As a clan, the MacKenzie-Ellis kids are not your run-of-the-mill haggis-eating, kilt-wearing Scots. They are both Scottish and Aboriginal or, as their mother Catriona MacKenzie says, uniquely “Albariginals” (“Alba” is the Gaelic name for Scotland).
By
Danny Teece-Johnson

7 Jul 2016 - 12:37 PM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2016 - 12:37 PM

“They’ve eaten crocodile and diniwan and haggis and black pudding,” she says of Euan, 7, Geordie, 13, Baillie, 16, Courtenay, 22, and Corie, 24.

Baillie, Geordie and Euan’s father is Martin Ellis, whose father George  - the first Aboriginal to play for Souths - was a Gamilaroi man from Mungindi, in north-west New South Wales. Martin’s mother Elizabeth Lee (Betty Ellis) was a Warramungu woman from Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.  

Ms MacKenzie says Corie and Courtenay, although they were adopted by Martin Ellis, are probably more Anglo/Celtic, though their paternal great-grandmother was a Koori.

“George's great great grandfather came from a wee town not far from where my Grandad’s family came from Texas and Dallas, two tiny villages near Elgin in Scotland. So there’s a full circle

Ancient cultures with bloody pasts

“They feel equally Scottish and Aboriginal. They love the colour of their skin, they love Celtic drumming and they love the didge.

“Both are ancient cultures. Both have bloody pasts. Both have genocide, both fighting to be identified. Both screaming for land rights. Both had their language and identity ripped from them. The Scots were forbidden to wear kilts, the Aboriginals were made to wear Anglified clothing. Both have histories hidden from public knowledge.

“They feel equally Scottish and Aboriginal. They love the colour of their skin, they love Celtic drumming and they love the didge.

“The lists are endless. But both are connected … fighting spirits, wise ancestors, ancient stories, languages being revived and relearned, identities being lifted, observed and known..

Apart from Corie, who lives in Sydney, they are on the other side of the world actively campaigning for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom after the Brexit referendum voted for withdrawal from the European Union.

“As part of the independence campaign, which kicks off again in summer, it will be a case of engaging with the SNP Youth movement,” said Ms MacKenzie.

Everyone is welcome in this society

“The part that I love about the kids taking part in this is the fact that Scotland’s Yes movement do not see colour or religion.

“Everyone is welcome - anyone who wants to see Scotland thrive on her own two feet is an instant member. It’s a wholesome environment for my children, especially to be involved in a society where you’re welcomed.”

She said that when Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, addressed a meeting recently  she thanked the MacKenzie-Ellis clan “for coming all the way from Scotland to be the next leaders of an independent Scotland. That made them beam”.

Ms MacKenzie and her then partner Martin Ellis were living in Tasmania when they separated in 2009. They gave up their family dance group - Clan Ellis Aboriginal Arts - and moved to Sydney, where Catriona met and married a Canadian.

‘We left Australia in March 2011 and started Canadian immigration proceedings. That was the most awful five years of having no rights to do anything … we were treated basically like a number.”

Love of fainting goats

But her new husband bought a farm, where they bred “extremely loving and intelligent” Myotonic fainting goats and exotic poultry.  She said the children thrived on farm life and a local school which embraced their Aboriginality.

“The teachers were fantastic and the principal was the best. They had the girls up there having an open culture day where they showed their artefacts, taught dance, and engaged with everyone.”

But as time went by, Ms MacKenzie and her husband’s relationship deteriorated so on New Year’s Day this year she and her children flew to Scotland to once more start a new life.

It wasn’t the first time for the children. Euan, Geordie and Baillie, who are at school, had been before,  while Courtenay, who has completed an FX course, and her daughter Holly have had to return to Australia to apply for an ancestry visa to live in the UK.

“My aunt, who lives in Scotland, has funded every trip for my kids to go home and learn about Scotland’s history and the traditional crossovers,” said Ms MacKenzie.

“My kids are proud of their heritage and feeling equally Scottish and Aboriginal. They know their dances and music and dreamtime stories, and they’re learning about their hidden Scottish culture and the parts that even I didn’t have the knowledge to pass to  them.

“They acknowledge both equally, because at the end of the day we are all  human and need to pull each other up.”