committees and have done all sorts of projects to make things better for Haven,” she said.
Mrs Exell was the youngest of seven children and grew up in Haven where her parents ran an irrigation farm.
“They had cattle and sheep, and also ducks and chickens – it was a real menagerie of animals,” she said.
She did her schooling at Horsham West Primary School, Haven Primary School and Horsham High School. Mrs Exell and her husband Gary have two daughters – Breanne and Kristen. They also have five grandchildren – Zara, Jayda, Hamish, Evie and Will.
She said her work in the community wouldn’t be possible without the support of her family.
“I’ve been surrounded by amazing people on the committees and clubs. Gary has been amazing putting up with me going to all the meetings; it has had an impact on the family, but they got used to me heading off to meetings,” she said.
“Our family have always been interested in volunteering. I’m hoping to start freeing myself up a bit so I can spend time with my family; it’s important to do that because you never know what might happen. Gary and I are hoping to spend some more time travelling in our caravan.”
Sport is a huge part of Mrs Exell’s life. She was Haven Tennis Club president between 2000 and 2010, and has been a committee member since 1972.
“I had to walk through the tennis courts to get to school, so that was probably my introduction,” she said.
“Sport has always been really important for me because I was a bit quiet as a kid so once you find you love you’re good at, it helps you get involved.”
Mrs Exell coached juniors for a number of years until a knee injury stopped her.
“I’m not playing anymore, but I’m still organising the juniors. We have 90 kids in 20 teams, so it’s huge,” she said.
“You create these big boots, and no one in their right mind would take that over, so we’ve got to work out how to break it down a bit so I can start backing out of it.”
Netball is also a big passion for Mrs Exell and she has been a member of Kalkee Football and Netball Club for 25 years. She has coached junior netball, and has umpired.
Mrs Exell was Horsham council’s Citizen of the Year in 2007 and ran in the Queen’s Baton Relay in 2006. Since 2007 Mrs Exell has been a member of the Haven Community Enterprise Inc Committee where she has advocated for many projects.
She is also the co-ordinator of Haven Bush Playgroup and the Haven Market; was a member of the Haven Memorial Hall Committee; and is on the Haven Recreation Reserve Advisory Committee.
“In 1993, the council bought land at the reserve to build a sports and recreation complex. I’ve been on the advisory committee ever since trying to get the facility made,” she said.
“We need to get a new community hall; the current one is more than 60 years old and is so tired. So that’s our next project – to have somewhere central where all the clubs can gather.”
Mrs Exell was a Horsham Rural City councillor between 2012 and 2016. She said her time on council presented her with many challenges.
“A few people suggested that I should have a go and I had no idea what I was in for. I really enjoyed it because I love going out into the community and helping them, but you are very limited to what you can actually do because of finances,” she said.
During her time on council, Mrs Exell was a representative on the HRCC Community Recovery Committee and the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Committee.
She said the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 had devastated the entire community.
“That really took its toll; the recovery from that was massive. There were lots of disappointments and a lot of good projects to come from the recovery,” she said.
Mrs Exell said she wouldn’t want to live anywhere but Haven.
“You get the best of both worlds. A lot of my family are here and I’ve been quite happy staying. You get to know the people in your community and you can make friends for life,” she said.
While you’re with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you’re up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.