By Richard Goodbody
Pam O’Neill has been formally recognised during the Australia Day Honours with an Order of Australia Medal for her services to racing as a jockey.
The trailblazing hoop, who piloted more than 400 winners during her time in the saddle, fought for more than a decade to secure her jockey’s licence, paving the way for women to ride alongside men in Australia.
After 14 arduous years, O’Neill was granted a licence in 1979 at the age of 34, riding a treble on debut at the Gold Coast to become the nation’s first female jockey.
Her contribution to racing has not been confined to the saddle, however, with O’Neill continuing to work as an administrator through her roles with the Queensland Jockeys’ Association and the Australian Jockeys’ Association.
Today’s OAM is the latest in a long line of honours for O’Neill, who was inducted into the Queensland Racing Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Queensland Sport Hall of Fame in 2020.
O’Neill also has a Winter Carnival feature named in her honour with the Princess Stakes now run as the Listed Pam O’Neill Stakes.
“I feel very humbled and proud because it’s your peers who nominate you,” O’Neill said.
“I don’t feel special, I just wanted to do something (ride), and at that point, women were being decimated against.
“I came in on equal terms with the men, and equal pay, and there’s still a lot of women fighting for that same right.”