Top citizen says her Australia Day speech was altered

Feeling gutted: Wodonga Citizen of the Year Marie Elliot with part of her speech which the council returned to her with paragraphs deleted of her words. She says she was shocked to have her work changed.

Feeling gutted: Wodonga Citizen of the Year Marie Elliot with part of her speech which the council returned to her with paragraphs deleted of her words. She says she was shocked to have her work changed.

PARTS of the Australia Day speech by Wodonga’s 2016 citizen of the year were deleted or rewritten after being vetted by the city’s mayor.

Marie Elliot, a retired palliative carer who also wrote a history book Our Bonegilla Boys, says she felt “gutted” when saw her speech changed.

“I was asked if I could send a copy there and they could have a look at it and I thought that was a bit strange,” Mrs Elliot said.

“(Mayor) Anna Speedie said ‘we’ve got media writers that could help you’ and I thought ‘I’ve written a book, why do I need media writers?’.”

When the speech, which reflected on Wodonga’s history and the need for a museum, was returned to Mrs Elliot she found lines through sections and others altered.

Details of the success of Chiltern’s museum and a call for an honour roll for citizen soldiers were removed.

“I felt a bit gutted, as if I had been kicked,” Mrs Elliot said of her reaction to the cuts.

“I thought there’s something amiss here and when I mentioned it to anyone they said ‘how rude – they ask you to give the Australia Day speech and then they vet it’.”

Cr Speedie said details of the speech were sought to determine its running time.

Stage managed: Marie Elliot is assisted off stage by Wodonga councillor Danny Lowe as mayor Annie Speedie addresses the Australia Day gathering. Picture: MARK JESSER

Stage managed: Marie Elliot is assisted off stage by Wodonga councillor Danny Lowe as mayor Annie Speedie addresses the Australia Day gathering. Picture: MARK JESSER

Asked if the council wanted to censor Mrs Elliot she said “absolutely not”.

“I offered 'would she like some assistance with some of the wording' because she said 'I'm not a wordsmith',” Cr Speedie said.

“Really it was just about trying to provide some words where she felt like she wasn't comfortable, particularly she wanted to highlight the importance of the historical society and some of the great work that they do and she was having trouble putting some words together.

“It was just here's for your consideration and it was a conversation that I had with her and said 'if you would like some assistance we can provide it'.

“We provided it, she chose to take parts of it but not all of it. There was no other intent behind it.”

Mrs Elliot said her “rebellious spirit” prompted her to disregard the changes.

“I let them have a nice surprise and I still got a kiss from the mayor,” she said.

Mrs Elliot wants Wodonga to have a museum built at Junction Place which would incorporate the historical society’s collection.

She was upset none of the six councillors at the Australia Day breakfast spoke to her after her speech.  

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