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All-female injection to Chinchilla Race Club committee

19 April 2024

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By Jordan Gerrans

At Chinchilla in regional Queensland, the ladies are not only running the local race club, but also saving lives on the side. 

The rural town in the Western Downs region of the Sunshine State earlier this year held a TAB meeting and in the process ran their first race day with an all-female committee.

It was a first for the club in their history after they came together in February.

Since the meeting, the composition of the committee has been slightly altered, but the bush club still boasts a predominantly all-female committee.

As Chinchilla Race Club president Jo Rayner details, the structure of the ladies running the club came about with many of them knowing each other through their work commitments in the medical field.

Many of the Chinchilla ladies are nurses for their day job.

“The ladies that are on the committee are all very talented in their own right and have a lot of individual skills that we are able to use at the club,” Rayner said.

“We all work well together and being nurses and women – we are highly skilled in problem solving and communication.

“That has enabled us to work very well as a team and put these meetings on while also having some fun along the way.”

When Rayner and her team were looking to build out their club committee, they didn’t need to look further than their work place.

As well as the contingent of nurses, the committee also targeted people with different skill sets and experience – landing a retiree and one member who was much younger than the rest to provide a different perspective.

Hanover Square

“Nurses being a little bit social, we extended the feelers and we got some people interested,” the club president said.

“There are always challenges running a race club but being women – we are able to multitask. We always have a lot of laughs along the way.

“It has been a matter of everyone jumping in and it has all come together.”

The Chinchilla leading ladies include president Rayner, treasurer Kimberly Merritt, fashions on the field coordinator Tracey Handley, secretary Michelle Gittoes, bar and catering manager Kylie Hindle and vice-president Christine Merritt.

Leonard Mawn is one of a small number of horse trainers who use the Chinchilla track to condition their team of gallopers.

Mawn has Battle Of The Bush winner Hanover Square in his barn.

The veteran horseman thinks the Chinchilla leadership is a breath of fresh air into the racing industry and lauded their hard work.

“They are doing a fantastic job and it is a credit to them what they have been able to achieve in a short period of time,” Mawn said.

“I couldn’t be prouder and happier with the way it is all going.

“There is a lot of energy, commitment and personal time that they give so we can have successful meetings as well as a complex to work horses on.

Chinchilla Race Club president Jo Rayner, secretary Michelle Gittoes, treasurer Kimberly Merritt, fashions on the field coordinator Tracey Handley, bar and catering manager Kylie Hindle and vice president Christine Merritt. Picture: Country Caller.

“People do not realize that these sorts of things happen behind the scenes.”

The Chinchilla Race Club had an all-female committee for the early stages of 2024 before recently adding Geoff Hannah to the team.

Hannah has taken on-board the only paid role at the club as the groundsman and takes care of all the relevant machinery work needed.

While Chinchilla is no longer all-female for their committee, the team take pride in that it is still predominantly all the fairer sex running the show.

Treasurer Merritt has a long history in racing and previously rode track work.

Merritt thinks friendship between the club hierarchy keeps it all on track.

As they are all mates away from the club, it is no issue for any of the committee to head to the track after work in the afternoons or across the weekend to get little jobs done.

“We are not just a committee, we are all friends – which really helps the running of everything going smoothly,” Merritt said.

“The role of volunteers is what we stand on – if we do not have volunteers then we do not have a race club. We would love to see more of the community get involved.

Kimberly Merritt, Michelle Gittoes, Col Aspinal, Sandi Suey, Jo Rayner, Christine Merritt, Tracey Handley and Kylie Hindle.

“Our committee do not earn a cent from our work at the club, we do it because we love racing and our community.”

Merritt refers to her local track as an ‘unpolished gem’ and notes the team are keen to apply for grants to redevelop the race facility.

They have their eyes on upgrading the sprinkler and irrigation in the near future as well as the bar facilities.

The race track is also fast becoming a multi-purpose facility and will host a wedding this month.

“Country racing in the bush is a really big social event and is really important to these small country communities,” the president said.

“We are really proud as a committee that we can have this beautiful race course and also have such a good team going forward.

“As a club, we are looking forward to what the future holds.”

Chinchilla have three more race days this year with one each in May, November and December.

Races

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Chinchilla | Chinchilla Race Club | 1:04 PM

THANK YOU CHINCHILLA RACE CLUB VOLUNTEERS Maiden Plate

Prize money

$17,000