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Women dominate Esk Jockey Club committee

7 June 2022

By Darren Cartwright

Racing devotee Carmel Lynch became the first female president of the history rich Esk Jockey Club just a few years ago, but there’s now no shortage of women who could succeed her.

Of the 11 members on the committee, six are women, including Carmel and her daughter Angela who, at 40 years of age, is also the youngest member.

In fact, the president, treasurer, and secretary roles at Esk Jockey Club, which was formed more than a century, ago are filled by women.

Carmel’s love for racing and Esk Jockey Club comes from her late father Dan O’Brien, who was president of the turf club for some 30 years and has a race named after him.

As a young teen, she drove stewards along the track to their vantage points, while later in life she spent a decade as treasurer.

During Carmel’s time as treasurer, she became the club’s first female president when she stood, in an ‘acting’ capacity, something that had never dawned on her.

“I’d never really thought about it much, but it is an achievement,” she humbly said.

She then successfully stood for election, although she found it slightly daunting nominating despite having been in the role for half a year.

“I was treasurer for nine years and was acting president for six months while I was treasurer, and then took on the role officially two years ago,” Carmel said.

“I would jump into other jobs, but not this one, and I probably would not otherwise have stood for election if I had not been acting president.

“I felt growing up that it was a male-dominated industry and it probably still is to a certain extent, but it is getting better.”

One of the fun times growing up around the club was being a ‘chauffeur’ for the stewards before and after each race, she said.

Image: Carmel Lynch ready to ferry the stewards to their vantage points at Esk.

Caption: Carmel Lynch ready to ferry the stewards to their vantage points at Esk.


“When Dad was president, we (siblings) all did our initiation at the races by driving the stewards around,” she said.

“As soon as we got our license, we wanted that job as it was pretty cool because no one else was allowed to drive on the track.”

Her hope is for more women, not just at Esk Jockey Club, but at every club throughout the state to nominate for president or chair.

“This is the issue, especially with small country clubs, trying to get young people on board, especially young females,” she said.

“Maybe, they still look at it as being a male-dominated sport and whether that makes them walk away, I’m not sure.

“But, I do wish some of the women, who are very capable, would put themselves forward to be president.”


Opportunities abound within the racing industry for women, said Melinda Martin, Racing Queensland’s executive general manager of Club Partnerships and Assets. 

She said there are many women who are more than capable of taking on leadership positions at racing clubs, she said.

“Women like Carmel are setting the example for other women coming through the ranks,” Martin said.

“I think some women are not coming forward and nominating themselves for president roles as they see it as having always been a male-dominated role.

“Well, it’s not any more.”

Esk Jockey Club's next meeting: Saturday, December 22.