Plans to create a museum at Ballina to recognise the contribution women jockeys have made to the racing industry in Australia could result in a new tourist attraction on the Far North Coast, the Member for Ballina, Don Page, told Parliament this week.
The Ballina Jockey Club says the official story of lady riders in Australia is rich in history.
“Few people know the role lady jockeys have played in the development of the racing industry in Australia, and I can see the museum being planned by the Ballina Jockey Club will be an important national asset,” Mr Page said.
“Not many people realise there was a tradition of amateur ‘ladies only’ picnic races in Victoria as early as the 1850s but ladies were in fact excluded from full professional competition until 1979.
“The Ballina Jockey Club is planning a major $3.1 million upgrade of its facilities to incorporate the museum.
“The Lady Jockeys Museum will primarily record the achievements of Australian and New Zealand lady jockeys and will also incorporate a section to celebrate the achievements of female jockeys on the international stage.”
The Ballina Jockey Club has already taken the initiative when it comes to recognising lady jockeys by establishing the annual Iris Nielsen Memorial race – an invitation-only race for lady jockeys worth $50,000.
“The race is not simply a celebration of the contribution of lady jockeys to professional racing, but a tribute to the late Iris Neilsen, who died in a race fall in Lismore in 1988,” Mr Page said.
“Iris Neilsen was based in Ballina and was the first lady jockey in Australia to die in such circumstances.
“Iris Nielsen was based in Ballina – the BJC feels it is the spiritual home of lady jockeys and is well aware of their struggle and triumphs to achieve their goals in the competitive sport of thoroughbred racing.
“The Ballina Jockey Club is seeking funding of $3.1 million from the State and Federal governments to build the Australian Lady Jockeys Racing museum.
“The Ballina Jockey Club believes the museum will become a major tourist drawcard for Ballina and will attract many visitors including the racing fraternity and the public who are interested in the history of horse racing.
“This needs the backing of the NSW Government so I ask Premier Keneally and her Racing Minister, Kevin Greene, to have a punt and support this project.”
PICTURE: Don Page with pioneering lady jockey Linda Jones.