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Trail-blazing women’s rider Pam O’Neill has been honoured with the Lord Mayor’s Australia Day Sports Award.
The award pays tribute to sportspeople who have been great servants of their sport as competitors and later in other roles.
O’Neill, 73, campaigned for 18 years to change the rules of racing and have female jockeys licensed to ride against men in Australia.
In 1979, she became the first female jockey to be granted a licence in Australia and became the first Australia-based female jockey to win a professional race.
She rode nearly 500 winners – a mighty achievement because unlike today’s female riders, she did not start off with an apprentice’s claim.
Her best horse was Supersnack, who was trained by her late husband, Colin O’Neill, and together they won 18 races, including a Rockhampton Cup.
After her retirement from race riding, O’Neill became the senior riding instructor at Queensland Race Training, preparing apprentice jockeys for a life in the saddle.
She has also worked with the National Jockeys Trust since its formation to help with the rehabilitation of injured jockeys and provide advice in relation to financial matters for riders and their families.
O’Neill has been a tireless worker and advocate for jockeys’ rights as well as conditions for riders.
“It is a great honour to be recognised not for myself but for all female riders,” O’Neill said.