Lifelong community advocate Sue Exell of Haven was among recipients of national honours during last weekend’s Australia Day celebrations.
Mrs Exell, whose dedicated effort in volunteering and representation includes a broad cross section of regional services, joined the Order of Australia, OAM.
Mrs Exell accepted the Medal of the Order of Australia for being a strong and outspoken supporter and community campaigner for Horsham district’s Haven community.
Mrs Exell said it was both surprising and overwhelming to receive the award.
“It certainly makes you reflect and think about what you’ve done, especially when you see the list showing community involvement,” she said.
Mrs Exell said being a community volunteer was generationally ingrained in her family and getting things done always involved groups of people.
“Everyone in my family has volunteered time to community projects and groups. I suppose I’ve taken it to the next level,” she said.
“For me, it’s been about growing up and staying in the community and wanting to put something back.
“While many people moved away, I didn’t do that, and while Haven is already a good place, I’ve been all about making it better for generations to come.”
Mrs Exell said her biggest challenge in any of her roles as a community representative was working with, and trying to help, people in the aftermath of Black Saturday fires and the events and issues that followed. “That has been huge,” she said.
She co-ordinated community recovery projects and events following the fires.
Mrs Exell revealed she had almost deleted an email informing her of the award.
“I initially thought it was spam and pretty much ignored it. Then my husband Gary suggested I had better have another look,” she said.
“For me to do what I’ve done has been all about having a supportive family.
“He has put up with a fair bit and it’s the same with the kids – I’ve always been going to meetings.”
Mrs Exell was a municipal councillor between 2012 and 2016, where she represented the city on a Community Recovery committee and Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority.
Her Haven community representation is extensive.
She has been a part of Haven Community Enterprise Committee since its inception in 2007, including more than a decade as secretary.
Much of Mrs Exell’s community engagement has involved promotion of regional sport, especially through tennis and netball.