In 1957, Ella Simon of Purfleet mission near Taree, New South Wales, applied for and was granted a certificate of exemption. Exemption gave her legal freedoms denied to other Indigenous Australians at that time: she could travel freely, open a bank account, and live and work where she wanted. In the eyes of the law she became a non-Aboriginal, but in return she could not associate with other Aboriginal people — even her own family or community.
It ‘stank in my nostrils’ — Ella Simon 1978.
These personal and often painful histories uncovered in archives, family stories and lived experiences reveal new perspectives on exemption. Black, White and Exempt describes the resourcefulness of those who sought exemption to obtain freedom from hardship and oppressive regulation of their lives as Aboriginal Australians. It celebrates their resilience and explores how they negotiated exemption to protect their families and increase opportunities for them. The book also charts exemptees who struggled to advance Aboriginal rights, resist state control and abolish the exemption system.
Contributions by Lucinda Aberdeen, Katherine Ellinghaus, Ashlen Francisco, Jessica Horton, Karen Hughes, Jennifer Jones, Beth Marsden, John Maynard, Kella Robinson, Leonie Stevens and Judi Wickes.